by KRISTIAN PETERSEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on APRIL 13, 2015:
When did religion begin in South Asia? Many would argue that it was not until the colonial encounter that South Asians began to understand themselves as religious. In Religion, Science, and Empire: Classifying Hinduism and Islam in British India (Oxford University Press, 2012), Peter Gottschalk, Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University, outlines the contingent and mutual coalescence of science and religion as they were cultivated within the structures of empire. He demonstrates how the categories of Hindu and Muslim were constructed and applied to the residents of the Chainpur nexus of villages by the British despite the fact that these identities were not always how South Asians described themselves.
Throughout this study we are made aware of the consequences of comparison and classification in the study of religion. Gottschalk engages Jonathan Z. Smith’s modes of comparison demonstrating that seemingly neutral categories serve ideological purposes and forms of knowledge are not arbitrary in order. Here, we observe this work through imperial forms of knowledge production in South Asia, including the roles of cartographers, statisticians, artists, ethnographers, and photographers. Continue reading →
Islamic Liberation Theology is the Need of the Hour (by Junaid S. Ahmad & Sania Sufi)
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“The various religious expressions emerging in contemporary times in post-colonial Muslim societies also make themselves irrelevant as they cater to the demands of local elites (and very often, their Western backers) and not to those of the bulk of the population who yearn for a praxis-based theology offering a better existence in the here and now. In such conditions, Muslims must dig through the Islamic canon for a discourse far more liberating than merely the negation of beheadings or senseless violence or intolerance.”
by JUNAID S. AHMAD and SANIA SUFI for ISLAMiCommentary on APRIL 13, 2015:
When reading dominant narratives about the Muslim world today, we are at pains to escape the imagery of beheadings, stonings, suicide bombings and ‘senseless’ violence in general. The picture has obtained its most concrete manifestation in the form of ISIS. The ‘Islamic State’ seems to embody all that is wrong with a people who have clearly not kept up with the pace of history, and in fact now are trying to offer an atavistic, medieval alternative to it.
However, a critical unpacking of the ideology behind ISIS — however millenarian and myopic it may be — reveals legitimate grievances rooted in an unjust global political architecture which exploits, dehumanizes, and fuels violence among Muslims the world over.
While political expressions of Islam have existed over the past century, the vicious, reactionary, and most obscurantist forms of such currents got their steroid injections through the Western-backed “jihad” against the Communists in Afghanistan in the 1980s. This is clearly the first period of ‘radicalization’ — cradled, nurtured, and advanced by the powerful for their narrow, secular realpolitik. Continue reading →
“The Impact of Russia’s Annexation of the Crimea on the Central Eurasian Islamic World” with Charles Weller from ACMCU on Vimeo.
CHARLES WELLER speaks at the ALWALEED BIN TALAL CENTER FOR MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDING(At GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY) (recorded on March 19, 2015):
Dr. Weller’s talk focused on four main, interrelated dimensions of the impact of the Crimean and Ukrainian Crises on the Central Eurasian Islamic World: (1) The response of the Crimean Tatar community and impact on Russo-Tatar relations within the Crimea religiously, socially, and politically; (2) Responses among related Turkic Muslim groups of Central Eurasia, particularly the Turks of Turkey, the Volga Tatars within the Russian Federation, and the Kazakh Muslims of Kazakhstan, with related reflections upon the impact of the crises upon Russo-Turkish relations politically, Russo-Volga Tatar relations socially and politically within Tatarstan, and Russo-Kazakh relations socially and politically within Kazakhstan; (3) the (potential) impact upon Russo-Chinese relations politically in connection with the Uighur independence movement; and (4) Responses from across the broader Muslim world, particularly the Middle Eastern and Western worlds. Continue reading →
“Caste Consciousness Among Muslims in North India and Pakistan” with Sara Singha from ACMCU on Vimeo.
SARA SINGHA speaks at the ALWALEED BIN TALAL CENTER FOR MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDING(at GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY) (recorded on February 25, 2015):
The caste system is the Indian hierarchical classification of people into ranked groups called varnas. There are four varnas in the caste system, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras that are organized by occupation and maintained through endogamy. While discussions of caste are primarily rooted within a Hindu framework, ‘caste consciousness’ is also noticeable among Indian Muslims. There are three distinct Muslim castes in India: the Ashraf (the noble), the Ajlaf (the lowly), and the Arzal (Dalit). While the Ashraf claim Arab or Persian ancestry, the Ajlaf and Arzal are largely low-caste and Dalit converts to Islam. Relationships between the Ashraf and Dalit Muslims are strained through endogamy and punctuated by commensal segregation. These ‘caste’ divisions create multiple theological, social, and political fissures in the Indian Muslim community as the Ashraf consider Dalit Muslims inherently inferior and ‘polluted.’
While caste is often considered an Indian phenomenon, it has also seeped across the border to Pakistan where it manifests in multiple ways. Though not as pronounced as in India, ‘caste consciousness’ in Pakistan is observable through an awareness of purity and pollution (pak and na-pak) and through endogamy within a particular biradari (brotherhood). Such occurrences of ‘caste consciousness’ in Pakistan highlight intra-Muslim divisions that are exacerbated by ethnic, linguistic, and tribal distinctions. Continue reading →
Happy Nowruz ! From the Silk Roads, to Iran, to the US and In Between
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by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary & TIRN, on MARCH 21, 2015:
Wishing those who celebrate it a Happy Nowruz (Nowruz Mobarak) from the Silk Roads, to Iran, to the US and in between! CLICK HERE for a compilation on Nowruz, from the celebratory to the politicaL