The Islamic ”Culture of Ambiguity” – Plurality as a Matter of Course

Source: Qantara

How does a wine goblet find its way into an Islamic art collection? In “The Culture of Ambiguity”, Thomas Bauer describes the wide boundaries of Muslim culture and asserts that in the West cultural goods are often considered to be “Islamic” when they’re actually not

Critics of Islam, Islamic fundamentalists, and even Islamic reformers all have something in common and could therefore profit from reading Thomas Bauer’s book on “The Culture of Ambiguity”. In their arguments and examples, the so-called critics of Islam as well as Islamic fundamentalists get caught up in kind of sophistry. They both search for verses in the Koran and writings of the Prophet and subsequently cite them out of context.

Fundamentalists then use the authority of the text to justify their authoritarian views. Critics of Islam do the same, although in the name of enlightenment and progress. Islamic reformers act no differently, as they also assert that they know what “Islam” is supposed to be. And as each of these three groups makes the claim to know the true nature of Islam, they lead to an essentialist characterization of the religion and merely reproduce the Orientalist narrative.

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