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The Uses and Abuses of Criticism in the Study of Islam: A Response to Aaron Hughes 1

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Abstract Aaron Hughes offers a challenging critique of contemporary Islamic Studies scholarship, particularly among members of the Study of Islam Section (SIS) of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). A call for a more rigorous scholarship based on historical and textual criticism is issued as ‘provocation’ to the group. In my reply, I suggest that his essay is indeed a provocation, although not always helpfully or accurately, despite an attempt to end on a non-polemical, constructive note in the last couple of pages, where there is not enough substance on which to build a useful dialogue. Hughes argues that contemporary Islamicists have tended to become defensive of Islam in the face of growing Islamophobia in the public sphere. This essay in reply accepts some of Hughes’s critique, disagrees with some of the substance of it, including the pugnacious tone, and suggests ways to improve the chances of a meaningful dialogue

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religion Mailstop: 1535/002/1AA, 537 Kilgo Cir., Callaway S214 University of Emory Atlanta, Georgia 30322 USA rcmartin@emory.edu

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