ISIS and Authority by Kecia Ali

Kecia Ali Bio pic officeLast week, Graeme Wood caused quite a stir with his article “What ISIS Really Wants.” It focused on the apocalyptic religious vision of the group and contended that ISIS was, as a scholar quoted in the article put it, “smack in the middle of the medieval tradition,” including on the things most shock and repulse observers, such as slavery.

Though Wood grants that most Muslims do not support ISIS, and acknowledges in passing the role of interpretation in formulating its doctrines, the overall impression conveyed by the article was that Muslims who deny that ISIS is a fair representation of Islam are either apologists or simply do not really know anything about Islam. Others have offered rebuttals of many of the points in the article, and Bernard Haykel, the scholar quoted, has offered a more nuanced articulation of his views. More than one commentator has pointed out that by treating ISIS as a legitimate representative of the Islamic tradition, seriously religious and dedicated to the texts “shared by all Sunni Muslims,” it fosters an unholy convergence of interests between extremist Muslims and Islamophobes.

Wood is right about some things and wrong about others. ISIS is laying claim to the tradition and the texts they cite are in what we may call the canon. Still, to quote approvingly and without clarification Haykel’s contention that “these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else,” seems quite a stretch. To be sure, it is not the job of religious studies scholars (or U. S. presidents) to judge which groups are “Islamic” or “un-Islamic.” Rather, we must understand how various actors make claims to represent, understand, or further their tradition. That does not mean there are no distinctions that can be made, no criteria by which to situate those religious claims in a historical and social framework.

Some attempts to assess ISIS’s legitimacy have focused on the fact that reputable Muslim authorities – clerics, scholars, ‘ulama – uniformly distance themselves from ISIS and condemn its brutal tactics. Though unwilling (for sound theological reasons) to declare leaders or followers of the Islamic State apostates, some have been willing to describe its actions as sinful, evil, or even “un-Islamic.”

But these arguments from authority worry me too. When women do something “impermissible” – lead Friday prayer, open a Women’s Mosque, interpret the Qur’an in feminist ways – self-described “traditional” Muslims offer similar condemnations: these acts, and these actors, are outside the pale of tradition. Regardless of the sophistication of the arguments presented, the response is that those who make them are not properly trained. What authority do they have? In sum: how dare they?

These specious criticisms are nearly impossible to counter, even when those spouting them do not necessarily offer more nuanced or methodologically sophisticated answers. The simple appeal to widespread scholarly agreement leaves me unconvinced.

Take the example of the Open Letter to Baghdadi published last September. Among other things, it condemns ISIS’s violation of what the letter describes as a century-old consensus on the abolition of slavery.  (Though presented in a press conference, the letter attracted virtually no attention from the mainstream media – unlike the shocking violence that prompted it.) Undoubtedly well-intentioned, the letter makes a hash of both history and the classical tradition, with its ahistorical declarations (“No scholar of Islam disputes that one of Islam’s aims is to abolish slavery”) and simplistic proclamations of things that are “forbidden in Islam.” The letter was signed by 126 male Sunni scholars and leaders from around the world. Since its publication online, others, including a handful of women, have signed.

Admittedly, this letter, which affirms “the prohibition and criminalization of slavery” as “a milestone in human history,” offers a much more compelling ideal than ISIS’s propaganda magazine, which signals “enslaving the families of the [disbelievers] and taking their women as concubines” as a sign of its own legitimacy and prowess, and reminds its readers that denying or mocking scriptural permissibility for slavery renders one not merely “weak-minded and weak hearted” but also an apostate. Still, however appealing it is to believe that slavery was, as the letter states, “something the Shariah worked tirelessly to undo,” such wishful thinking does not provide a firm foundation for criticizing contemporary injustices.

The most troubling thing about the Atlantic article is the static definition of tradition that Wood uses. In his view, tradition is a body of texts. Legitimacy emerges from texts. Practices consonant with the texts – or that are interpreted as being so – are therefore “Islamic.” Muslims who say otherwise – as he admits the overwhelming majority do when confronted with ISIS – do not have much ground to stand on. But the rejection of ISIS on the basis of its distance from the classical tradition and its unacceptability to contemporary scholars who claim to constitute the legitimate inheritors of that tradition is not a panacea either. Too frequently, the weapon of “scholarly consensus” has been wielded against Muslim women who overstep its bounds—not, as ISIS has done, in a quest for domination, but in a quest for dignity.


