This essay argues that contemporary discourses around postsecularism in literature do not adequately express the concerns of Muslim American writers who are reimaging how they can practice their religion within the specificity of the US secular context. It examines the ways Mohja Kahf’s bildungsroman, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, challenges the contemporary notion of postsecular literature, which takes a weakened, hybridized, liberal spirituality as its starting point. Although the bildungsroman conventionally plots an individual’s modernization in line with the nation’s, Kahf uses the formal strategies of the bildungsroman to contest the moral superiority of secular feminism and to assert an Islamic feminism that works in tandem with American identity. She situates her protagonist’s ultimate independence from the family fold, patriarchal Islam, and mainstream US society in explicitly gendered and religious acts of claiming control over her body. While Kahf illuminates the limits of secularism, she also sees its potential, and the novel ultimately envisions the secular context as a place in which to foster the umma—the global, transnational community to which every Muslim belongs.
Danielle Haque; The Postsecular Turn and Muslim American Literature. American Literature 1 December 2014; 86 (4): 799–829. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2811790
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