What conventional wisdom promotes and dictates is the assumption that religion is an outdated weltanschuuang.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 →
In this discussion, Talal Asad identifies the problematic ways in which the presence of Muslim communities in Western contexts has been characterized in response to outbreaks of violence such as the recent events in Paris. Asad argues that many of the critiques to which Muslims are subjected, namely their dependence on transcendent forces, also inhabit the intellectual assumptions of secular and atheist commentators. He further expresses the need to examine Islam as a “tradition” in order to avoid precisely the types of sweeping generalizations and focus instead on the complexities and particularities of the various ways in which Islam is lived. The inability to historicize Islam as a tradition has played into the calls for a “reform” of the religion and resulted in the inability to confront the underlying causes of the recent eruptions of violence. This interview was conducted in New York on 17 January 2015. It was later transcribed for publication. Click here
What if Islam had never existed? To some, it’s a comforting thought: No clash of civilizations, no holy wars, no terrorists. Would Christianity have taken over the world? Would the Middle East be a peaceful beacon of democracy? Would 9/11 have happened? In fact, remove Islam from the path of history, and the world ends up exactly where it is today. Continue reading →
Integration as social policy in the UK has fallen short of delivering anything but inequality and injustice. Rather, in its use since 9/11 it has become a convenient banner under which it is justifiable and convenient to target and discipline British Muslims. This was clearly demonstrated by David Cameron’s recent speech on the ‘failure of multiculturalism’, categorically singling out Muslims as most in need of integration into British values. The contemporary debate has reduced all social issues to questions of cultural differences and conflicting value systems. Public voices in the media have now made it fashionable and respectable to possess anti-Muslim sentiments. Continue reading →
Jason Burke (2004), who is a journalist for the Observer, has spent more than a decade reporting in the Middle East South East Asia, and draws the conclusion that seeing al-Qaeda as a single international organisation is an over simplification of the ‘war on terror’.