Applying Dworkin’s Legal Philosophy contra Islamist Ideology: Sharī‘ah as a Matter of Interpretation (Ijtihād) and Ethics (ilm al-akhlāq)

Norman K Swazo


Observers of contemporary politics know that Islamic extremism presents “the West” with a serious challenge of national and international security consequent to terrorist events of recent time.  In addition to constabulary and military responses, there remains the more fundamental question about how to understand Islamist ideology and how counter-narratives might be framed in the interest of law and morality, especially in Muslim-minority nation-states.  One of the central problems with Islamist ideology is a narrow and dogmatic conception of Islamic law.  Tariq Ramadan is an example of a contemporary Islamic scholar concerned with Islamic reform.  Ronald Dworkin is one of the most prominent of recent philosophers of law immersed in the Western legal tradition.  Both scholars appreciate the linkage of law and morality, in which case the parameters of a counter-narrative to Islamist ideology may be found by juxtaposing some fundamentals of interpretation that each scholar presents in his work.  This article attempts to show how and why the concept of law presented by Islamist ideology is flawed and why the methods of Islamic jurisprudence require attention to Islamic ethics as well. 


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