Muslims in Singapore, Multiculturalism and clapping hands

On the 14-16 July 2010, MUIS (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore), in collaboration with Oxford University, University of Melbourne and the Department of Malay Studies at National University of Singapore, has organized the International Conference on Muslims in Multicultural Societies. According to the main organizer, the conference was aimed to

profile Singapore’s best practices in general and more specifically the Singapore Muslim community’s contribution to the state and in promoting Islamic values that embraces diversity. Additionally, this conference serves as a platform for other Muslim communities to share their experiences – models, systems and processes, and exchange ideas for further development of Muslims in multicultural societies. Continue reading

“Islam is evil”. “No! Islam is peace”: The fallacy of the ‘scripturegnosis’ argument

The debate, despite enlightenment and modernization, remains the same as that which Dante advocated in the Divine Comedy: is Islam evil or a religion of peace? On one side of the argument, and siding with Dante, is Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician and self-declared ‘Islamophobe’ in the real meaning of the word (fearing Islam as religion). Of course, for both Dante and Wilders (who is facing trial in his own country), Islam and the Qur’an are, in the very words of Wilders, ‘bad’ and ‘evil’. Wilders also used adjectives such as ‘retarded’, ‘fascist’ and ‘anti-democratic’ – thus dangerous and worthy of being banned. Different variations on a theme of ‘Islam is evil’ can also be found in the work of several authors, for example Robert Spencer, Bat Ye’or and Magdi Allam among many others. Continue reading

A note on the new Centre for the Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies (University of Western Sydney)

On the 16th of July, UWS launched a new Centre for the Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies as part of its partnership with NCEIS (National Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies). I have received emails and queries about my involvement and position with the centre, as well as questions about its program and agenda. Since I have been mentioned as one of the ‘senior academics’ appointed to the new centre, and since some academic colleagues were aware of my intention and efforts for the past two years to start a centre along the same lines, I feel that I need to clarify the current situation and my collaboration on this project with my friend, and co-editor of the book series Muslims in Global Societies, Prof. Bryan Turner. Continue reading

Muslims as ‘cultural objects’ 

More and more we can find examples in which Muslims are reduced to their material culture and religious culture: Muslim women reduced to their hijabs, niqabs, burkas, chadors; Muslim men represented as repressive, violent, fanatic and irrational and so on. Just read some commentaries about Muslim women, or about Muslim life in general, and you will be able to understand why I say that Muslims are reduced to their ‘material culture’.

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Universities hotbeds of Islamic radicalism?

Recently, two British scholars, Dr. June Edmunds and Prof. Anthony Glees have clashed over the popular topic of Islamic extremism within, in this case, British universities. This has been since 2006 a very ‘hot’ topic for the press and a long term ‘hot potato’ for deans at universities. Yet for some students and researchers, it has turned into a real nightmare. The two scholars, of course had opposing views. Dr June Edmunds, whom has conducted a University of Cambridge research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), has concluded, Continue reading

Understanding Muslim Identity, Rethinking Fundamentalism

I am pleased to inform my friends and readers that my latest book Understanding Muslim Identity Rethinking Fundamentalism, is finally on the bookshelf of (more or less virtual) book shops.

Another book on Islamic fundamentalism?’ I can hear the question echoing among friends, colleagues and readers. Since 2001, more than 100 books and 5,600 articles have been published on Islamic fundamentalism. Broadening the research to agnate labels – such as Islamism (about 200 books and 243 articles), political Islam (345 books and 4,670 articles) and Islamic extremism (only 16 books and 1610 articles) – we can appreciate the amount of scholarly publication pressed into the past seven years.

So, why write another book? I have tried to explain the reasons in the Introduction, which you can read for free. The book provides a very different analysis of what has been labeled ‘Islamic fundamentalism’, and what I prefer to call ‘emotional Islam’. Continue reading

From drizzle to clear blue sky: leaving the University of Aberdeen for UWS

One of the characteristics of academic life is often mobility. I have been very mobile in the last ten years. And now it is time to move again. By the 31st August 2008, I officially leave the University of Aberdeen, Religious Studies, since I have accepted UWS’ offer for a new position as Associate Professor (UK equivalent of Readership) in the Anthropology of Islam. UWS, together with Melbourne University and Griffith University, has given life to an innovative centre for studying Islam and Muslims, The National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies (NCEIS), which aims to deliver world-class, multi-disciplinary teaching and research in Islamic Studies at a regional, national and international level. I will contribute, in different ways, to the development of this ambitious project. Continue reading