Islam 2427

of a phenomenology of Islamic elements, such
as the corpus of founding texts, the production
of Muslim jurisprudence, the Arab language and
its idioms, and the literature and the history of
great dynasties. But orientalism certainly lacked
the material history of the Muslim world, pro
viding for it a series of interpreting grids, in the
same way that the historical method did in
the development of the western world. In fact,
in Islams historiography, the lack of a history of
peoples is evident, since a history of dynasties
and power has prevailed.
The conceptual frame of orientalism that
provided a comprehensive and organic picture
of Islam gradually crumbled in the face of the
felt necessity to decodify those societies into a
structural approach. A new approach to these
societies was shaped in the field of social and
cultural anthropology, where in fact more rele
vant methodological changes appeared. In the
1950s scholars like Jacques Berque, Jean Paul
Charnay, Germaine Tillon, and Clifford Geertz
opened a new approach to Islam through struc
turalist research. They analyzed the kinship
system and local economies; they conducted
sociolinguistic studies of dialects; they began
to analyze production in the Muslim world
and its relations with territory. In this way they
got over the issues that blocked these societies
into rigid and decontextualized frames.
During the last few decades the consequences
of decolonization together with the phenom
enon of acculturation in Muslim countries have
amplified the crisis and the re Islamization of
society, through the forming of religious parties
and of a symbolic universe reintroducing reli
gious order in socialization processes (veils for
women, beards for men, etc.). Political science
and sociology have analyzed all these changes.
The phenomenon of Islamic terrorism, the geo
political changes consequent to the Afghan crisis
and the two Gulf wars, together with the ques
tion of the development of an Islamic Diaspora,
both in the USA and in Europe, have raised
the question of a public space for Islam in demo
cratic western societies.
The role of sociologists and political analysts
has therefore become relevant in providing a
comprehensive frame for the great changes in
Islams progress. For example, scholars under
line the deep fracture ( fitna) afflicting contem
porary Islam, dividing those who embrace a
close relation between Islam and political order,
and those who embrace a change of Islam in
private life. The works of Gilles Kepel, Olivier
Roy, and Jocelyne Cesari tend to demonstrate
the complexity of the changes and conflicts
in progress in Islam and in its relations with
the West.
A multi disciplinary approach to Islam in the
social sciences gives an account of the present
complexities and of the phenomena still in pro
gress within Muslim societies. Such an
approach is shared by many Muslim scholars,
such as the anthropologist Abdellah Hamoudi,
the philosopher Mohammed Arkoun, the poli
tical analyst Ghassan Salame, the sociologist
Leila Babe`s, and the historians Abdessalam
Cheddadi and Abdellah Laroui. In all these
studies the traits of contemporary Muslim
societies are evident in the relationship between
reality and change. Scholars have to face the
difficulty of formulating appropriate interpret
ing grids to describe an ever changing reality.
In studying and analyzing reality there is
always a risk of using analytical frames which
are surpassed by the constant transformation of
reality, and of not having a conceptual frame
that can account for reality and change.
The doctrine of orientalism has undergone a
crisis because it fixed a method of study of those
societies which did not take into considera
tion their transformation. Today, in the social
sciences, the risk persists of fixing an immutable
frame for Muslim societies by affirming that
Islam is . . . The wording should probably be
changed from Islam to Muslims, that is to say,
those who live Islam.
The prospects for research on Islam and
Muslim societies involve more than a shift
towards field analyses, starting by singling out
groups and segments of society, since collective
identity tends today to shift toward individual
identity. All this is related to the new forms of
organization and structure of Muslim societies.
What needs to be defined today is the Islamic
Diaspora and Islamic nationalism, and what are
the political procedures structuring Islam into
political patterns like those of Morocco or Tur
key. What should be analyzed is the crisis that
is political Islam, as in Algeria. Finally, the
crisis of contemporary Islam should be evalu
ated, in which the central questions troubling
the Muslim world are the construction of a