Kecia Ali, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Religion at Boston University where she teaches a range of classes related to Islam. She writes on early Islamic law, women, ethics, and biography. Her newest books are The Lives of Muhammad and the co-edited Guide for Women in Religion, revised edition. Her earlier books include Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence (2006),Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam (2010), and Imam Shafi’i: Scholar and Saint (2011). She currently serves on the Membership Task Force of the American Academy of Religion and serves as president of theSociety for the Study of Muslim Ethics. She lives in the Boston area with her family.

Categories: General, Islam, Violence

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44 replies

    • I have had similar thoughts on the matter from the beginning. A strict condemnation in the name of the tradition would imply a very myopic view of that very tradition and historical practice. Even the Ottomans, not so long ago, used Christians in their designs. Not to mention aspects of the Qur’anic text, the tafseer tradition, and the hadith. In addition, a rebuttal of ISISI in the name of current majority opinion (say ‘consensus’ loosely) would still keep the lid on issues pertaining to (in)equality and (intolerance of) diversity in contemporary Muslim jurisprudence. As for slavery, how can they say that there has been a consensus on the need to eradicate it when some important Muslim-majority countries had slaves till not so long ago (in some cases, till some 50 years ago)? I am very confident that ISIS will help us Muslims to wake up, smell the coffee (or some less pleasant scent), and accept the obvious: our generation cannot indiscriminately identify itself with the ‘YOU BELIEVERS’ addressed in the Qur’an. The YOU being addressed in the Qur’an were contemporary to the YOU of the Messenger, and all of them have been dead for almost 14 centuries. And if that is not possible, then how much less plausible will it be to identify oneself with the ensuing conquering caliphs?! However, even if a real and radical ‘reprise de la conscience historique’ was to take place, the often cited ‘consensus’ would still remain elusive, as Ibn Rushd already wrote in Medieval Al-Andalus.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks for writing this. It opens the window of understand just a bit more, but I wonder if issues around the IS group are just too complex for any simple or straightforward explanation beyond what may be a fact that too many of them are unhappy, testosterone-fueled, young men. Dare I saw that they are “rebels with a cause”? And their cause is inhumane?


    • Unfortunately, it is not even as simple as testosterone. Three teenage girls in the UK have (allegedly) run away to join the illiberal extremists.


    • Barbara, one thing that is missing from many responses is the political context: to what extent is US support for despotic regimes in the region and more recently occupation/military intervention motivating factors? American policy (and ideologies supporting and contesting it) plays a key role in creating the context where IS can emerge. Of course you are right too about youth – both male and, as the other commenter points out, female. But there are structural problems and not merely individual pathologies at play.


      • You are certainly correct. What I know is primarily what I hear on the PBS Newshour and what I read online from time to time. I’m sure American politics has played a large role in creating a context for the Islamic State. But there’s a history of politics and despots and young men (and some women) reading for power that goes back to the Neolithic. Sometimes I wonder what has changed on the planet. Alas.


  2. I do believe that how we interpret or understand texts depends on who we are. We perceive through our own lens. Hence, so much variation in “what a text says.” If we think violence is an excellent way to bring about what we think to be right and just, we’ll behave violently and find “proof” for our behavior in our sacred texts. If we think compassion towards all (people, animals, the earth) is the best way to bring about justice and dignity (two overarching themes in the Qur’an), then we will behave accordingly. (To behave compassionately requires us to know how others would want to be treated–it requires engagement, not a one-sided decision on “our” part.)


  3. This is brilliant, thank you. I know I clamor to say “but look all these scholars say it’s not Islamic” because I want to affirm that the vast majority of Muslims find this so abhorrent so as not to even recognize it as their own religion. But the reality of it is as you say, whenever we do that we also bolster these particular scholars’ right to be the yay and naysayers of what is authentic….and that means we support them in judging us as beyond the pale of Islam “proper” as they deem it. This is a really important insight you’ve offered here.

