What are the some of the prevailing concepts that influence our masajids in America today? How does ‘liberalism’ affect our ability to manage the actual function of the mosque? What do we need to understand about how ‘secularism’ and ‘atheism’ can impact on our own community life? Dr Sherman Jackson addresses these issues and more in this fascinating article.
“The Impact of Liberalism, Secularism, and Atheism on the American Mosque” by Dr Sherman Jackson
The Austro-American Sociologist of Religion, Peter Berger, is noted for coining the term and concept of “plausibility structure.” Basically, a plausibility structure is the overall sociocultural context within which a system of meaning, an institution or a set of beliefs acquires its status as “real,” “valuable,” “normal” or even “true”. Individuals who live in this sociocultural context are not likely to defy or flout these beliefs or institutions but to acquiesce to them, take them for granted and ultimately assimilate them as their own. This does not mean that every individual is a dedicated champion of the reigning beliefs, meanings or institutions. But the prevailing plausibility structure will contribute to one’s sense of identity, morality and reasonableness; and it will impose both a psychological and a social cost on going against established norms. No American president, for example, regardless of his or her own actual beliefs, could proclaim a commitment to racial segregation, unequal pay for women or even atheism. And few American Muslims, again, regardless of their true understandings or commitments, would challenge the reigning paradigms of “human rights,” “free speech” or “separation between religion and state”.
Sherman Jackson is the King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. He previously was in the Near Eastern Studies Department at the University of Michigan. He is the author of a plethora of books, including Islam and the Blackamerican, The Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam, and Islamic Law and the State: The Constitutional Jurisprudence of Shihab al-Din al-Qarafi. He has also written a number of thought-provoking articles, such as “Literalism, Empiricism, and Induction: Apprehending and Concretizing Islamic Law’s Maqasid al-Shariah in the Modern World,” and “Secular vs. Religious Salvation.” In addition, Dr. Jackson is the Co-Founder of the American Learning Institute for Muslims (ALIM), as well as past president of Shari’ah Scholar Association of North America, among many other board positions in several organizations. He received his Bachelors cum laude, Masters, and Doctorate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Oriental Studies, Islamic Near East.
See more of Dr Sherman Jackson’s work HERE