Date of Award

January 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Michael Beard


The question whether Islam is compatible with American, or generally “Western,” values has now imposed itself on public debates, gaining more urgency and traction with every tragic act of terrorism committed in the name of Islam. In these debates Islamic identity is usually defined in Orientalist terms. Fundamentalist Muslims reiterate Orientalist concepts of who a Muslim is. Orientalist observers on the one hand, and on the other fundamentalist Muslims have defined Islam as the West’s inimical Other, which has made the so-called clash of civilizations sound inevitable.

I argue that cosmopolitan observers challenge these misrepresentations. Representation, particularly self-representation, of the so-called Islamic world requires a thoughtful reading of current events as well as an accurate evaluation of Islam’s historical relationship with other religions and cultures. By examining the concepts of Kwame Anthony Appiah’s “partial cosmopolitanism” and Bruce Lawrence’s “Muslim cosmopolitanism” in the theater of Tawfiq Al-Haim and Akbar Ahmed, this study redefines identity contours and suggests an accurate nomenclature regarding Islamic identity.

There is an urgent need to represent the cosmopolitan dimension we encounter when we read writers from different generations and different “Islamic” cultures who illustrate the resources of cosmopolitanism shared across the Islamicate world. Tawfiq Al-Hakim and Akbar Ahmed are examples for these writers.