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Retraditionalisation, Anti-Foundationalism and Glocalisation in a Post-Islamist Muslim World (1/2)

Panel Chair: Carool Kersten | Monday, August 24, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

Since the 1990s, some researchers of the contemporary Muslim world have been predicting the end of political Islam -- introducing the term Post-Islamism. This does not mean the end of the role of religion in the Muslim world. A wide spectrum of religious practitioners, Muslim activists and intellectuals, ranging from social conservatives to critical progressives, propose innovation through critical and appreciative engagement with the Islamic tradition. The vacuum in the centre is filled by a trend towards 'retraditionalization'. These include strategies to rehabilitate local Islamic traditions and regimes of knowledge promoted as more pious, authentic, or progressive and tolerant. More ‘adventurous’ intellectuals advocate different forms of Muslim cosmopolitanism and worldliness, drawing inspiration from the 1980s Heritage Thinkers and writings of anti-foundationalist philosophers and postcolonial theorists. In contrast to reactionary Islamism, proponents of these trends seek an alternative Muslim future while retaining an ‘Islamic referent’.

Cecilie Endresen

Pagans and Pantheists: Pluralist New Age Islam in Albania

This paper explores Islam-oriented ideas promulgated by a number of adherents of “Pelasgian” theories, a multifaceted Albanophonic discourse based on conspiracy theories, rejected knowledge and an esoteric impulse. A tenet is that modern Albanians through their “Pelasgian” ancestry and language possess the key to recover a lost wisdom tradition, which is contrasted with Others’ religious “fanaticism”. This Pelasgian Ur-Religion is well preserved in Albanian culture, above all in one’s own religious heritage, which is endowed with global and cosmic significance. The backdrop is secularist, under-siege nationalism, and current visions of European integration and Western recognition. A main inspiration is 19th-Century efforts to refashion the Sufi Bektashiyya tradition into a kind of pantheist, pagan-Christian pro-Western Islam. “Pelasgian” interpretations of Islam are idiosyncratic and unorganized, often with pantheist, panentheist or polytheist twist and a neopagan character, with elements from UFO religions and an increasing similarity with New Age in the West.

Ali Paya

Crital Rationalism vs Doctrinal Dogmatism and Violent Radicalism: Muslim Intellectuals in Iran

Faced with the sad reality of misrepresentation/misinterpretation of the teachings of Islam, a group of Muslim intellectuals in Iran have tried to promote critical rationalism (CR) as an antidote to misguided interpretations of Islam and as an intellectual tool for developing a sound Islamic outlook. At the heart of CR lies the thesis that 'all knowledge is conjectural and yet it is not impossible to get closer to a true knowledge of reality by learning through our mistakes'. CR is against all justificatory and foundationalist approaches. CR argues that it is through a never-ending process of critical examination of our interpretations of Islamic teachings that we can hope to develop an 'Islamic outlook' that is fit for the twenty-first century. In my discussion I shall critically assess the efforts of Iranian Muslim intellectuals to develop their new Approach.


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Thematic Outline

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