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Islam, Knowledge and Innovation


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During the last decade, debates on the role of religion in the public space, migration, social cohesion and other issues have revealed increasing social tensions and polarisation in public opinion. Misperceptions and misinformation often dominate public dialogue about relations between Muslims and others. Although they don’t speak with the loudest voice, academics, scholars and thought leaders have a key role to play in helping to rebalance these debates by providing fact-based opinion and informed arguments. In the ‘Building a Shared Future’ series, these opinion leaders offer insights into the issues facing Muslims through American and European communities today.

Despite the pioneering breakthroughs of Muslim and Arab scholars in maths, culture, the arts, humanities and science, the history of ‘Western’ achievements is often written with hardly any reference to the influence of other societies. This volume explores a selection of them.

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Islam, Knowledge and Innovation

  1. 1. Building aSharedFuture:Islam, Knowledgeand InnovationA joint publication of the British Council’s Our SharedFuture project and the Centre of Islamic Studiesat the University of Cambridge a
  2. 2. This work is licensed under a Creative CommonsAttribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0Unported License.ISBN: 978-0-9563743-7-0A joint publication of the British Council’s OurShared Future project and the Centre of IslamicStudies at the University of CambridgeOur Shared FutureBritish Councilwww.oursharedfuture.orgPrince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic StudiesUniversity of Cambridge publication was supported in part by theCarnegie Corporation of New York.The essays in this collection reflect the personalviews of the participants. The British Council,the Carnegie Corporation, and the University ofCambridge bear no responsibility for the contentof the essays or the views expressed by theirauthors.© Photo by Mat Wright
  3. 3. About the PublishersThese books were produced in conjunction with a conference titled‘Acknowledging a Shared Past to Build a Shared Future: Rethinking Muslim/non-Muslim Relations’, convened at the University of Cambridge in March2012 by the following partners:British CouncilThe British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educationalopportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunitiesfor the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between themworldwide. We work in over 100 countries in the arts, education, society andEnglish. The Our Shared Future project, based in the US, aims to improve thepublic conversation about Muslims and intercultural relations in the US andEurope. Our Shared Future is supported in large part by a grant from theCarnegie Corporation of New York.The related Our Shared Europe project, a partner in convening theconference held in Cambridge, creates opportunities to discuss and shareperspectives on diversity, migration, community cohesion, inter-cultural andinter-faith dialogue in contemporary | | www.oursharedeurope.orgHRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies, University ofCambridgeThe Centre of Islamic Studies is at the forefront of research and publicengagement on the role of Islam in wider society. Working with partnersacross the University of Cambridge and beyond, from academic institutes tocivil society organisations and the government, the Centre has developed areputation for enriching public debate and knowledge through high-profileand innovative research projects about Islam in the UK, Europe and
  4. 4. Table of ContentsIntroduction 1Executive Summary 2Islam, knowledge and innovation: Some basic definitionsby Hugh Goddard 4The Western Spring by Martin Rose 6Islamic discourses in cyberspace: Lessons from the Arab Springby Sahar Khamis, PhD 8Innovation for integration by Shahed Amanullah 10Reflections on Islamic renewal by Dr Mohamed Chtatou 12Re-evaluating the role of Islamic civilisation in Europe and theMiddle East by Dr Josef Meri 15What the East taught the West by Professor Carole Hillenbrand 17Between Europe and the Islamic World: Science as an interculturalbridge to prosperity by George Saliba 19Tolerance is not a value by Hussein Fancy 21From misperception to a new, ‘more important’ reality by Elma Dizdar 23Enriching teacher education with the content of Muslim culturesby Jenny Berglund, PhD 25Islam, historiography and the ‘great books’ courses by Nabil Matar 27Overcoming hegemonic histories to build shared futureby Dr Fatima Zohras 29Endnotes 32 i
  5. 5. It’s time to fill thegap between academicexpertise and publicknowledge of Muslimsand Islam. ii
  6. 6. IntroductionDuring the last decade, debates on the role of religion in the public space, migration, social cohesion andother issues have revealed increasing social tensions and polarisation in public opinion. Misperceptionsand misinformation often dominate public dialogue about relations between Muslims and others. Althoughthey don’t speak with the loudest voice, academics, scholars and thought leaders have a key role to playin helping to rebalance these debates by providing fact-based opinion and informed arguments.In March 2012, the Our Shared Future and Our Shared Europe programmes in the British Council and thePrince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies (CIS) at the University of Cambridge invited seventyscholars, civil society leaders, journalists and other influencers to the University’s Møller Centre for threedays of discussion, training and collaboration in a conference titled ‘Acknowledging a Shared Past to Builda Shared Future: Rethinking Muslim/non-Muslim Relations’.One of the key objectives of this conference was to help fill the gap between academic expertiseand public knowledge of cross-cultural relations involving Muslims. Participants broke into discussiongroups around five themes to pinpoint new, more inclusive narratives to reshape the conversation aboutintercultural relations. They explored areas of research and partnerships among institutions in the US,Europe, the Middle East and North Africa that can help shed light on deep connections between Muslimand non-Muslim societies in the fields of culture, the arts, humanities and science. Rounding out thesediscussions, participants had the opportunity to work with media professionals to develop effectivemessaging and gain practical skills to improve their engagement with