Sufism in the West By Jamal Malik and John Hinnells, eds. (New York: Routledge, 2006. 207 pages.)

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Markus Dressler



This edited volume, along with David Westerlund’s edited Sufism in Europe
and North America (RoutledgeCurzon: 2004), are pioneering works, since
the systematic study of this topic is still in its infancy. Its introduction and
nine chapters bring together anthropological, historical, Islamicist, and sociological
perspectives on questions of identity as regards Sufism’s double
marginalization within a non-Muslim majority environment and within the
broader Islamic discourse. The Sufis’ need to position themselves against
and reconcile themselves with a variety of others causes western Sufis to
employ a fascinating kaleidoscope of strategies ranging from assimilation to
confrontation and appropriation.
Jamal Malik’s introduction surveys Islamic mysticism and the “major
themes of diasporic Sufism” (pp. 20-25). He presents the complex interrelatedness
of ethnic, cultural, religious, and generational identities and
addresses important issues concerning representation, knowledge production,
and adaptation. His conclusion that “Sufism – intellectually as well as
sociologically – may eventually become mainstream Islam itself due to
its versatile potential, especially in the wake of what has been called the
failure of political Islam worldwide” (p. 25), however, is rather bold.
Nevertheless, as Ron Geaves shows, one has to acknowledge that, at least
in Great Britain and the United States, Sufis have begun to confront anti-
Sufi rhetoric more openly. He describes Sufi-Muslim attempts to monopolize
the term ahl al-sunnah wa al-jam`ah (people of the tradition and the ...

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