American Muslim Networks and Neotraditionalism
American Muslims are diverse in many ways, but is it appropriate to imagine American Muslims as one community, or are there really several different communities of American Muslims? If there are several, are there senses in which the social and aesthetic expressions of such communities could be referred to as “American Islam”? What follows is a multifaceted approach to answering these questions. This dissertation demonstrates that several distinct communities of American Muslims can be identified, and introduces one of these communities, which I refer to as the “Neotraditional” Muslim community, in detail.
Chapter One, The Paths of Neotraditionalism, introduces several ways the term “neotraditonal” and its variants have been used in scholarship and clarifies how the term will be used in the present work. Chapters Two through Four demonstrate the application of a novel three-part theoretical approach to identifying the center and boundaries of any community through analysis of its social discourse, networks, and aesthetics. This model provides a basis from which to objectively conclude that Neotraditional American Muslims constitute a clearly defined community that is distinct from other communities of American Muslims. In light of this, scholars studying Islam or religions in America are urged to recognize the Neotraditional community and other communities described below as distinct, and to account for the differences between them for the purpose of analysis in all future research relating to American Muslims. In addition to underscoring how this dissertation contributes to scholarship on Islam in America and American religious diversity, the concluding chapter suggests directions for future research and anticipates significant aspects of how the Neotraditional American Muslim community is likely to develop in the coming decades.
Although describing core features of the Neotraditional American Muslim community is the primary focus of this dissertation, the three-part theoretical approach it models for identifying a community through analysis of its discourse, networks, and aesthetics offers a programmatic means to identify and describe a community which will be of general interest to any scholar in the Humanities or Social Sciences.