online, print and broadcast media.The essays that follow reflect the ideas that participants arrived at the conference with as well as theconversations that ensued throughout its three days. We have produced four books covering each ofthe themes undertaken at Cambridge: The Power of Words and Images; Islam, Knowledge and Innovation;Citizenship and Identity and Religion, Politics and the Public Sphere.While those who came together in Cambridge strive to take forward the ideas and opportunities that arosefrom the conference, we invite our readers to take up new calls to action and engage in dialogue informedby the arguments set forth in the following pages. We owe deep gratitude to our partners in organisingthe conference: the Carnegie Corporation of New York; the Association of Muslim Social Scientists; theWoolf Institute and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary Worldat the University of Edinburgh.To access the companion books in this series and explore further resources on improving the publicconversation about civilisation, identity and religion, please visit — Dr Emmanuel Kattan, Project and Partnerships Manager, Our Shared Future, British Council — Prof Yasir Suleiman, Founding Director, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies, University of CambridgeJune 2012 1
  7. 7. Executive SummaryThroughout the fields of maths, culture, the arts, humanities and science, the contributions of Muslimsocieties and scholars are vast. As Professor Carole Hillenbrand notes in her essay, ‘What the East taughtthe West’, ‘In mathematics, words like algebra and logarithm…and our system of numbers, down to theconcept of zero itself, [are] inherited from the Arabs.’ Despite the pioneering breakthroughs of Muslimand Arab scholars in these fields, the history of ‘Western’ achievements is often written with hardly anyreference to the influence of other societies.The working group focusing on Islam, knowledge and innovation discussed these incomplete views ofhistory whilst attempting to answer how such reductionist misconceptions could be addressed. Althoughthe topic of the conversation progressed to many other areas, the working group addressed fourquestions. • What are some innovative ways of improving public knowledge of Muslim/non-Muslim interactions, exchanges and cross-influence in the fields of science, the arts, and humanities, historically and in the present time? • How can a deeper knowledge of the common historical roots shared by Muslim, Christian and Jewish cultures lead to a better understanding of the rich and complex identities that make up European and American societies today? • How can academic knowledge of shared histories and common cultural roots permeate our understanding of the world today and influence current debates in relevant ways?Discussion at the conference centered upon an intriguing question: ‘What would be most likely to interesta 10- to 12-year-old boy or girl, in whom we wished to encourage an interest in a broader approachto history?’ The panel identified some subjects that could highlight the intercultural dialogue thatbenefited ‘Western’ progress. Such ideas included, but were not limited to, travellers, alphabets, food andarchitecture. Activities promoting these subjects could lead to intriguing new educational opportunities foryouth in many parts of the world.Many of the participants’ papers that follow focus on how best to counteract the misinformation oftenpropagated about Islam. Professor Elma Dizdar presses us to ‘enable the public to form their perceptionsof other cultures, nations and religions based on their own experience rather than on information…[from]voices that do not necessarily reflect understanding.’ Shahed Amanullah focuses on roles that innovationcan play in cultural integration. He advocates three tactics to promote such integration: public serviceamong Muslim communities, exploring the religious diversity of Muslims, cultivating Muslim voices onissues of common concern. In another paper, Martin Rose links the events of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’to what he calls ‘The Western Spring’: ‘Tahrir Square created an idiom with a very clear message: Youngpeople have lost patience with their elders and with the politics of the older generation.’ According toRose, it is this that the young people of Zuccotti Park, St Paul’s, Tahrir and the Pearl Roundabout wereorganising to oppose.In direct response to many ‘Western’ history books, Dr Josef Meri calls for a re-evaluation of the roleof Islamic civilisation in Europe: ‘A greater public awareness of the contribution of Islamic civilisationto understanding Muslim-Jewish-Christian relations in Europe…is now more urgent than ever.’ CaroleHillenbrand investigates two related aspects in her paper: ‘the extent of the Muslim contribution to globalcivilixation, particularly Western culture; and how the details and implications of that contribution can 2
  8. 8. be brought to wider attention in the West.’ George Saliba delves into the history of Islam in science andmathematics, offering insight into how it promoted intercultural dialogue and prosperity.This summary, of course, only touches on a select few of the essays submitted by our participants.Throughout the collection you will note an urgent need to amend the lack of notoriety given to Muslimprogress – especially how it relates to ‘Western’ progress. However, you will also note that our participantshave well-researched and specific suggestions of how to overcome this. There is a real chance to reframethis discussion and the following papers offer some fascinating possibilities of how we can do so. — Paul Newall, Project Assistant, Our Shared Future, British Council 3