    A case in point would be Yasir Qadhi who speaks out so powerfully against ISIS that they have denounced him in particular. But he also writes quite clearly on where he deems the tradition’s boundaries lie for women’s religious authority. His defense of the intentions behind the Women’s Mosque of America is deeply offensive to women. Does he really believe what he wrote, does he not understand how offensive it is, or does he understand and is writing politically to reach his particular audience? Whatever the case, he and the male-centered leadership wins because their own power to decide who is in and who is out is affirmed in the process.

    Further, I don’t know why I bother to clamor, since most non-Muslims believe on some level that ISIS at the core of the truth about “Islam.” It’s not as if appealing to “authority” works. As you said, the letter got no play in the media, nor has almost any other denunciation of violence.



    • Thanks, Laury. It’s very tricky strategically, isn’t it? And what are the long-term and short-term effects of any choices? I love the phrase “the yay and naysayers of what is authentic.” It’s almost a job title.



  4. Dr Ali, much respect for you an your writing. I am beginning to see the point that you and Dr Silvers raise that relying on the consensus of religious authorities leads to reliance on the same for issues which violate Islamic principles and a person’s conscience.

    A concern of mine is that you have stated rather categorically that Islam supports slavery. Slavery and its abolition (at least, ideological abolition) is an important topic to me. My concern for it has probably been the driving cause for my recent acquiescence to the idea of the progressivity of Islamic fiqh towards ideals set out in the texts: equality of genders, affirmation of sexual and gender diversity, full inclusion of young people, exuberant compassion for animals, care for the environment, etc. Having the experiential knowledge that I have acquired over the past decade, it has become impossible for me to consider the Islamic legality of practises or ideologies of gender inequality, slavery, etc.

    I am looking forward to your next publicly available writing. Thank you so much for your invaluable contributions to Islamic academia.


    • My point here is much less grand than “Islam supports slavery,” which is not a claim I’d make. I’m talking about interpretation. It is a fact that Muslims have practiced slavery. It is a fact that for most of history, most Muslim scholars did not imagine or seek its abolition. It’s certainly the case that it raised troubling questions for many, and that they sought to restrict abuses in many cases, and free individual slaves. But to rewrite history in the way this letter does allows us to skip over the difficult questions about jurisprudence, scriptural interpretation, and theology that we ought to be asking.


      • You mention Muslims practicing slavery but it’s more than than just average Muslims — the ideal being, the Prophet Mohd practiced slavery, and so did the righteously guided Caliphs, and most of the 12 Imams. Not only did most scholars not seek abolition, the holy Quran, the direct word of God, does not seek abolition, and indeed permits enslavement.

        On a moral level, I am sympathetic with the theological explanations of why none of that counts and slavery is not permitted in Islam. On an intellectual level, I don’t find it coherent. (I think Laury Silvers made a similar point in another post)


        • I have written about precisely this issue in Sexual Ethics and Islam: how do Muslims today grapple with a sacred history in which exemplary figures, most signally the Prophet Muhammad, behaved in ways that most now consider unacceptable? I also say more about the legal tradition in Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam. Both books are linked from my bio.



      • I read Sexual Ethics in Islam. (Why are you assuming your loyal fans don’t know your books?!) But I think you are very careful there (and here) to critique other people’s attempts at answers (accurately) but not give your own “solution” to these difficult questions.

        I don’t know how you personally answer the question of why slavery is wrong when the Quran permits slavery? (Some wriggle out of this by saying of “enslaving is only permitted for very special people and ISIS is not special enough”, which I don’t think you would do.)

        And another question, you criticize argument from scholarly authority but what about scholars being the heir to the prophets and “my community won’t unite on error”. Isn’t there a theological backing for this argument from scholarly consensus?


        • Thank you for the kind words. I didn’t know you had read the book. (Many haven’t.)

          You’re absolutely right that Sexual Ethics and Islam is more critique than solution, though I venture a tentative “trajectory” argument (since criticized by Aysha Hidayatullah, in her excellent Feminist Edges of the Qur’an, and Omaima Abou Bakr, in her essay in the new Musawah volume Men in Charge?). The question of how to deal with scriptural permission (or command) for acts that shock the sensibilities and trouble the conscience of believers far removed in time and place from its origins is difficult as well as crucial. Many scholars have addressed it, including Amina Wadud, Khaled Abou El Fadl, Laury Silvers, and Sa’diyya Shaikh. I have no satisfying answer. Of course I have no fully satisfying answer to the free will/predestination question either. That does not mean we don’t keep asking.

