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On the Muslim Question
Anne Norton

Hardcover | 2013 | $31.95 | £26.95 | ISBN: 9780691157047
288 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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In the post-9/11 West, there is no shortage of strident voices telling us that Islam is a threat to the security, values, way of life, and even existence of the United States and Europe. For better or worse, "the Muslim question" has become the great question of our time. It is a question bound up with others--about freedom of speech, terror, violence, human rights, women's dress, and sexuality. Above all, it is tied to the possibility of democracy. In this fearless, original, and surprising book, Anne Norton demolishes the notion that there is a "clash of civilizations" between the West and Islam. What is really in question, she argues, is the West's commitment to its own ideals: to democracy and the Enlightenment trinity of liberty, equality, and fraternity. In the most fundamental sense, the Muslim question is about the values not of Islamic, but of Western, civilization.

Moving between the United States and Europe, Norton provides a fresh perspective on iconic controversies, from the Danish cartoon of Muhammad to the murder of Theo van Gogh. She examines the arguments of a wide range of thinkers--from John Rawls to Slavoj Žižek. And she describes vivid everyday examples of ordinary Muslims and non-Muslims who have accepted each other and built a common life together. Ultimately, Norton provides a new vision of a richer and more diverse democratic life in the West, one that makes room for Muslims rather than scapegoating them for the West's own anxieties.


"Is there a clash of civilizations, as Samuel Huntington maintained, between the Muslim world and the West? Norton's response will be of interest to students of geopolitics and Islamic studies."--Kirkus Reviews

"She scores many hits, and illuminates the smug racism behind much recent blazoning of Enlightenment values."--Paul Laity, Prospect

"Two strengths make Norton's work stand out in the crowded field of books that address Islam and democracy. First is her insistence on considering Islamic voices of the past and present, from medieval philosopher al-Farabi to Qutb and Ramadan, as conversation partners within the Western tradition. Second is her concise rebuttal of prominent philosophers, in particular Jacques Derrida, John Rawls and Slovaj Zizek, each of whom has perceived a danger in the nature of Islam."--Steve Young, Christian Century

"Professor Anne Norton of the University of Pennsylvania, is a liberal academic who takes on all the anti-Muslim hysterics, right wing paranoiacs and sloppy thinkers in this measured and profoundly thought-provoking book."--Charles H. Middleburgh, Middleburgh Blog

"Anne Norton provides us with a window into the interaction between European versions of modernity and the Islamic experience, drawing attention to how Muslims often face resistance and hatred as they enter into previously constituted elements of European society."--Tikkun

"Anne Norton's On the Muslim Question . . . is distinguished by moral daring and intellectual perspicacity, that is bold and passionate in tone but also rigorous and academic in substance. . . . Anne Norton's scholarly effort, as much an academic tract as a pamphlet and a political statement, redeems all those promises and amply testifies to the intellectual and moral resources of the academy as well as its integrity."--S. Parvez Manzoor, Muslim World Book Review

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Table of Contents:

Foreword by Ruth O'Brien ix
Introduction On the Muslim Question: Philosophy, Politics, and the Western Street 1
Part I Muslim Questions

  • Chapter 1 Freedom of Speech 15
  • Chapter 2 Sex and Sexuality 45
  • Chapter 3 Women and War 67
  • Chapter 4 Terror 82
  • Chapter 5 Equality 94
  • Chapter 6 Democracy 118

Part II In the Western Street
  • Chapter 7 Where Is Europe? 141
  • Chapter 8 "Islamofascism" and the Burden of the Holocaust 164
  • Chapter 9 In the American Desert 176
  • Chapter 10 There Is No Clash of Civilizations 195

Acknowledgments 229
Notes 233
Index 247


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