  9. 9. Islam, knowledge andinnovation: Some basicdefinitionsBy Hugh Goddard‘Knowledge’ and ‘innovation’ are two words particular theory holds water. Thus, the theorythat are used often in the context of issues that the surface of the earth consists of a seriesconnected with Islam, but there is not always of tectonic plates that move is now generallycomplete agreement as to their meaning. accepted among geologists, although it was onlyRegarding knowledge, firstly, there is the often- proposed around fifty years ago.quoted Hadith (saying) of Muhammad thatMuslims should seek knowledge, even in China. This is the way in which ‘knowledge’ is generallyThe authenticity of the latter part of the saying, used with reference to material things,the reference to China, is disputed, but there is particularly in physics. Is there, however, ahardly any dispute about the former, the value of different kind of knowledge, relating to differentknowledge. areas of life, metaphysics? Is there a different kind of spiritual knowledge, as well as and alongside material knowledge? This is the Religion is sometimes argument of, among others, Seyyed Hossein highly distrustful of Nasr, in his Knowledge and the Sacred, his innovation. Gifford Lectures delivered at the University of Edinburgh in 1980 and 1981, and published by Edinburgh University Press in 1981. HisThe Arabic word ‘ilm, however, now bears two suggestion essentially is that there is a ‘sacred’meanings. On the one hand, it can be translated science, relating to eternity and the cosmos,into English as ‘knowledge’, and on the other alongside what risks becoming ‘scientism’, anhand, it can be rendered as ‘science’. If it is being understanding of science that rules out anyused in the latter sense, it can have a plural, wider, more transcendent, understanding of the‘ulum, ‘sciences’, but, as in English, this does word.not work if the word is being used in the senseof ‘knowledge’. You cannot have ‘knowledges’, Innovation, secondly, is then also a word that isin other words, but you can have ‘sciences’, in used in very different ways in different contexts.English as in Arabic. Common Arabic usage thus The Arabic word usually used as its equivalent,speaks of ‘ilm al-ijtima‘a, sociology, ‘ilm al-hayat, bid‘a, is also difficult to translate because of itsbiology, ‘ilm al-kalam, theology, ‘ulum al-din, the different connotations. Scientific innovation issciences of religion and so on. thus almost universally understood to be good, with the highest institution of government inIn a western context, ‘knowledge’ is now the United Kingdom, the Cabinet, includingcommonly used to refer to things that are within its membership a Minister for Business,empirically verifiable, according to the Innovation and Skills (whose responsibilitiesprinciples of ‘the scientific method’. This is the include universities as part of his brief). Similarly,dominant approach adopted in the sciences in a different context, KAUST, the King Abdullahso that in chemistry, geology etc., evidence is University of Science and Technology, justcollected, theories are worked out and these outside Jedda, has an ‘Innovation Center’, aare then tested, often at considerable cost, Technology Transfer and Innovation Center, anduntil a consensus is reached as to whether any 4
  10. 10. in general terms advertises itself in the following sciences, including the theory of tectonic plates,terms on its website: ‘With its pioneering spirit the geology section of the museum usingand mission of innovation (my emphasis), KAUST exactly the same title as is used in Edinburgh,attracts faculty, staff, and students who are the ‘Dynamic Earth’, but there is completethemselves pioneers’. avoidance of discussion of the latest thinking in the ‘life sciences’ (i.e. Biology etc.) because of itsReligion, by contrast, is sometimes highly association with what is commonly understooddistrustful of innovation. Bernard Lewis, many to be either ‘unlawful’ or ‘offensive’ innovation;years ago in an article on the significance of namely, the idea of evolution, which is seen as anheresy in Islam, drew attention to another Hadith unacceptable alternative to the idea of humanity(saying) of Muhammad that every novelty is an being created by God.innovation and every innovation is an error. Theconverse of bid‘a, on this view, is therefore sunna, One of the consequences of these differentcustom, the following of which is good. Islam understandings of both ‘knowledge’ andmay thus appear to be inherently a conservative, ‘innovation’ is the emergence in many Muslim-rather than an innovative, tradition. majority societies of two quite separate systems of education, one dealing with ‘scientific’Nuh Ha Mim Keller, an American convert to Islam, knowledge—which encourages empiricalhowever, provides a more nuanced and subtle research, the questioning of accepted truthsview in a short pamphlet entitled ‘The concept of and innovation (i.e. is in some sense forward-bid‘a in the Islamic Shari‘a’. The main thesis of the looking)—and the other ‘religious’, whichpamphlet is that the ‘innovation of misguidance’ encourages memorisation and the acceptanceis not the same as innovation per se, and he of inherited tradition and faithfulness to it andsuggests that there are in fact five categories of where innovation is treated with a much greaterinnovation, which he calls the ‘obligatory’ (e.g. measure of suspicion (i.e. is in some senseclassifying hadith using philosophical arguments backward-looking). Fazlur Rahman’s book Islamto refute the ideas of sectarian groups such as and Modernity, first published in 1982, remainsthe Mu ‘tazila and recording the Qur’an), ‘unlawful’ one of the most constructive attempts to address(e.g. non-Islamic taxes or giving positions this issue.of authority to those unqualified to exercisethem), ‘recommended’ (e.g. building hostels and — Hugh Goddard is director of theschools of Islamic law, in-depth studies of Arabic Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islamlinguistics, Sufi recitations or commemorating in the Contemporary World, Universitythe birthday of the prophet Muhammad), of Edinburgh.‘offensive’ (e.g. ornately embellishing mosquesand decorating the Qur’an) and ‘permissible’ (e.g.sifting flour, using spoons or developing moreenjoyable food, drink and housing).This categorisation will sound very familiar toanyone who has any degree of knowledge ofShari‘a (Islamic Law), as these categories of bid‘acorrespond precisely to the five categories ofaction that are used with respect to almost everyaction in the standard textbooks on the subject.The practical consequences of this morenuanced view are also interesting as seen, forexample, in the National Museum in Riyadh,where the exhibits display no unease withshowing the latest discoveries of the ‘hard’ 5
