Contemporary Arab Thought is a complex term, encompassing a constellation of social, political, religious and ideological ideas that have evolved over the past two hundred years — ideas that represent the leading positions of the social classes in modern and contemporary Arab societies.
Distinguished Islamic scholar Ibrahim Abu-Rabi‘ addresses such questions as the Shari‘ah, human rights, civil society, secularism and globalization. This is complimented by a focused discussion on the writings of key Arab thinkers who represent established trends of thought in the Arab world, including Muhammad ‘Abid al-Jabiri, Adallah Laroui, Muhammad al-Ghazali, Rashid al-Ghannoushi, Qutatnine Zurayk, Mahdi ‘Amil and many others.
Before 1967, some Arab countries launched hopeful programmes of modernisation. After the 1967 defeat with Israel, many of these hopes were dashed. This book retraces the Arab world’s aborted modernity of recent decades. Abu-Rabi‘ explores the development of contemporary Arab thought against the historical background of the rise of modern Islamism, and the impact of the West on the modern Arab world.
After 9/11, many Americans took the view that the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were the leading edge of a new war: Islam versus the West. Yet the attacks were also part of the current struggle within Islam between fundamentalist and moderate approaches and were staged for maximum effect in the Muslim world.
This book is based on a special-topic issue of the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (Fall 2005), and brings together prominent Muslim voices from the policy and academic communities to debate the nature of moderate Islam and what moderation means in both a theological and a geopolitical sense. Participants reflect on the future of political Islam, its role in Muslim politics, western policies in the Muslim world, and the future of American-Muslim relations. This book and the debate it presents are vital to understanding these complex issues.
Ziauddin Sardar is a prolific writer and an insightful cultural commentator. His latest book, Why Do People Hate America?, has been a regular feature in bestseller lists in several countries. In the UK, he is known as a leading intellectual and his regular contributions to the Observer, the Independent and the New Statesman have brought his writings to a wide audience. As one of our most high-profile Muslim intellectuals, he has also become an increasingly important voice in the media since the events of September 11th 2001.
This is the first collection of his writings that offers a comprehensive introduction to his thought. Starting with his analysis of his own position as a British Muslim and a writer, it goes on to explore issues of Islam and cultural change, education, identity, post-modernism and the future. Drawn from a broad range of his work in scholarly journals as well as from his many books on aspects of culture and society, it includes his most frequently cited papers and makes an ideal introduction to the immense scope of his work in cultural studies.
Ziaddin Sardar is currently the editor of Third Text and Visiting Professor of Cultural Studies at City University, London. His books for Pluto Press include Postmodernism and the Other and Aliens R Us.
For generations Islamic and Western intellectuals and policymakers have debated Islam’s compatibility with democratic government, usually with few solid conclusions. But where—Brandon Kendhammer asks in this book—have the voices of ordinary, working-class Muslims been in this conversation? Doesn’t the fate of democracy rest in their hands? Visiting with community members in northern Nigeria, he tells the complex story of the stunning return of democracy to a country that has also embraced Shariah law and endured the radical religious terrorism of Boko Haram.
Kendhammer argues that despite Nigeria’s struggles with jihadist insurgency, its recent history is really one of tenuous and fragile reconciliation between mass democratic aspirations and concerted popular efforts to preserve Islamic values in government and law. Combining an innovative analysis of Nigeria’s Islamic and political history with visits to the living rooms of working families, he sketches how this reconciliation has been constructed in the conversations, debates, and everyday experiences of Nigerian Muslims. In doing so, he uncovers valuable new lessons—ones rooted in the real politics of ordinary life—for how democracy might work alongside the legal recognition of Islamic values, a question that extends far beyond Nigeria and into the Muslim world at large.
Images of religious extremism and violence in Pakistan—and the narratives that interpret them—inform global events but also twist back to shape local class politics. Ammara Maqsood focuses on life in Lahore, where she untangles these narratives to show how central they are for understanding competition between middle-class groups.
In Rethinking Islam, Katajun Amirpur argues that the West’s impression of Islam as a backward-looking faith, resistant to post-Enlightenment thinking, is misleading and—due to its effects on political discourse—damaging. Introducing readers to key thinkers and activists—such as Abu Zaid, a free-thinking Egyptian Qur’an scholar; Abdolkarim Soroush, an academic and former member of Khomeini’s Cultural Revolution Committee; and Amina Wadud, an American feminist who was the first woman to lead the faithful in Friday Prayer—Amirpur reveals a powerful yet lesser-known tradition of inquiry and dissent within Islam, one that is committed to democracy and human rights. By examining these and many other similar figures’ ideas, she reveals the many ways they reject fundamentalist assertions and instead call for a diversity of opinion, greater freedom, and equality of the sexes.
In the 1980s, Egypt witnessed a growing revival of religiosity among large sectors of the population, including artists. Many pious stars retired from art, “repented” from “sinful” activities, and dedicated themselves to worship, preaching, and charity. Their public conversions were influential in spreading piety to the Egyptian upper class during the 1990s, which in turn enabled the development of pious markets for leisure and art, thus facilitating the return of artists as veiled actresses or religiously committed performers.
Revisiting the story she began in “A Trade like Any Other”: Female Singers and Dancers in Egypt, Karin van Nieuwkerk draws on extensive fieldwork among performers to offer a unique history of the religious revival in Egypt through the lens of the performing arts. She highlights the narratives of celebrities who retired in the 1980s and early 1990s, including their spiritual journeys and their influence on the “pietization” of their fans, among whom are the wealthy, relatively secular, strata of Egyptian society. Van Nieuwkerk then turns to the emergence of a polemic public sphere in which secularists and Islamists debated Islam, art, and gender in the 1990s. Finally, she analyzes the Islamist project of “art with a mission” and the development of Islamic aesthetics, questioning whether the outcome has been to Islamize popular art or rather to popularize Islam. The result is an intimate thirty-year history of two spheres that have tremendous importance for Egypt—art production and piety.