Philosophy and Social Criticism 39 (4-5):487-498 (2013)

As show the partly violent clashes between liberal secularists and Islamists in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the two factions certainly defend two diametrically opposite political points of view. For liberals, politics finds its ultimate justification in the protection of individual freedom. For Islamists, only the application of the moral code and religious law codified in the shariah can justify politics. Contrary to what is sustained by a theory of situated agency, there is no easy and definite reconciliation between the two positions. And this depends precisely upon the fact that both political models are based upon the very same idealist conception of the individual, namely the assumption that we, as persons, have a free will and are not determined by the law of causality. Paradoxical as it might sound, it is our freedom that gives rise to the problem of identity and lends force to the Islamist argumentation. If freedom as such cannot bring about practical reason and also liberals recognize that the ultimate source of normativity is identity, there is a point in the Islamist and, more general, communitarian claim that we are not free to choose our identity. In order that identity does the normative work it is supposed to do, it must be given and not chosen. What remains, however, unclear in the communitarian picture is how the norms of our community can come to constitute our will without a process of active identification. If we cannot identify voluntarily with our community’s norms, then only emotional attachment to our community can explain identification and the normative grip communitarian norms have upon us. Yet, attachment is conditioned by the effective satisfaction of our psychological and physical needs. The problem is that our need for freedom and liberty can become overshadowed by our more immediate needs based, for example, upon resentment and revenge and that today makes Muslims in particular to be so hostile towards liberal ideas. I suggest that conciliatory trust-building measures can help to surmount the anger, fear, mistrust and suspicion Muslims feel vis-à-vis the West and that are at the origin of today’s conflict between freedom and identity in the Muslim world
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DOI 10.1177/0191453713481758
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Critique of Practical Reason.Immanuel Kant - 1788 - Hackett Publishing Company.

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