Haunted by Amartya Sen's Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny
The book is based on a series of lectures, and therefore it is somewhat simplistic and repetitive, at least as compared to Prof. Sen's more profound writings. Yet, I was captivated -- and still am -- by the book's strong message. Consequently, there is no escaping the topic for my khutbas this month. The first challenge, ironically, is how to make the book's universal message "Islamic" so that it may be appropriate for a sermon, without chauvinistic claims that Islamic principles are necessarily universal, or vice versa. The second challenge is to avoid being excessively critical of my communities of Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, Egyptian expats, Arab expats, Muslims in America, academic economists, etc.
I have been trying to focus in recent khutbas on positive messages, conducive to building the community and integrating it in society in productive ways, and that is -- of course -- difficult to accomplish without attacking the separatist and triumphalist approaches that have plagued many communities and countries (a disease that is not by any means restricted to Muslims, although people usually cannot see the same disease in their own nationalisms and religious chauvinisms, even if you put up a mirror to their faces -- see the movie Borat for a great example of how embarrassing the realization can be). There will not be any shortage of scriptures (Qur'anic and from the Sunna) to support my message. Unfortunately, there will not be any shortage of scriptures to support the opposite message either. So, am I about to commit intellectual (and/or religious) fraud?