          Yes, the Qur’an allows/assumes/legislates/regulates slavery. No, it does not forbid it, deem it unethical, or declare explicitly in favor of gradual abolition.

          In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Muslim-majority nations forbade slavery, sometimes with the support of scholars, sometimes in the face of their opposition. There have always been some who opposed abolition (troubling claims of consensus) precisely since the Qur’an and sunna permit slavery. For these reasons, questions about the authority of scholars are fraught, and susceptible to competing claims that one’s own preferred scholars are those who wield legitimate authority. See Joe Bradford’s useful post on this: I do not hold that the problem is not enslavement but merely whether particular criteria are met.

          Here is an excerpt from the forthcoming tenth anniversary edition of Sexual Ethics and Islam, from the coda to Chapter 3:

          What of Muslim reactions to IS’s use of enslavement? Against those Muslim extremists and anti-Muslim critics who argue that Islam is incompatible with the modern world because its scripture holds slavery permissible (and Muslims, unlike others, must supposedly read scripture literally), other Muslims have condemned (contemporary) slavery. As part of a larger rebuttal of IS, an all-male group of Sunni Muslim scholars and leaders opined that slavery was impermissible, citing changed circumstances and international treaties. The argument was a mish-mash of assertions of authority for a scholarly elite (IS doesn’t have the proper scholarly credentials to interpret texts; we do) and historically ludicrous claims about slavery and abolition, which I have explored elsewhere. (OBS: in this blog post)

          One thing these events make clear is the untenable nature of ordinary Muslims’ refusal to grapple with the place of slavery in the tradition. Perhaps IS’s defense of slavery as religiously legitimate, and the consequences for women and girls of their actions, will prompt further reflection by some of those who have to date maintained the theoretical permissibility of slavery while holding that the conditions for its permissibility are not met in the contemporary world. From IS’s perspective, these have been met. Caliphate? Check. Legitimate jihad? Check. Unbelievers? Check. Enslavement, including distribution and sale of captured women for sex? Checkmate.



      • William Gervase Clarence-Smith says in the 18th/19th century slavery debate, there was an inverse relationship between support for abolition and knowledge of Islam. The abolitionists were the ones who had little formal study of Islam.

        I have read lots of things you have written, I watched the marriage and slavery lectures on youtube. And I understand and appreciate the scholarly mode, and I read your books because they come across as scholarly and not just polemical. But sometimes I wonder how you “as an ordinary Muslim” “grapple” with (just for example) “the place of slavery”. Maybe it’s unfair to ask you what is essentially a very personal question, just because you are so much more informed than someone like me.


        • Clarence-Smith is an excellent resource on these historical questions. The (inverse) relationship he describes is not necessarily causal: knowledge of Islam also correlated to membership in a social group that opposed (colonial) government, as a competing power base. But that’s a whole other conversation.

          It seems you’re asking about how I personally reconcile the existence of, for example, slavery in the Qur’an with my own conviction that slavery is unjust. This is a profoundly theological question about God’s justice, a different one than the much less difficult matter of how to justify slavery’s abolition jurisprudentially (which plenty of scholars have found ways to do). Laury Silvers has written about this in her CIS article on Q. 4:34: the problem posed by the mere existence of scriptural permission for men to hit women.

          For me, I cannot separate the personal from the intellectual; grappling with these questions is my way of living with them. It’s incredible hubris to think we can resolve, once and for all, major questions about the nature of justice, history, and human society; at the same time, it’s shirking the responsibility of khilafa not to try.

          What about you? What is your approach to these questions?



      • What do I know, I can’t read an Arabic newspaper, much less the Quran or commentaries.

        But the way I think about it is, human moral intuition can’t approach divine morality. Divine morality produces a world with earthquakes and cancer and lions eating lambs, none of which we think is very nice. Women had extremely high mortality rates in childbirth for millenia, and if that is ok by divine morality, why shouldn’t giving men the right to beat wives be ok by divine morality. Maybe feminist tears over 4:34 or Yazidi tears over being enslaved is as trivial to divine morality as the squeaks of a rat being mauled by a cat or the bleats of a lamb being slaughtered for Eid or the gasping for breath of man drowning in a tsunami. Maybe the divinely-sanctioned order is no more constructed for human happiness (as we understand it) than it is constructed for the happiness of the deer being torn apart by a tiger.

