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Contemporary Muslim Identities

Session Chair: N.N. | Tuesday, August 25, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

Ahmad Yousif

Research Methodology: A Critical Analysis of Muslim Scholarship in Southeast Asia: Past and Present

In Southeast Asia, as well as other parts of the Muslim world, academic institutions often ignore the importance of research methodology as an instrument for determining solutions to particular problems. This is especially evident in the field of Islamic Studies. Many institutions of higher learning in Southeast Asia conduct research in the Islamic disciplines using traditional approaches and techniques. Although such approaches do have some merits, they have a number of disadvantages. Consequently, scholars and students in the Islamic disciplines often face challenges when conducting research due to the use of methodologies, which lack innovativeness, efficiency and over-all effectiveness. In an effort to reduce some of the deficiencies of the traditional approach to research, some scholars prefer to completely reject such methods in favor of Western research methodology. This paper will examine the importance of research methodology within an Islamic framework of knowledge, and propose various recommendations for overcoming the limitations of the two approaches.

Dilyana Mincheva

Critical Islam: Between the Academic and the Public Duties

The hypothesis that my work explores suggests that current polemics on religion and the public sphere lead to the emergence of a new Western-Islamic public sphere. New actors and observers in the academic and intellectual field criticize the main framework of secularism, as well as the models of legitimacy and power which are inscribed in it. In the proposed paper I intend to reveal how this new Islamic critique, present in the work of three disparate Western-Muslim intellectuals – Mohammed Arkoun (social science, history, theology), Tariq Ramadan (theology) and Abdelwahab Meddeb (literary studies) – contributes to the formation of a polyphonic space – beyond the academia – in which arguments meet and exist in infinite dialogue. Critical of classical Islamic theology and critical of the liberal West, this new Islamic argumentation, paradoxically, ends up “redeeming” both the universalism of religion and the universalism of the West.

Yunus Dumbe

From Tarbiyya Debates to Ethno-Nationalist Struggles: Umar Ibrahim and the Salafis Transformation of the Islamic Research

In this article I examine the struggle engaged by Salafis in the transformation of the Islamic Research and Reformation Centre (IRRC) (1969-1989), from benevolent society to a Salafi movement. By focusing on the life trajectory of Umar Ibrahim, a graduate from Saudi Arabia, I examine the politics of ethno-nationalism among Muslims with foreign descent. Beyond the dominant binaries of autochthony and territorialized belonging politics, this paper analyses a dimension of nationalism among Muslim minority in Ghana of foreign descent and of different generational backgrounds. Analysing the various categories of nationalism which have filtered into the politics of Muslim leadership, I demonstrate their ambiguities and malleability in the IRRC power politics which Umar Ibrahim was a victim. Drawing on archives and interviews, the article suggests that Umar Ibrahim succeeded with his Salafi agenda because of the ambivalence of the second generation members of the IRRC towards the nationalist sentiments.

Youshaa Patel

Muslims "imitating" Non-Muslims: Islam and Cultural Change in mid-20th Century Syria

In this paper, I explain how a Syrian-Albanian religious scholar from mid-20th century Damascus attempts to deter Muslims from imitating cultural practices associated with non-Muslims. In 1949, Sulaymān b. Khalīl al-Ghāwjī al-Albānī (d. 1958) published a brief treatise that highlights five problematic cultural trends that accompanied the French mandate of Syria after World War I: 1) Muslims wearing foreign headgear; 2) The increasing presence of women in public life; 3) Muslims (men and women) marrying non-Muslims; 4) The spread of photography; and 5) the abrogation of Islamic inheritance laws. I illustrate how al-Ghāwjī adapts a pre-modern Islamic discourse to an entirely new cultural context. Thinking with Walter Benjamin and Theodore Adorno, I connect al-Ghāwjī’s anxieties over rapid cultural change to the decline of Muslim political power, the global spread of Western cultural norms, the social displacement of religious elites, and the rise of mechanical reproduction in the modern Middle East.


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