  11. 11. The Western Spring1By Martin RoseThe events of the last year in North Africa hypocrisy and with popular consent. They areand the Middle East have been dramatic and clean (morally if, after weeks in a public square,important and have certainly triggered huge not always literally) and innocently single-minded,changes. Some of these changes will stick; and their politics is about values and cultureothers will not. Not every new government that and change. Certainly, they want the basicemerges from these upheavals will be better necessities of life—decent education, jobs andthan its predecessor, nor every people happier. the wherewithal to marry and raise families. ButWhat’s more, there are some governments that the core demands are for respect—and for hope.are trying conscientiously, and often successfully, Every demonstration and camp around the worldto manage change in less abrupt and less now picks up these features and is a consciousdangerous ways. But beyond all this, what will reiteration of them. It has taken time for coherentwe see when we look back on 2011, as the great demands to emerge from the movements aroundunderlying changes of thought, assumption and the world, but they reflect the same demands:culture that have taken place behind the comings first of all, education, employment, respect andand goings of tin-pot dictators? hope.Consider Tahrir Square. A year ago, very fewpeople in Europe had heard of Midan al-Tahrir, We can look forward to,the busy, jostling, nondescript, honking space in and help to engineer, athe centre of Cairo where all roads cross. Today, future of much greaterthe world has heard a great deal of it, and itsname is heavy with resonances, well on the way cultural equality in theto becoming a cliché. What we are seeing is a post-post-colonial era.sudden discharge of ideas and symbols from theMiddle East to the rest of the world—to Europe If we are looking for the Highest Common Factor,and the USA above all. Tahrir Square has become we don’t have to look very far: The outrage isthe touchstone of protest—the events there in about impotence. In North Africa, this focusedJanuary and February 2011 have become the upon military dictatorships and the hopelessnessepitome of youth-led, idealistic revolution. One of huge numbers of excluded young people. Inestimate is that nine hundred occupations of Europe and elsewhere in ‘the West’, it focusedurban public space have taken place in the West on the consequences of the financial crisis forsince last spring, most visibly perhaps that of young people—unemployment, huge educationPuerta del Sol by Spain’s young indignados, from debts, inability to enter the housing market.May 15 onwards. Some have been huge—Berlin, Young people feel that they are suffering theLisbon, Zagreb, Brussels and others—some consequences of their elders’ sins and thatmuch smaller; some long lasting, some almost the political systems of their own countriesephemeral. There have been Occupy protests in are unresponsive and incapable of deliveringDataran, Bath, Ulaanbaatar, Auckland, Santiago de the radical change that many (and not just theChile—in other words, right across the world. young) see as necessary. In all cases, those appropriating the public spaces of the world’sTahrir Square created an idiom with a very clear cities railed against arbitrary power exercisedmessage: Young people have lost patience with beyond their reach.their elders and with the politics of the oldergeneration. They want a fresh start, without 6
  12. 12. I’d like, though, to argue that there is something instruction, of demonstrating how things are—else in common. It’s something that interests me how they can be—done best. There has been aa good deal, because in a strange and indirect strong sense of cultural hierarchy, which in manyway, the indignados of Puerta del Sol and the quarters still exists. At a meeting recently ofpress managers in Tahrir Square are in the North African arts managers, I heard the messagesame business that I’m in; that’s to say, cultural clearly iterated: Don’t tell us what we want orrelations. This is all about people speaking over what we need. Ask us, and listen to the answer:the heads of governments, directly to people. In We know more than you do about our needs, ourinstitutions like the British Council, we use what continent, our perhaps a simplistic typology of internationalcommunication: Diplomacy is what we call And this, I think, is the nature of the opportunity.communication from government to government, If (as a Moroccan courtier recently said to me)public diplomacy is direct communication by we are witnessing the last act of the post-coloniala government to another people and cultural era, we can look forward to, and help to engineer,relations is direct communication from people to a future of much greater cultural equality in thepeople. post-post-colonial era—what I might call (in view of the terms I described a moment ago) real cultural relations. Actually, I’m not even sure that Silent, retail uploads to the this future needs much engineering; we are living net, or blogs, or twitter- in it. The changes that have swept over the public feeds, are all panicky face of a generation of young Arabs and Amazigh in the last year have also washed their European recognitions of the power and North American contemporaries. of the image that cannot easily be constrained. This is what I want us to hold on to. The strong conviction that we are seeing something new,It’s precisely this last that the young people something that can shift the cultural and ethicalof Zuccotti Park, St Paul’s, Tahrir, the Pearl balance in important ways. An understandingRoundabout and countless other open spaces that contributions to the future of our world don’tin the A-Zs of the world’s cities have been come only from Europe. That there are new andup to. They want to talk across the heads of virile memes on the loose. ‘Ex Africa’, as Pliny putgovernment to people around the world, and it, ‘semper aliquid novi’.thanks to the amazing hand-held communicationtechnology available to them, they can. Placards — Martin Rose is director of the Britishwaved in Tunis are seen in Rio and Sydney Council in Morocco.and Delhi, just as the fuzzy cell-phone film clipof Mohamed Bouazizi setting fire to himselfflashed around the Arab World on Al-Jazeera.It is not that official media are being by-passed(though they are); they are being ignored. Theon-going struggles between governments in theMENA region and uncontrollable image-vectorslike Al-Jazeera, or silent, retail uploads to thenet, or blogs, or twitter-feeds, are all panickyrecognitions of the power of the image thatcannot easily be constrained—and perhapscannot be constrained at all.For much too long, many (but not all) Europeancultural institutions have treated the relationshipbetween Europe and North Africa as one of 7
