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SACRED LAW RECONSIDERED

The Similarity of Bioethical Debates in Islamic Contexts and Western Societies

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ABSTRACT

People everywhere search for answers by using the resources of their traditions. They wish to do so in a legitimate way, and so they consult official institutions, specialists, and skilled individuals for their opinions; regardless of religious or cultural contexts, the common aim of these experts is to produce security, unity, and trust. Therefore, the norm-finding processes in Islamic and Western contexts share fundamental similarities: the problem of finding a final ground for judgment, the strategies of constructing coherence and of organizing consensus, and the difficulties of obtaining legitimacy. What makes one debate “Islamic” and the other one “Western” is the different semantic materials, the different authorities, the different languages, and the different juridical frameworks. In my comparison of Muslim and Western discourses and practices, I conclude that Muslim and non-Muslim scholars tend to overemphasize the uniqueness of Muslim legal and practical responses to bioethical challenges, because they restrict their purview to legal opinions, ignoring larger dynamics of legitimization.

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