September 2010

Lord Curzon in white, left; Karl Marx, right (for a change)

Of all the passages in Edward Said’s polemical Orientalism (1978), the one that most offended his natural allies on the left was placing Karl Marx in the den of Orientalist iniquity. What are “the sources of Marx’s conceptions about the Orient”? For Said they are no different than the prejudice of Renan or Lord Curzon.

“These are Romantic and even messianic: as human material the Orient is less important than as an element in a Romantic redemptive project. Marx’s economic analyses are perfectly fitted thus to a standard Orientalist undertaking, even though Marx’s humanity, his sympathy for the mystery of people, are clearly engaged. Yet in the end it is the Romantic Orientalist vision that wins out, as Marx’s theoretic socio-economic views become submerged in this classically standard image…” (Said, Orientalism, 1979, p. 154)

The quote from Marx that follows, and supposedly damns him, is as follows:

“England has to fulfill a double mission in India: one destructive, the other regenerating – the annihilation of the Asiatic society, and the laying of the material foundations of Western society in Asia.”

Said does not bother to note that the above quote is not take from the same article he quotes extensively earlier, although that is the impression given. (more…)

[Webshaykh’s note: The following is a book review by Yoginder Sikand, who maintains the blog Madrasa Reforms in India.]
Review of Global Mufti—The Phenomenon of Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Edited by Jakob Skaovgaard-Peterson & Bettina Graf (Hurst & Co, London, 2009,
ISBN: 978-1-85065-939-6

Reviewed by: Yoginder Sikand
The Qatar-based Egyptian Yusuf al-Qaradawi is among the most well-known Islamic scholars on the contemporary global scene. It might be something of an exaggeration to label him as a ‘phenomenon’ and as the ‘global mufti’—which is what the very title of this book hails him as—but that he exercises an enormous influence in numerous Islamic scholarly and activist circles is undeniable.
This book is a collection of essays on diverse aspects of Qaradawi’s life, achievements and writings. In their introductory essay, the editors of the volume provide a broad overview of his life, against which they situate his scholarly and activist accomplishments. Born in a poor family in a village in Egypt in 1926, Qaradawi studied at Cairo’s Al-Azhar, then the largest seat of traditional Islamic learning, after which he shifted to Qatar as emissary of his alma mater. It was there, we are told, that Qaradawi established himself as a noted scholar and activist, traveling widely across the world and establishing a number of Islamic institutions. The editors provide a pen-portrait of a passionate, dedicated scholar-activist, seeking to revive the rapidly disappearing tradition of socially-engaged ulema, who Qaradawi believes, should lead Muslims in the twenty-first century. (more…)

L’islamologue Mohamed Arkoud est mort

Le Monde, September 15, 2010

Le professeur Mohamed Arkoun, grand islamologue, est mort mardi 14 septembre à Paris à l’âge de 82 ans, a annoncé le “curé des Minguettes” Christian Delorme, qui était un de ses proches. Il était professeur émérite d’histoire de la pensée islamique à la Sorbonne et un des initiateurs du dialogue interreligieux.

Mohammed Arkoun était né en 1928 à Taourit-Mimoun, petit village de Kabylie, dans un milieu très modeste. Après avoir fréquenté l’école primaire de son village, il avait fait ses études secondaires chez les Pères blancs à Oran, puis avait étudié la littérature arabe, le droit, la philosophie et la géographie à l’Université d’Alger. Grâce à l’intervention du professeur Louis Massignon, rappelle Christian Delorme, il a pu préparer l’agrégation en langue et littérature arabes à la Sorbonne. Il a enseigné ensuite dans plusieurs universités puis en 1980, il a été nommé professeur à la Sorbonne-Nouvelle – Paris III, y enseignant l’histoire de la pensée islamique. Là, il a développé une discipline : l’islamologie appliquée. (more…)

Hurlbutt’s Atlas, p. 17

Hurlbutt’s Atlas, p. 17

The Christian fascination with the Holy Land as a window into interpretation of the Bible has a long and indeed fascinating history of its own. Here I continue the thread on Jesse Lyman Hurlbutt’s A Bible Atlas (New York: Rand McNally & Company, 1947, first published in 1882). After describing the physical geography, Hurlbutt proceeds directly the “The Journeys of the Patriarchs.” He writes (p. 17):

The journeys of Abraham extend over nearly all the lands of the Old Testament from Chaldea to Egypt. They represent the separation of a Semitic clan from the great body of the race, which was then ruled by an Elamite dynasty; and they bring to our notice the political relations of the world about two thousand years before Christ, in the early Chaldean period of the East.


The Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA) and the Muslim Chaplain’s Office of Hofstra University invite you to attend the 2010 IMANA-Hofstra Ethics Symposium, September 17-18, 2010. The symposium’s theme is End of Life Issues: Ethical and Religious Perspectives.

