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A Virtue Of Disobedience

By Asim Qureshi

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A meditation on oppression & authoritarianism, reflecting how faith & virtue can lead to liberation

Publication date: September 2019
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About the book

New revised edition – includes brand new and updated chapters

In times of political crises and repression, the state has often resorted to emergency powers, often directed at specific suspect communities. Whether it is the period of Nazi Germany, the black civil rights movement, Apartheid or the Troubles in Northern Ireland, there has been a tension between the way that power exerts itself and those who seek to resist the excesses of the state.

Movements seeking rights and equal treatment before the law produced vast amounts of literature to intellectually describe and challenge the epistemology and discourse of their periods – they formed a body of resistance literature that has been crucial in formulating what we consider today to be among the most important works on anti-racism and anti-tyranny. 

As a Muslim, whose adult life has been spent largely responding to the excesses of the global War on Terror – I have found there has been no Muslim-centred response to these same challenges. This is needed, as there are differences. Muslims are not located in one region of the world, nor are they comprised from one specific ethnicity – so how can we understand what a doctrine of resistance might look like in light of those differences? Many Muslims resort to the politics of post-colonialism as their way to make sense of the world around them, except post-colonial responses largely imagined the nation-state, something that is perhaps out of congruence with a community that has international connections and concerns.

Further, the issue for Muslims is compounded by a class of scholarship that preach quietism in the face of despotism in the East, and a non-confrontational approach in the West. Doctrine is used politically and religiously to neutralise any dissent to the state, in whatever circumstance this might occur.

I am concerned by this, and history teaches us that this is not how human beings should respond to authoritarianism. I want to study the movements of the past and learn lessons from their plight, but more importantly, their resistance. I want to understand how they went about enforcing the morality of the law, in a circumstance where it was being structurally decimated. I also want to understand how the past is connected to the present, and so want to look at the killing of Philando Castile in the US, the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in the UK and the general state of political violence in our world. 

This book is an attempt to reflect on the world we live in, and by using the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, to posit a notion of virtuous disobedience, one that is not only congruent with the teachings of Islam, but also true to the history and experience of others who have fought for the rights we are seeking. This book does not attempt to provide all the answers, but to start a conversation about what the status quo is, and what philosophies we can adopt in furthering rights for ourselves and others. Do the scholars have it correct, that we must wait for the hereafter for justice, or as the actor Jessie Williams states, ‘the hereafter is a hustle’. I want to ascertain the lines of intersection across all of these moments, in the hope that the conversation can shift beyond the ‘good Muslim bad Muslim’ reductionisms that currently set the discourse. My hope is that by being disobedient to authoritarianism, we can put forward a claim to being obedient to justice. 

New Content

New sections on:

Neoliberalism kills people
- The violence of neoliberalism
- A faith based ethic in response to this violence
- A decolonial rethinking of what inequality means

Liberal complicity
- How special advocates reinforce the racism of the judiciary
- How liberal engage and reinforce a racist system
- Responding to allies who cooperated with the Commission for Counter Extremism

New chapters on:

- A four-point method developed to assess complicity with injustice
- Reflections on state sponsored trips to Israel in the US and UK
- Thoughts on the resisting roles played by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim Congresswomen in the US.

Disobedience to Condemnation
- Thoughts on why Muslims are required to condemn terrorism.
- A scientific approach to understanding the efficacy of calls to condemn terrorism.

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