"Religious Relationships in South Asia - A Bird's Eye-view" with Fr. Vincent Sekhar, SJ
Fr. Vincent, S.J., of the Institute of Dialogue with Cultures and Religions at Loyola College in Chennai, India, explored the complexity of relationships among diverse religious communities in India, including Hindu, Muslim, Jain, and Christian, through the lens of recent events. He discussed how attitudes have changed and identities have formed and solidified, as well as the challenges of dialogue and hopes for building bridges.
Islamic Political Thought After the Arab Spring
March 15, 2016. In the roughly two decades prior to the Arab Spring in 2011, Muslim clerics, intellectuals and political activists had developed frameworks for envisioning and explaining the relationship (actual and desired) between Islam, the state and society. These frameworks were often in competition, but by 2011 they had all become standard features of Islamic political thought. The Arab Spring of 2011-13 exploded this stasis, inverting power relationships and making the theoretical seem possible. The sudden collapse of the Arab Spring and the violence and repression that have dominated many Arab states since has again shocked the manner in which the political is perceived. This panel explored how Muslim scholars, intellectuals and activists have sought to reconstitute or adapt their conceptualizations of Islam and the state since the dramatic end of the Arab Spring.
"The State and Muslim Minorities Today: Lessons from Europe, Africa and Asia" with Robert Mason
February 24, 2016. To mark the launch of Muslim Minority - State Relations: Violence, Integration and Policy, Dr Robert Mason will discuss the most pertinent lessons from Europe, Africa and Asia in his talk at ACMCU, Georgetown University, on 24 February 2016. His frame of reference is taken from work with leading scholars on case studies as diverse as the UK, Austria, Kenya, Russia, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, each highlighting areas of either best practice in state - Muslim community relations or contentious issues which have yet to be resolved. His remarks are made within the context of often ill-informed or divisive responses to violent Islamist attacks, the international refugee crisis driven by ongoing conflict in the Middle East, and the alleged 'Islamization' of western societies propagated by some leading political and media figures and far-right groups.
“Berets are OK, Headscarves are Not: How French Cultural Norms Distort Religious Freedom” with Rim-Sarah Alouane
Relations between the French state and public visibility of religion, particularly Islam, became openly confrontational in the late 1980s with the infamous “headscarf affair” in public schools, where Muslim students were expelled from school for wearing a hijab (Islamic headscarf). With respect to public displays of religion, the initial response of public authorities was a lenient application of laïcité towards the general public but a rigid one towards civil servants. In the 2000s, there were escalating public struggles between public manifestations of religious affiliation and politicians increasingly fighting for a restrictive application of laïcité that regards religious displays as a violation of public order. This increasing politicization of laïcité, where religious freedom was seen as an assault on cultural and republican values, has resulted in a toughening of the legislative speech on religious signs, particularly against Muslims who were seen as more openly violating French cultural norms. While restrictions of expression of religious affiliation of students began in public schools, we are now observing an extension of this control to people in public spaces. This expansion of repressive policies will end badly not only for Muslim minorities in Europe, but also the overall legitimacy and integrity of modern European liberal values.
Book talk: "Interpreting Islam, Modernity, and Women's Rights in Pakistan" with Dr. Anita Weiss
October 30, 2015. In Pakistan, myriad constituencies are grappling with reinterpreting women's rights. This book analyzes the Government of Pakistan's construction of an understanding of what constitutes women's rights, moves on to address traditional views and contemporary popular opinion on women's rights, and then focuses on three very different groups' perceptions of women's rights: progressive women's organizations as represented by the Aurat Foundation and Shirkat Gah; orthodox Islamist views as represented by the Jama'at-i-Islami, the MMA government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (2002-08) and al-Huda; and the Swat Taliban. Author Anita M. Weiss analyzes the resultant "culture wars" that are visibly ripping the country apart, as groups talk past one another - each confidant that they are the proprietors of culture and interpreters of religion while others are misrepresenting it.
"Islam in Turkey: the Case of Said Nursi" with Dr. Faris Kaya
In his presentation, Dr. Kaya began with a short introduction to the life of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1876-1960) and the historical context in which he lived and wrote his magnum opus the Risale-i Nur, a thematic commentary on the Qur’an. This was followed by presenting Nursi’s perspective on living in a secular environment as an observant Muslim, his understanding of jihad, political Islam, and Christian-Muslim relations. Finally, Dr. Kaya focused on the legacy of Nursi in Turkey and around the globe.