        Maybe “I wanted it one way and God wanted it another” hadith is the divine answer to our liberal qualms.

        This is seems to me to fit with the facts as I understand them.


        • You’ve plenty of company, historically speaking, in the camp that puts divine morality apart from human moral intuition. I incline otherwise.

          Since you bring up animals, you might be interested in Sarra Tlili’s work on this topic; her newest article is found on her page.



      • Somehow my last line got chopped off.. It fits the facts. But I think this line of thinking is the path towards atheism.

        I remember as a child hearing the Abraham/Isaac story and finding it horrifying that divine morality approved of the willingness to murder a child. If divine morality is so outside our human moral intuition — and divine morality allowed polio for generations upon generations while people eradicated polio — it can’t really go very far in being a moral basis for law or society.

        I think that saying no to the Quran will for many people trigger a much longer series of no’s, so it is interesting to me to read people who maintain faith even while being honest about the difficult passages.


        • There are plenty of thinkers who have rejected the ethical voluntarist position – that is, things are good because God says they are good; there is no other basis apart from revelation from which to know good and evil, right and wrong. In other views, human and divine morality align. The issue of suffering (theodicy), why, if God is good, suffering exists, is a related problem, and it’s one that again has no clear answers.

          As for saying ‘no’, which Amina Wadud discusses in Inside the Gender Jihad, that’s precisely what makes it so terrifying: if human conscience is the guide, then what are the limits? God seems to be a big fan of limits, so discerning correctly and abiding by them matters. This might seem to point to the wisdom of following “traditional authorities.” However, even when one chooses to follow scholars one is making a series of (human, therefore fallible) choices about which scholars, which schools, etc. And those scholars are making (human, therefore fallible) choices about which texts to consider inviolate, and especially how to interpret them. Yes, collective wisdom is a good thing, and communities of interpretation are valuable. But it matters how one draws the circle: whose wisdom counts in determining collective wisdom.



      • (Responding to your Huff Po article here because it continues our previous discussion, please delete if this is out of line.)

        Others scholars point out that just because the Quran acknowledges slavery and early Muslims, including the Prophet, practiced it doesn’t mean Muslims must always do so; indeed, the fact that slavery is illegal and no longer practiced in nearly all majority-Muslim societies would seem to settle the point.

        Are you basing this on the “my community will not unite on error” hadith? Because otherwise, I don’t see how the legal norm of Muslim majority countries says anything about what Muslims must (in a moral sense) do or not do. Why would it settle the theological point rather than just show that law in Muslim majority countries can be shaped by European pressure or international norms or sheer secular wickedness? Especially when such modern theologically important figures such as Maududi were emphatic about the legality of slavery?

        You discuss the Prophet owning slaves, but not the much more disturbing hadith about the Prophet permitting the rape of captured women, e.g. the Prophet justifying Ali’s rape of a captive.

        You write that ISIS’ view of sex slavery is not a legitimate expression of a timeless Islamic truth? Is it a legitimate expression of a traditional doctrinal viewpoint? If not, what makes it illegetimate? It’s not timeless, but isn’t it Sunni theology that people will stray from the example of the Prophet and Sahaba over time?

        Yet this does not mean, as critics of Islam would have it, that the Islamic State’s position on the legitimacy of owning — and having sex with — slaves is unquestionable.

        Where are the good, solid questions? (The CNN Freedom article you link to includes comments you yourself have dismissed elsewhere, e.g. about the Quran implying abolition.) What is the complication that says even though according to sahih hadith, Prophet said that it was fine to have penetrative sex with captives hours after killing their husbands, ISIS is not a legitimate expression of continuity with the Prophetic example?

        I don’t think that impugning the NYT’s motivations or calling out US foreign policy is a satisfactory way of answering the question — on the contrary, it comes across as changing the subject because there is no good answer to the question. (I say this with all respect for you, contempt for the NYT, and a history of activism against the Iraq war, just to be clear.)


  5. Authority is a double-edged sword, and as you show, Kecia, can cut both ways. I guess that’s the reason I’m involved with a “tradition” that acknowledges no authorities unless they speak the language of our (individual) hearts.