  13. 13. Islamic discourses incyberspace: Lessons from theArab SpringBy Sahar Khamis, PhDThe sweeping wave of radical political change as a catalyst for change. Through magnifyingthat imposed itself on a number of Arab/Muslim and amplifying the voices of protest in the Arab/countries lately, and which came to be widely Muslim world and enabling the creation ofreferred to as the ‘Arab Spring’ or the ‘Arab effective political and communication networks,awakening’, signifies the prominent role that new the Internet enabled the snowballing of thesemedia, especially the Internet, played, and is still uprisings, both inside and across severalplaying, in triggering these popular uprisings. countries.These uprisings were largely characterised bythe instrumental use of online social media, This new wave of political upheavals compelsespecially Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, by us to consider not just the political struggle, butprotesters to bring about political change and also the communication struggle that erupteddemocratic transformation. These Internet-based between the people and their governments,communication tools acted as effective weapons leading to the creation of heated ‘cyber wars’,for promoting civic engagement through alongside equally heated political wars. In brief, itsupporting the capabilities of the democratic became equally important to analyse how peopleactivists by allowing forums for free speech and engaged in both a political struggle to imposepolitical networking opportunities; providing a their own agendas and ensure the fulfilment ofvirtual space for assembly; and supporting the their demands while at the same time engagingcapability of the protestors to plan, organise and in a communication struggle to ensure thatexecute peaceful protests. Additionally, these their authentic voices were heard and that theirnew media avenues enabled an effective form side of the story was told, thus asserting theirof citizen journalism through providing forums will, exercising their agency and empoweringfor ordinary citizens to document the protests; spread the word about on-going activities; toprovide evidence of governmental brutality; and These newly emerging political andto disseminate their own words and images to communication struggles in the Arab/Muslimeach other and, most importantly, to the outside world equally compel us to consider how Islamicworld through new media. discourses are created, shared, exchanged and modified in the age of cyberspace and how Muslim identities are, in turn, reconstructed and Do these sites play a reshaped by this phenomenon, leading to the divisive or an integrative creation of a ‘virtual umma’ (Islamic community) role, or both, between in the digital age.2 This is especially important, since there are numerous Islamic websites that different Muslim identities? have had a great impact on mainstream Islamic discourses in recent years.The Internet played a number of important rolesduring these uprisings. It provided forums for Some of these new Islamic websites wereself-expression, channels for public mobilisation launched by authoritative religious clericsand avenues for mass organisation and acted as virtual extensions of conventional Islamic 8
  14. 14. institutions, while others are simply attemptsby ordinary individuals, with no formal religiouseducation or training, to create an online publicspace for discourse about Islam. The currenttrends in online Islamic websites pose severalpressing and foundational questions: Whatare the general patterns and trends of thesesites’ discourses? Have these sites weakenedor consolidated the control of the mainstreamIslamic establishment over the production anddistribution of religious information? Can thesesites provide a platform for alternative voices,which can diverge from, or even challenge, thetraditional authority of the ulama (authoritativereligious scholars)? Can they also provide aforum for resistant voices that can challengesources of internal political authority, such asgovernments in the Muslim world, as well asforces of external hegemony and domination?How far do these sites act as a platform for thedisplay of collective identities within the realmof the ‘virtual umma’ (Islamic community) in thedigital age? How far can they also provide aforum for divergent identities to freely expressthemselves? Do these sites play a divisive oran integrative role, or both, between differentMuslim identities, on one hand, and Muslim vs.non-Muslim identities, on the other hand? Whattypes and levels of identity (re)constructionand resistance(s) manifest themselves throughthese sites? How do these sites contribute to thecreation of an Islamic public sphere(s)?3It is mandatory to address these pressingquestions, which deserve further investigation inthe academic literature and deeper explorationin current scholarly initiatives, especially in lightof the recent changes and challenges in manyparts of the Arab/Muslim world. — Sahar Khamis, PhD is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland, College Park. 9
  15. 15. Innovation for integrationBy Shahed AmanullahIn the ten years after the 9/11 attacks, there Muslims in the West has been permanently sethas been an intense discourse surrounding the in a framework of conflict in the wake of 9/11relationship between western countries and their and subsequent similar attacks in the West. WhileMuslim minority populations. Driven first by a well suited for debate about facing an existentialneed to understand the nature of a substantial foe from afar, this framework is useless whengroup of people that until that fateful September considering the goal of integrating Muslimsday existed more or less in the quiet corners peacefully and productively into a greaterof society, the discussion has covered nearly society in which there is a mutual understandingevery aspect of Muslim life in the West—from of rights and responsibilities and a general sensepolitical participation to cultural expressions, that both sides contribute to the security of thefrom questions of loyalty to the State to the finer other.points of Islamic law. It has permeated the frontpages of newspapers on a near-daily basis andhas given rise to a virtual industry of subject Too many people—Muslimsmatter experts on the character and behaviour included—have a narrowof Muslim communities. sense of the diversity andOn the face of it, this discourse is a good history of Islam.thing. For there to be a long-lasting, stable This discourse cannot be reset in a more positiveand mutually beneficial relationship between framework unless the underlying assumptionsdisparate communities living under a common that drive it—that Muslims constitute a permanentpolity, a vigorous and healthy discussion foreign plant within society whose goal is toabout the nature of that relationship can bring undermine it and supplant its values with itsabout an understanding by the majority of the own—are successfully negated. It is not enoughcontributions