Scholarly Review Essay|
A Reading of ‘Containing the Umma?: Islam and the Territorial Question’ by Derrick Matthew| |
In his article from the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, “Containing the Umma? Islam and Territorial Question”, author Matthew Derrick looks to identify and discuss the lack of appreciation of territoriality in influencing modern Muslim identities. He proposes to do so by using a range of examples, which cite the fundamentals of Muslim identities in relation to Islam, and in the process have shifted in accordance with changes in global political-territorial structure. The author clarifies that the purpose of the article is not to argue against globalization, culture, or history as being the main influences on shaping modern Islam, but he rather highlights the impact of cross-border forces associated with globalization and how they influence the functionality of the nation-state. The author points out that territorial control along with the formation of the nation-state also retain their appeal to sub-state Muslim groups that wish to regain control of their historical homelands. Finally he speaks of the challenge to go beyond the generalization that Islam is incompatible with the nation state, and rather focus on the ideologies that drive the modern political-territorial order, which plays a big part in conditioning Islam’s social and political expressiveness.
The author breaks up his supporting argument into different sub-headings and begins with this with ‘Territory and Identity’. He proceeds to talk about the nation-state, and how it has been a dominant form of social organization and identities around the world over the past two centuries. The authors usage of a quote from Penrose, further articulates its importance: “The nation-state is the fundamental basis for defining group and individual identities” (Penrose 2002: 283). The author continues the discussion by mentioning that many leading scholars tend to attribute the strength of the nation-state theory to the evolution of modernity, rather than the quest for territorial control. He believes that the main reason for this is the misinterpretation of the meaning of territory as a spatial referent. According to Derrick further research shows that concept of territory encompasses more than this. And at this junction he quotes Elden to enforce his perception of the meaning of the term territory: “A bounded space, a container, under the control of a group of people, nowadays usually a state . . . must be conceived as a historically and geo-graphically specific form” of political and social organization (Elden 2010: 757–758). Matthew Derrick goes on to discuss the history of the nation-state and territory, citing examples of the Roman Empire and how all the sovereignty was concentrated on the Roman Emperor, amidst the fuzzy borders, and stratified geo-political structures. The discussion moves on to the 15th and 16th century and the break-up of single Christian society. According to the author the year 1648 was pivotal in the development of territorial sovereignty. The age of single Roman Emprors had passed, and various monarchs seen as God’s divine representatives on earth, controlled bordered lands. The worldwide membership of Christendom was replaced with individual churches that raigned supreme in each of their states, for example the Church of England or the Church of Sweden. With the arrival of the American and French revolutions there was a shift in political-territorial system. Sovereignty was now synonymous with the voice of the public, and political territories soon become reflections of nations. The author emphasizes his point by quoting Claval, who emphasizes that the French nation that arose in this period was formulated in distinctively civic terms:
“France was not conceived of as an ethnic unit. It had been built through history from a variety of groups,...