    Kecia and Laury, Maybe you missed the discussion here on FAR about the name “ISIS.” For those of us for whom goddesses are sacred, the use of the name of one of these deities — namely Isis — to designate a terrorist organization is painful. I suggest using ISIL, since it sounds as ugly as the group it designates.


    • Thanks for your comment, Nancy. I had indeed missed that conversation about ISIS/Isis and will endeavor to keep those sensibilities in mind. I don’t mind causing offense deliberately when necessary but try to avoid doing so by accident.



    • Strongly support your understanding of goddesses as sacred and their names as sacred. Thanks, Nancy!


      • Thanks for bringing the Isis question up again Nancy. I was wondering how bring it up again when ISIS started appearing again on FAR. I think Islamic State or IS is the simplest way to say it; or ISIL as Obama is now saying; another alternative would be “Islamic State” or the so-called Islamic State.


      • Isis is the name of an Egyptian Goddess who became a Great Goddess in the Greco-Roman world. Some of our contributors and readers are offended that the acronym for an extreme militaristic sect is transcribed with the name of a Goddess (imagine if the sect’s name were transcribed JESUS). We suggest the following alternatives: Islamic State, IS, ISIL (the term used by Obama), (alleged) Islamic State, “Islamic State.”

        Here is a friendly suggestion I sent to the FAR admin as a recommendation on the matter of how to name the Islamic State.


  6. On the larger question which I addressed in a different way yesterday, I think we could speak of progressive Muslims not agreeing with … in cases regarding women, and the majority of Muslims not agreeing with the goals of IS. Thanks for bringing the thorny question of authority again, Kecia. It is at the heart of our feminist work no matter where we are situated.


    • Thanks, Carol. I agree with you about authority, and I appreciate the range of ways F&R commenters and bloggers engage the issue, in the context of Islam and also other traditions.



  7. Hi Kecia,

    Thanks a lot for the article. It’s thought-provoking.

    I agree with almost everything you state and with your analysis. A while ago, I’ve written an article on FAR on the “Letter to Baghdadi” and issues of authority it serves to highlight. Admittedly, I’ve changed my mind about few things since then, especially with the resurgence of Islamophobia, but not about the issue of authority per se.

    But I guess the question remains about the “criteria by which to situate those religious claims in a historical and social framework,” as you say. I think there’s an urgent need to engage with “authority” on these criteria because what’s happening now is very much “double-criteria,” if we’re applying criteria at all. You bring up a very good example:slavery. Why not apply the same reasoning to the many of injustices against women and men that we’ve applied to slavery?This is of course indicative of the double-standards applied within the mainstream “moderate Islamic discourse” itself. Similarly troubling is that those who condone the latter discourse apply a different set of standards to de-legitimize the extremist discourse than the ones they apply to themselves.


  8. Thank you so much for writing this, Kecia! Of all the responses to that article, this is my favorite because it raises this critical point (“But these arguments from authority worry me too. When women do something “impermissible” – lead Friday prayer, open a Women’s Mosque, interpret the Qur’an in feminist ways – self-described “traditional” Muslims offer similar condemnations…”). So, so much yes to this! What exactly does it mean that the arguments they’re using against ISIS are so similar, if not basically the same, as what they use for their anti-feminist rhetoric? What is crucial here, also, is that the same male figures of authority condemning ISIS (for simplistic reasons, mostly, that don’t even get to the base of the problem or to ISIS’s existence) refuse to see that ideologies like theirs are precisely a significant part of the reason that ISIS exists.

    So I deeply appreciate your brutal honesty in this article, as I do in everything you write; you raise questions and concerns that others are either deliberately ignoring or don’t see at all. This piece needs to be shared widely. God reward you.


  9. I think the issue of tradition being defined by texts is very important. The Atlantic piece in question, both in its portrayal of ISIL and the quietist Salafis, is essentially saying that an Ahl al-Hadeeth approach (of some kind) to Islam is the most legitimate and credible expression of the religion.


  10. Reblogged this on Aym Playing and commented:
    “But the rejection of ISIS on the basis of its distance from the classical tradition and its unacceptability to contemporary scholars who claim to constitute the legitimate inheritors of that tradition is not a panacea either. Too frequently, the weapon of “scholarly consensus” has been wielded against Muslim women who overstep its bounds—not, as ISIS has done, in a quest for domination, but in a quest for dignity.”



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