a minority brings to all as well as an for this to be done at a legal or government level;education of the minority of their responsibilities those that fear Muslims the most must freelyas citizens to society as a whole. come to the conclusion that Muslims have a positive contribution to make to society.Unfortunately, the discourse surrounding Muslimcommunities in the West over the past ten years While there have been many intelligent peoplehas not had this desired effect. Paradoxically, it who understand the need to reach this bar—asappears that the more discourse that occurs, high as it is—and are working hard to resolvethe more polarised society has become. On one this tension, there has been remarkably littleside, fears of Muslim impositions on western legal progress. One primary strategy that has beenand cultural norms have reached a fever pitch. used extensively is based on the hypothesis thatOn the other, Muslim communities are feeling familiarity with one’s Muslim neighbours will helpincreasingly embattled and unsure about their increase understanding. While initial polls oncefuture security and the permanence of their lives reinforced this hypothesis, more recent polling isin the West. showing that personal interaction with a Muslim is no longer pushing back as effectively againstWhy is this happening? Part of the reason is negative feelings about Islam or Muslims.that while the quantity of discourse is high, thequalities of such discourse do not serve the goalof reducing tension. The discussion surrounding 10
  16. 16. It is clear that simplistic PR campaigns, reactive environment for maximum reach.editorials and legal manoeuvres are not enough— • Cultivating Muslim voices on issues ofmore innovative thinking is needed in order to common concern: Far too often, whenpromote integration of Muslim communities in Muslim voices are heard in the media,the West. Here are a few suggestions to help it is in the context of divisive and tensekick-start this effort: discussions about grievances (real or • Promoting public service among Muslim perceived) and issues surrounding political communities: One of the best ways to conflict in foreign countries. However, promote integration is to instil a sense Muslims who live in the West have many of public service among Muslim minority of the same day-to-day concerns of their communities that benefits society as neighbours, but media representations a whole. For the public at large to see don’t show that picture. An initiative that Muslims volunteering to better the helps to train integrated Muslim voices communities in which they live will go a to add to public discussions about issues long way in helping to neutralise hostility of common concern—local politics, as well as making Muslims feel invested the environment and public health, for in the areas in which they live. One of the example—will go a long way in promoting a more effective ways to do this is to create truly integrated community that works for an online clearinghouse of public service the benefit of all. opportunities that Muslims can subscribe to so that resources are put where they are What these projects all have in common is that most needed. An interesting twist on this they are geared towards educating both Muslims initiative would be to have young Muslims and their neighbours about the realities of the sign up to be a part of volunteer ‘flash Muslim experience in the West (as opposed to mobs’—sending groups of people to help rumour and innuendo), facilitating face-to-face out with public service projects with short interaction on issues of common concern, using lead times (for example, clean-up after online environments to maximise participation particularly messy public events). and communication and creating a sense of shared responsibility for community affairs that • Exploring the religious diversity of Muslims: breaks down barriers between peoples. Too many people—Muslims included—have a narrow sense of the diversity and history When members of a society face a common of Islam. Those misguided young people problem together, they are most likely to put who choose extremism as a path are often personal divisions aside and see each other as led to believe that Islam only endorses citizens with a mutual interest. Innovative ideas this one path, and too many opinions are such as the ones above can help bring this vision shaped about Muslim communities based to reality. on this same misconception. The truth is that there is a wide diversity of Islamic — Shahed Amanullah is Senior Advisor for thought reaching back a millennium that Technology at the US Department of has plenty of room for peaceful co- State. existence, nonviolent resolution of conflict, appreciation for diversity and human rights and more. Unfortunately, the proponents of a more politicised version of Islam have had more success propagating their ideas online. Those who value the full spectrum of Islamic thought need to be empowered to communicate this heritage to Muslims and others in clear, engaging and authoritative ways—preferably in an online 11
  17. 17. Reflections on Islamic renewalBy Dr Mohamed ChtatouConsiderable importance is granted by Muslim by inequality in economic developmentscholars to the issues of renewal and ijtihad, between individuals and States. However, amidparticularly the renewal of Islamic intellectual serious globalisation challenges threateningheritage. This renewal is the constructive to undermine the principles of plurality andprocess that continues the action of ancestors sustainable development, each individual andand benefits from the ijtihad of contemporary each community must be able to contribute toscholars in rebuilding cultural identity and the building of the present and the making of theentrenching its principles and lofty references future. For this reason, at the international level,as well as the divine revelation that guides man the action of Islamic peoples ought to be in lineonto the straight path. This revelation is the with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),referential framework and knowledge regulator the New Partnership for Africa’s Developmentin the Islamic civilisation’s view of all concepts (NEPAD) and the principles of the Internationaland matters. It is the factor most likely to Convention on Cultural Diversity. Suchpropel it towards shedding the manifestations international instruments provide a commonof backwardness that emerged during past framework for alleviating world poverty andhistorical phases; spread the culture of ijtihad, reducing disparities with regard