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A Critical Discussion of Aaron W. Hughes’ book Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam

Panel Chair: Göran Larsson | Thursday, August 27, 3:30-5:30 p.m.| Venue

With the publication of books, such as, Situating Islam and Theorizing Islam, professor Aaron W. Hughes has become one of the strongest critiques of how the study of Islam is conducted at Western universities today. Although one could have arguments with Hughes’ conclusions it is clear that it is necessary to have a more critical approach to the study of religions and Islam in particular. However, with the publication of Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam, Hughes has produced a new introduction to the study of Islam. But does he follow his own recommendations and what strengths and weaknesses could be identified in his book? This panel focus on methodological and theoretical problems that are related to the general study of religions and in particular the study of Islam. In the panel, Hughes is given the possibility to discuss the above named problems with the participants.

Tim Jensen

Making Use of Hughes beyond the US

Inspired by the publication of Aaron W. Hughes, and with reference thereto, this response discusses the challenges facing a study-of-religions based didactics, including the didactical and methodological challenges related to the production and use of textbooks for undergraduate as well as upper-secondary students. The response, apart from reflections inspired by the book of Hughes, includes reflections linked to experiences of the panelist himself as regards the analysis as well as the production of textbooks on Islam in Denmark and Europe. Likewise, the response draws on the panelists study-of-religions based research on religion education (RE) in public schools in Europe in general.

Riem Spielhaus

Religion, Culture or Identity – what is the study of Islam about?

Situating Islam raises the question, where the study of Islam belongs: Religious or Middle Eastern Studies? Migration and globalization and the presence of visible and articulate Muslim minorities in most parts of the world have brought to light the very problematic assumptions that often accompany the study of Islam solely as an area study. In Muslim Identities Aaron Hughes engages with the basics of Islam and in so doing points out how Muslim men and women as well as non-Muslim scholars approach them in critical or apologetic ways. This paper discusses the representation of Islam in such scholarly works as one of many and aims to turn our gaze to the practices of generating an authoritative voice in the genre of (explicitly non-theological) scholarly texts on Islam. Meanwhile it raises the question how Muslims contextualize their foundations in order to draw conclusions and guidelines for their daily lives.

Aaron Hughes

The Critical Study of Islam: Response

My paper/presentation will provide a response to the panelists who have commented on my work—from both the perspective of the academic study of Islam and the academic study of religion. Since my work is both deconstructive and constructive, I will reflect, in particular, on the distinction between a theoretical critique of a field (i.e., Islamic studies) and the need to try and rebuild it. Whether or not I have been successful in the latter is made difficult by virtue of the fact that a critical rebuilding must ultimately rely on the categories already in place.


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Open Sessions

Thematic Outline

University Map (pdf, 192 KB)