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Islam, Blasphemy, and the Loss of Theology

Published onAug 29, 2022
Islam, Blasphemy, and the Loss of Theology

Stemming from the rediscovery of Carl Schmitt, the recent work on political theology emphasizes the irreducibility of the theological in modern politics. Dating from the 1980s, a decade bookended by the Iranian Revolution and the Rushdie Affair, this work has attended to the persistence of religion and the crisis of secularism. As important, however, was the collapse of modernization theory with the disintegration of the Third World and its anti-colonial project.

 Central to though rarely acknowledged by this research, Islam has come to represent the chief example of theology’s irreducibility. Yet Schmitt’s statement, about all political concepts being the secularization of theological ones, can also be read as a description of the latter’s evanescence in their very expansion. Rather than representing its persistence, contemporary Islam is defined by the loss of the theological as it is reproduced in capitalist ways.

 Islam serves as both a repository and displacement of the theological for other religions. Yet its own spectacles of outrage and violence, over alleged insults to Muhammad, rehearse the absence of the theological. Emerging out of colonial capitalism, such controversies over representations of Muhammad have also secularized blasphemy and promoted the rise of offences against identity in Euro-American societies.

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