to cultural rights,which promotes complementarity and the unity towards achieving sustainable development.that defies conflict; and reposition the IslamicUmma on the scene of cultural action and To ensure a better implementation of thishuman contribution. process, Muslim thinkers will have to accentuate their efforts to ensure access to culture for all,In this age of globalisation where challenges with particular attention paid to special needsare growing in size and number, revitalising groups (children, young people, women, disabledIslamic intellectual heritage, renewing it and people, exiled, refugees, prisoners etc.) whoshedding light on the riches that contributed often are on the sidelines of the cultural the march of human civilisation seem to be In addition, there cannot be any acceptable,of utmost importance if we are to counter the harmonious and equitable sustainablestandardisation and alienation attempts and development unless the cultural dimension iscentralist cultural tendencies that negate the integrated in the process and unless it is takenmultiplicity of historical courses in shaping into consideration in the political, economic andhuman civilisation. Islamic thought needs new social plans and programmes. Therefore, moreblood and a reformist boost to be given by focus should be given to the field of culture sothe Umma’s scholars in a wise approach free that it will be able to attain the place it deservesfrom the logic of exclusive bipolarity, where as a decoder and interpreter of sustainablethe sources of knowledge are integrated. Thus development. Thanks to culture, sustainablecan be edified the civilisation of the Umma development will be perceived as a new societalof the middle way, known in Arabic culture as project and as the engine of a new phase for thewasatiyya, which stands witness to all mankind organisation of human activities.and carries the universal message of Islam. In this regard, previous actions undertaken byInequality in the consumption of cultural products Muslim thinkers underlined the importanceand inequality in creativity are intolerable of including the cultural dimension in everyinjustices. For individuals and companies, sustainable development approach, especiallyexercising cultural rights is often hampered the protection of cultural diversity—which is the 12
  18. 18. equivalent of nature’s biodiversity—as well as the protection of popular arts, traditional know-howreassertion of the value of artistic and cultural and genetic resources confirm the economicpractices and, generally, the intangible heritage and cultural challenges inherent to this issue.that is the basis of indigenous knowledge and With this in mind, emphasis must be laid in thiscultures. This is about addressing the problem sensitisation process on the role of traditionalof sustainable development with its cultural know-how in sustainable development. Indeed,dimension, especially the environment, health it is not enough to guarantee the right ofand genetic resources. By having ‘culture’ and linguistic minorities to cultural expression but‘sustainable development’ articulated around also their right to monitor the exploitation ofa common challenge, thinkers will pursue its their intellectual heritage. Furthermore, andefforts for consolidating the place of culture considering the major role the civil societyin the relations of the human being with his/ plays in this regard as the link between nationalher immediate surroundings. Its action will policies and the strategies of sustainablehighlight the cultural dimension that is necessary development international organisations,to be integrated in the management of the the scope of partnerships with civil societyenvironment and health in order to better organisations and institutions will be broadenedadapt them to the expectations of populations. to achieve the desired objectives.The safeguard of genetic resources, whichare essential elements for the preservation of Today, it is axiomatic that the development ofknowledge and traditional expertise, will undergo education, science, culture and communicationa similar action. hinges on security and peace, within or between countries, both at the regional and internationalTherefore, sustainable development requires a levels. No development will be conceivable underdeep change in our means for understanding a climate filled with ethnic, sectarian and religiousthe world. It cannot be conceived in isolation tensions. The same is true for the lack of justicefrom the relations that exist between Man and and mutual respect, which are key elementsnature. It is inherent to the acceptance of the for creating international relations that couldvalues of cultural diversity, which themselves are promote prosperity and human development.intrinsic in the culture of peace. In fact, accepting Also, it is internationally recognised that thedifferences means that other cultures are seen as alliance of civilisations represents the solea source of enrichment and as a driving force for means that can restore balance to the world anddevelopment. It also means ensuring harmonious establish peace, respect for diversity and therelations between them. Accordingly, thinkers will acknowledgment of the legitimate cultural rightscontinue their action for the dissemination of the and cultural specificities of the different peoplesvalues of cultural diversity within the different and nations.components of the society. The cultural strategy of the Islamic World mustLinking sustainable development to indigenous underline that no one culture can survive on itscultures reflects understanding of the importance own and that cultural diversity and interactionof traditional knowledge and know-how in the between civilisations, cultures and peopleswellbeing of society; of putting a halt to the are realities that cannot be circumvented.increased poverty rates among women; and This approach will contribute to promotingof empowering them economically, socially the level of dialogue, both inside and outsideand culturally. Action ought to be continued the Muslim world, and extending the scope ofto reach the goals laid out in this field on the participation and consultation necessary for itsrole of women in sustainable development. The implementation, as well as combating all forms ofobjective is to overcome the obstacles hindering fanaticism and withdrawn attitudes.women’s development within society by fightingall forms of economic and social discrimination Muslim countries will have to focus theirand highlighting the Islamic perspective on this action on programmes and activities aimed atissue. entrenching the culture of dialogue and the respect of cultural specificities and culturalWith regard to indigenous cultures, delays in diversity in consolidating human rights,the adoption of a universal convention on the understanding and concord between cultures; 13
