Print Edition



Mar 24, 2021

Are Believers a Political Tribe?

Caner Dagli

Caner K. Dagli

College of the Holy Cross

Caner K. Dagli is an associate professor of religious studies at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.

More Full Bio
Asma Uddin

Asma Uddin

Guest Speaker

Are Believers a Political Tribe?

How can Muslims effect real change for themselves without succumbing to tribalism?

“Religious freedom is the way to protect the ability to dissent, to stand apart from the status quo and say that ‘I have the right to express this view whether the majority accepts it or not, whether it’s politically correct or not, whether it’s a popular view.’ Religious freedom gives me that space to speak. It’s intricately connected with free speech, and that ultimately is the value of religious freedom.” Asma T. Uddin

“There’s a kind of a dynamic moment now where people are starting to realign and get together in different kinds of coalitions. One of the things we need to consider over the next generation is that perhaps we all need to rethink lazy divisions between liberal and conservative, between left and right, and become a little bit more sophisticated about what it means to be together with a certain group for a certain cause for certain kinds of outcomes.” Caner K. Dagli

Asma T. Uddin litigated issues of religious liberty for years, but it wasn’t until Burwell v. Hobby Lobby—the US Supreme Court case about whether the Affordable Care Act required Christian owners of a private company to offer contraception as part of their employee health coverage—that she felt thrust into an arena where religious freedom was understood through a stark political lens. In this episode, Caner K. Dagli, professor of religious studies at College of the Holy Cross, speaks with Uddin on the path she sees for Muslims to effect real change for themselves without succumbing to tribalism and explores her views on the increasingly antiquated and often constricting allegiances of left and right. They discuss strategic paths to change that Muslims can employ that recognize the common humanity of all Americans and develop a more dynamic engagement with the political system.


Asma T. Uddin is a religious liberty lawyer and scholar working for the protection of religious expression for people of all faiths in the US and abroad. Her areas of expertise include law and religion (church-state relations), international human rights law on religious freedom, and Islam and religious freedom. She has authored two books, When Islam Is Not a Religion and The Politics of Vulnerability.

Caner K. Dagli is an associate professor of religious studies at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, specializing in Qur’anic studies, interfaith dialogue, and philosophy. An editor of The Study Quran, he was among the 138 Muslim signatories of the 2007 letter “A Common Word Between Us and You,” an appeal to Christian world leaders for peace and cooperation between Christians and Muslims.


When Islam Is Not a Religion, Asma T. Uddin (Pegasus Books, 2019)

The Politics of Vulnerability, Asma T. Uddin (Pegasus Books, 2021)

Further Reading

“Muslims Are Not a Race,” Caner K. Dagli, Renovatio

Why Are Muslims Seen as a Race?” Caner K. Dagli and Khalil Abdur Rashid, The Renovatio Podcast

Other ways to listen