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      Progressive Islam – A Rose by Any Name? American Soft Power in the War for the Hearts and Minds of Muslims



            The aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States brought into sharp relief the leading role of that country in shaping contemporary Muslim discourses to create discursive urgencies that meet its ideological needs. Reflections on a short but very intense battle for the term “Progressive Islam” between a small group of international activists in the Network of Progressive Muslims (NPM), on one hand, and the US organization, Progressive Muslims of North America (PMUNA), on the other, is one manifestation of how this battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims as part of a larger ideological contestation has played out. This article examines the rupture between the two claimants to the term “Progressive Islam” within the context of (a) the varying historical usages of the term, (b) the need for Muslims to be dealing with intrareligious matters, and (c) the instrumentalization of such reform by the US-led empire as part of an uncritical liberal Muslim response that views Traditional and Fundamentalist expressions of Islam as their primary contradiction rather than Global North-driven imperialism and neo-colonial hegemony. The article argues that in the case of the United States, while recognizing the historicity of all expressions of religions, the projecting of rethinking and reconstructing religious tradition should not be undertaken as an extension of an externally driven “religion-building project” but instead by believers who both own Islam and share their own complicity as citizens of the empire.


            Author and article information

            Pluto Journals
            Autumn 2018
            : 4
            : 1
            : 78-106
            University of Johannesburg, South Africa
            © 2018 Pluto Journals

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            Literary studies,Religious studies & Theology,Social & Behavioral Sciences,History,Philosophy
            critical Muslim,decoloniality,American Islam,Islamic liberation theology,Liberal Islam,Progressive Muslims,Moderate Muslims,US empire,Progressive Islam


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