ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Interrogating the Debate on Islamic Reform

Islamic Reform in South Asia edited by Filippo Osella and Caroline Osella (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 2013; pp xii + 535; $110.

There is considerable discussion nowadays in scholarly publications as well as the popular press on the need for “reform” of norms, institutions and practices associated with Islam. This debate has a long historical precedent, but following the events of 9/11, it has acquired particular intensity and there are contestations in Muslim as well as non-Muslim circles today on what constitutes reform.

Joining this debate is Islamic Reform in South Asia, a collection of articles, edited by Filippo Osella and Caroline Osella that focuses mostly on ethnographic approaches to throw light on issues relating to the State, the politics of reform, religious revival, and piety within Muslim communities of south Asia. The authors elaborate upon a series of terms including Islamic modernism, reformism and Islamism to highlight movements and changes in religious discourse amongst Muslims of south Asia. In particular, they point out that “what the papers are actually involved in doing is addressing issues of how specific groups deal with particular concerns” so as to

demonstrate the historical and geographical specificity of reform projects, and act as a challenge to discourse structured through popular mainstream perspectives (such as ‘clash of civilisations’) where such embeddedness is ignored (p xii).

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