Tradition & Change: To Reform or not to Reform?

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Tradition is here defined as an intellectual tendency or social perspective of continuing the preservation of values, statements, norms and the like from one generation to the next. In contrast, modernity is the social outlook on life which is inclined to break with tradition. It is driven by the force to repudiate traditional values, customs and beliefs in favour of more radical ideas. A delineating feature of modernity is constant change whilst tradition is identified by continuation. Where do we stand regarding these two polarities as religious people?

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Religion vs Secularism

0bf85ece-2299-4e49-89d1-a97dcc5473d8-2060x1236What conventional wisdom promotes and dictates is the assumption that religion is an outdated weltanschuuang. It presupposes the reality of secular ideals vs. the myth of religion. It assumes the necessity of secularism versus the threat of religion. Much of the foreign policy of the last decade or so, and now with Theresa May and David Cameron’s new terrorism Bill, is underpinned by an assumption that somehow secularism is a saviour of religion. It sees religion as a dangerous phenomena and therefore it is in need, or more correctly, there is a necessity for it to be tamed. Continue reading →

Habermas’ ‘Religion in the Public Sphere’

I wish to show the theoretical underpinnings of Habermas’ ‘Religion in the Public Sphere’. Namely, I want to highlight that Habermas’ work is underpinned with a binary position of religion versus the secular; of metaphysical claims against non-metaphysical ones. I want to show that the constraints of defining religion in secular terms presumes religious values to be speculative and therefore as less real than the materiality of other concepts. I want to show that Habermas implicitly suggests that religious reasoning and viewpoints are intrinsically and diametrically opposed to secular reasoning and it is only with the condition of institutional translation proviso that they are relevant in the legislative domain. This is based on a certain definition of religion and is neither based on a sociologically unified political formation nor on a singular religious logic (Mahmood 2009). This dichotomy of characterising religion as such is based on an a priori epistemological assumption of the nature of religion. Continue reading →

When the Consumer Becomes the Consumed

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Jerry Mander is founder and distinguished fellow of the International Forum on Globalization, and was called “patriarch of the anti-globalization movement” by the New York Times. His early career was as president of a commercial ad agency, and then later, non-profit political advertising with Public Media Center, which concentrated on environmental and anti-war work. His previous books include Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (1978), In the Absence of the Sacred (1991), The Case Against the Global Economy (1996)and Alternatives to Economic Globalization (2002). This article is reprinted from Chapter 10 of his new book, The Capitalism Papers: Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System (Copyright © 2012 by Jerry Mander).

Is advertising legal? Most people agree that it is an uninvited intrusion into our lives and our minds, an invasion of privacy. But the fact that we can be aware of this without being furious, and that we do little to change the situation, is a good measure of our level of submission. There is a power relationship in advertising that is rarely, if ever, looked at, and yet it is a profoundly corrupt one. Some speak; others listen.

A. J. Liebling famously said, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed, but only if you own one.” Freedom of speech is also guaranteed. But only if you have a few million dollars for an effective media strategy. Soapbox oratory doesn’t sway the public anymore. But the powers of advertising go well beyond the amount of money spent. The true power is in the nature of moving-image media, projected for hours every day into human brains. It’s a form of intrusion we have never before in history had to face. Even now in the Internet age, the powers of television and advertising are undiminished and insufficiently examined or discussed.

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Ulrich Beck’s Cosmopolitanism

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The German sociologist, Ulrich Beck, has made key contributions to ideas of how to understand the global in recent times.

His understanding of cosmopolitanism is rooted in how current academic discourse is concerned with theorising about the organisation and reconstruction of social and cultural life within a global framework. Technological advances through cyber communication, economic interdependency, global media coverage, political cooperation and the rise of multiculturalism draw attention to an underlying feature of contemporary times eloquently summed up by Asad as the ‘conquest of space’ (Asad 1982: 13); highlighting the  interconnectedness between societies, where the local becomes global and the global local (Beck 2002).  Coupled with the post 9/11 perceived ‘threat’ of terrorist attacks and the environmental risk factors (Beck 2010) this ‘conquest of space’ calls for a communal (understood globally) and cooperative response. Cosmopolitanism[1] is thus a rethinking of how society, and, by extension, individuals are understood to enable an exploration of the effects these changes bring and to facilitate a well-informed and well-deliberated response. Continue reading →

Rethinking Secularism

Excerpted from chapter one of Rethinking Secularism (Oxford University Press, 2011).

We live in a world in which ideas, institutions, artistic styles, and formulas for production and living circulate among societies and civilizations that are very different in their historical roots and traditional forms. Parliamentary democracy spread outward from England, among other countries, to India; likewise, the practice of nonviolent civil disobedience spread from its origins in the struggle for Indian independence to many other places, including the United States with Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, Manila in 1983, and the Velvet and Orange Revolutions of our time.

But these ideas and forms of practice don’t just change place as solid blocks; they are modified, reinterpreted, given new meanings, in each transfer. This can lead to tremendous confusion when we try to follow these shifts and understand them. One such confusion comes from taking a word itself too seriously; the name may be the same, but the reality will often be different.

This is evident in the case of the word “secular.” We think of “secularization” as a selfsame process that can occur anywhere (and, according to some people, is occurring everywhere). And we think of secularist regimes as an option for any country, whether or not they are actually adopted. And certainly, these words crop up everywhere. But do they really mean the same thing in each iteration? Are there not, rather, subtle differences, which can bedevil cross-cultural discussions of these matters? Continue reading →

Composite Nationalism: Shaykh Husain Ahmad Madani

Shaykh Husain Ahmad Madani (1879-1957) “may well have had made the most influential and significant intervention in religious thought of any Islamic scholar of twentieth century India…The importance of his writings lies in the fact that he laid down in uncompromising terms, the Islamic sanction for Muslims to live with non-Muslims in a shared polity and specifically, to embrace the secular democracy of a state like India (Metcalf: 2005: 23-24).

Shaykh Madani states: “The Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, in the fourteenth year of his prophethood, formed a united front between the Companions and the resident Jews of Medinah based on a written constitution that brought them together as one nation against their common enemy. Continue reading →