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It has become increasingly important to study the social force of both religion and nationalism in many contemporary movements all over the world in an analytical framework cutting across conventional dichotomies. Until now, social theory as well as Western common sense have been often content to assume an ideological a priori distinction between the nationalist and the religious imagination.
Edward Said's death was front-page news in the Netherlands and a Dutch journalist's interview with him in 1999 was broadcast on national television. This is the kind of attention given only to intellectuals of the stature of Sartre or Foucault. When he saw the interview on television, Pierre Audi, the artistic director of The Netherlands Opera, said that he had felt touched as though by the Allegro of Beethoven's great symphonies.
On 30 October 2006, Clifford Geertz died at the age of 80. Known among social scientists primarily for his coining of the term “thick description” and his related understanding of culture as “webs of significance,” Geertz also contributed significantly to the study of Islam. In this contribution, Peter van der Veer draws upon personal experiences to contextualize the legacy of this eminent anthropologist.
In the Netherlands and in other Western countries one finds a hostile image of Islam. Only recently we saw this image influencing the panicky reactions to the terrorist attacks on the USA by Arab Muslims. With great speed this attack was connected to statements of a general nature on the essence of Islam and of Muslims. Dutch politicians and Islam scholars spoke in public about the age-old frustration of Muslims that was presumed to be the background of this attack. Almost immediately the question of the loyalty of Muslim immigrants to the Dutch state and to Dutch norms and values emerged in public debate. Opinion polls showed quickly how fickle that loyalty is and how methodologically shaky opinion polls are. This was followed by attacks on mosques and Islamic schools. The urgency of a more sophisticated analysis of the relationship b...
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