Intended audience are physicians, especially those in critical care medicine, emergency medicine, maternal fetal medicine and neonatology, medical bioethicists, chaplains, students in these fields and interested individuals.

Full details, including registration, are available on the conference website. For more information, contact the conference co-director Dr. Hossam E. Fadel.

Hofstra University is located in Hempstead, New York, accessible by the LIRR from Penn Station. All sessions take place in the Multipurpose Room 0101, Student Center.

The conference schedule is provided below: (more…)

[Editor’s note: Marnia Lazreg’s Questioning the Veil: Open Letters to Muslim Women (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009) is a refreshing unveiling of the long debated arguments on the use of some sort of “veil” in Muslim societies. These letters, concise and impassioned arguments in essay format, are for all to read. Modesty? Protection against sexual harassment? Newly formatted cultural identity? Conviction and Piety? Lazreg draws on her own upbringing in Algeria and research as a sociologist to frame her conviction of why Muslim women should not wear the veil. No one interested in the ongoing discussion should fail to read her important contribution. I provide here a brief excerpt from her Introduction.]

I do not approach veiling from the perspective of the struggle between “tradition” and “modernity,” which purportedly women resolve by opting for the veil, as a number of studies have claimed. New styles of veiling are less confining to a woman’s ability to move about than old ones, and a number of veiled women throughout the Muslim world have been carrying out their professional activities side by side with men in their workplaces. Nor do I consider wearing a veil at work as ushering in a new form of “modernity.” Furthermore, I do not intend to characterize veiling as representing women’s “alienation,” “enslavement,” or “subjugation” to cultural norms. Such characterizations are unhelpful as they can easily be applied to our postmodern condition, marked as it is by a retreat from a meaningfully shared human experience and the flaunting of privatized forms of consciousness, which result in conceptions of women that are as detrimental to women’s integrity as the veil might be. (more…)

Biblical Job by Gustave Gore, surrounded by his so-called “friends”

In biblical times when an individual mourned, it involved tearing up everyday clothes and putting on coarse sackcloth and ashes. This is what the patriarch Jacob did when told his young son Joseph had been killed. When Job lost his family he sat on a dung pile. Both acts were motivated by humility rather than thoughts of revenge. As fitting as Job’s location might be for some of the memorial scenes yesterday, several of those making the news headlines represented the Empire (it is hard not to think of the United States superpower as anything else but an empire) in what they thought were patriotic “red, white, and blue” cloth, but which even a little child could see were politically naked to the core. The New York Times reports a woman at the 9/11 site holding up a sign that read ““Today is ONLY about my sister and the other innocents killed nine years ago.” Would that were true.

The loss of life nine years ago in a terrorist act deserves reflection for many reasons. For those of us who live in the New York area, there but for the grace of timing go we. Those who died had pulled no triggers, pushed no buttons to drop bombs, made no political decisions to invade another country, burned no Qur’ans. They died because politically motivated extremists so hated the policies of the United States in the Middle East that they were willing to commit an atrocious suicidal act to make a symbolic statement. It did not matter that among those killed were Americans who strongly disagreed with America’s foreign policy or were in fact Muslims. Such is the ethical nothingness that hate sets as a trap, no matter which God is being called upon to condone an evil act. (more…)

[Note: The following is a lengthy review of a recent book on the Muslim philosopher al-Kindi from the website Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. Check out the website for accessible and useful reviews of recent books on philosophy.].

Peter Adamson

Peter Adamson, Al-Kindī, Oxford University Press, 2007, 272pp., $40.00 (pbk), ISBN 9780195181432.

Reviewed by Daniel Davies, Clare Hall, Cambridge for Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews,May, 2009

Al-Kindī is widely known as the first of the Islamic philosophers. In ninth century Baghdad he gathered around himself a circle that was highly active in translating the Greek sciences into Arabic. As well as being the first of the Arab philosophers Al-Kindī is now the first of the Arab philosophers to be included in the Great Medieval Thinkers series. Al-Kindī was expert in a vast array of scientific disciplines and in this book Peter Adamson concentrates on the philosophical topics on which Al-Kindī wrote, as is appropriate for the series: metaphysics; ethics; psychology; medicine; cosmology. One of the many virtues of the book is that it focuses on elucidating the philosophical arguments themselves, in a way that is both sympathetic and critical, rather than only seeking their provenance or tracing their after-effects. Certainly, al-Kindī has long been recognised as a creative and voluminous writer, though, until now, the extent and nature of his originality had yet to be mapped. Adamson shows that al-Kindī deserves a place amongst the great philosophers in his own right and not only because of the pervading presence of his work in later Islamic and Arabic thought. (more…)

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