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Ovamir Anjum



This issue of the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences features two
important articles: Sarah Marusek’s ethnographic study of a grassroots Islamic
movement in Lebanon reconfiguring (even resisting) secularism and
neoliberalism, and Madiha Tahseen and Charissa S.L. Cheah’s empirical
study of the formation of American Muslim adolescents. Also featured is
an extended interview with the renowned anthropologist, Talal Asad.
Marusek’s study of the interaction of an Islamic movement within
secular, liberal, and neoliberal structures and practices is innovative and
thought-provoking. It shows how certain Shi‘ite clerics and leaders are able
to adapt but also simultaneously resist neoliberalism while providing services
to the poor, in particular the downtrodden Shi‘a population of Lebanon.
The intellectual posture of these movements, she highlights, seeks
to separate the rationalistic procedures and procedures of modernity from
what they insist are still religious values. But straddling “forces of materialism
and spirituality,” Marusek argues, “need not inevitably yield a gospel
of wealth. Indeed, these forces may even coalesce into a decolonial project.”
The Lebanese “Shi‘i movements,” she concludes, “are each critically engaging
with secular liberalism and neoliberal capitalism on their own terms, in
profoundly interesting, complex, and contradictory ways.” This is an illuminating
study which alludes to the contradictions and limits of embedding
religious values and rationality in neoliberal and secular structures and
practices, which themselves are inevitably instilling their own values and
rationality as they must in order to be fully efficient on their own terms. The
struggle, the author suggests, is ongoing and worthwhile ...

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