Discussion: Nasr Abu Zaid on Contemporary Islamic Thought and the Current Situation in the Arab World

Thu, November 8, 2007 7:00 pm at Alwan for the Arts

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Free and Open to the Public

Nasr Abu Zaid’s talk will highlight some of the common misunderstandings concerning the issue of reformation in the Muslim world. Based on the fact that the fundamentalist and exclusivist trend of Islamic thought prevails in most presentations of Islam and dominates in the western media, particularly after September 11, the main focus of this address is, by contrast, on the positive, liberal, and inclusive trends embedded in the writings of thinkers who sought to reread and revisit the Islamic tradition.

Secondly: to uncover the possible negative impact of the present state of political affairs, namely, the ideology of the new colonial power as pursued under the war against terrorism and reformation agenda implicit in the United States wider Middle East project, which echoes similar policies of previous colonial powers in decades and centuries past.

Unfortunately, the present state of world affairs gives traditionalists, not to mention the radicals and fundamentalists, a more powerful position than they might ever have dreamt of. In this respect the analysis presents a warning against irresponsible political actions. The central questions to be addressed are: to what extent are these liberal, reformist thinkers engaged in genuine renewal of Islamic thought? Do they succeed in escaping the negative image of the West presented by the traditionalists? What is the impact of the present context, and its many unfolding crises, has on reformist and progressive thought?

Nasr Abu Zaid is the Ibn Rushd Chair for Islam and Humanism at the University of Ultrecht as well as professor of Islamic Studies at Leiden University. Graduate of Cairo University, with a PhD in Qur'anic Studies, he is one of the pioneers of Islamic thought and author of more than a dozen books. For an example of his writing, see:

Last updated: 2007-11-20 11:24:55

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