Book: Somewhere between Islam and Judaism
Chapter: 8. The Study of Religion as a National and Nationalist Project
The eighth chapter, Islam Exotic: The Elusive Life of Leopold Weiss/Muhammad Asad, was originally delivered at the University of Mainz in Germany. It examines the rich life of Leopold Weiss (1900-1992), a Viennese Jew who converted to Islam, whereupon he took the name Muhammad Asad. It uses Weiss/Asad as an example of the ostensible rejection of the traditions (e.g., Jewish, European) in which one grew up, and the desire to not only take on the mantle of another religion, but to actively define the new religion as the polar opposite of the previous one. This dialectic between the old religion and the new one enabled Weiss/Asad to understand each in the shadow of the other, meaning that full escape was not possible.