Over at Religion Bulletin, the always informative Craig Martin alerts us to the work of Aaron W. Hughes and conducts a thought provoking interview with Hughes. Their topic is “Islam” and I encourage everyone to read it as a palliative to the kind of glib talk about essentialized “Islam” that dominates the news, blog posts at HuffPo Religion, and a good deal of academic commentary about “real” or “authentic” Islam.
If you read the entire post and interview, you will understand my not so subtle use of quotation brackets above. I particularly enjoyed this comment from Hughes about his book, Situating Islam:
As for those the book is aligned against, I would have to say the entire apologetical and liberal Protestant interpretation of Islam. Needless to say, this does not always make me popular in Islamic Studies circles.
Those who talk about not offending Muslim sensibilities as an excuse to avoid talking about the redaction history of the Qur’an or the historical Muhammad; those who want to define an “authentic” Islam (that is liberal, peaceful, and democratic); those who put together AAR panels wherein liberal Muslim academics talk about their experiences and vision of their particular version of Islam. I rail against all of this.
None of this is scholarship, but theology and ecumenicism, which I personally do not have a problem with so long as those doing it make it clear to others that this is what they are doing. Too much slippage between scholarship and apologetics occurs in Islamic Studies for my liking.
You can find a nice example of such slippage here.