  19. 19. encouraging governments to ratify and publicise and denigrate its sanctities and make racistthe International Convention on the Protection statements that are punishable by law andand Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural condemned by international conventions. SomeExpressions; disseminating its contents as widely Muslim institutions were the victim of vandalismas possible, especially among young generations and desecration as were some mosques,and civil society organisations; and working graves and cultural centres in the West. Facedtowards ensuring a democratic governance by the escalation of this phenomenon and itsand the respect for cultural rights of ethnic and progression from a state of dormancy to onelinguistic minorities. of active notoriety, it is necessary for Muslim intellectuals to take charge of the mission ofThese actions must also seek to enhance the countering this phenomenon and addressingsense of citizenship and active participation it following a two-tiered and tightly devisedof foreign nationals and immigrants as well as plan. The first part consists of the emergencyeducate them on the values of tolerance and measure of monitoring and compiling whatthe rejection of all forms of discrimination, is written and said about Islam, condemningracism and hatred. Similarly, these actions will it and engaging legal action against it instrive to reactivate the concept of international cooperation and coordination with regionalcultural Takaful in order to firmly establish and international partners. The second part isthe culture of human rights and the rights of presenting the truthful image of Islam on thepeoples; consolidate cultural relations and ruins of the erroneous misconceptions andcultural exchange; and facilitate cultural mobility stereotypes circulating either in the media orand the freedom of movement of people and school curricula, history books or biased literaryideas by encouraging South-South and North- works, which action represents a long-windedSouth programmes for student exchange visits. and strenuous road. One of the major objectivesFurthermore, this approach is aimed at setting that Muslim thinkers must seek to fulfil is toup consultation mechanisms on labour and modify this erroneous image. Their action in thisimmigration to ensure the respect of human regard consists of many joint programmes thatdignity of immigrants and foreign nationals; they must begin to implement with internationaldevising tourism’s development policies within partners to cleanse school curricula fromthe respect of cultural and cultural identities; and these stereotypes and produce an Islamicensuring social harmony and combating poverty, encyclopaedia that will present an alternative andviolence, marginalisation and social vulnerability. full image on the Islamic world and its civilisation, penned by Muslim and fair-minded WesternIn this age of globalisation, information explosion authors. Universities in the Muslim world mustand the multiplicity of audio-visual media and seriously monitor the Islamophobia phenomenonchannels, the issue of image has acquired more and draw up a database on all the manifestationsweight and urgency in view of the impediments of animosity towards Muslims and Islam, thusthat may hinder the flow of information and enabling researchers to study them or engageits communication capacity. This has become legal action against them in addition to helpingeven more relevant following the international countries build up their cultural policies.changes to which Islam and Muslims were party,and in the aftermath, the image of the Islamic — Dr Mohamed Chtatou works for ISESCOcivilisation became the subject of a tremendous in Rabat, Morocco.amount of premeditated and unpremeditateddistortion. There was talk of the phenomenonof Islamophobia that has taken many forms ofwhich the most blatant is the discriminationagainst Muslim immigrants in employment,housing, education and other fields. Somewestern parties went even further and beganto flaunt their hostility towards Islam, desecrate 14
  20. 20. Re-evaluating the role ofIslamic civilisation in Europeand the Middle EastBy Dr Josef (Yousef) MeriA greater public awareness of the contribution a deeper understanding of the context that gaveof Islamic civilisation to understanding Muslim- rise to and led to dissemination of such worksJewish-Christian relations in Europe and in in the Islamic world is called for. Universitiesthe Middle East and North Africa is now more are reluctant to teach controversial works andurgent than ever. Sustained discussion and their contexts due to observed norms withindialogue about the historical legacy of Islamic the learning and religious establishments ascivilisation is virtually absent in the West and well as a lack of expertise to be able to properlythe Islamic world. In the West, the view that the contextualise such works for students andfall of autocratic regimes in the Middle East non-specialists. In teaching and studying suchand North Africa will bring about the imposition works, Muslims have a duty and responsibilityof Shari‘a law upon non-Muslims and result in to disseminate them within a proper contextualthe repression of religious minorities echoes framework in the interests of free enquiry,the uncertain times in which we live. Indeed, it civilisational dialogue and the exchange of ideas.reflects a lack of engagement and understandingon the part of the educated public and decisionmakers about the historical legacy of Islamic Disseminating knowledgecivilisation and the discourse concerning its of Islamic civilisation andcontribution to western civilisation. its contacts with European history and thought is A celebration of all faiths is required. required. In the West, one of the primary reasons for aSimilarly, in the Middle East and North Africa, lack of engagement with Islamic civilisation isa disconnect from the past has resulted in that the Judeo-Christian paradigm continues toa lack of dissemination of knowledge about dominate public discourse in an exclusionaryIslamic civilisation. Some perceive the study fashion. It is employed in its limited sense ofof the intellectual and scientific achievements a shared biblical history. Attempts to promoteof medieval Muslims, Jews and Christians to Jewish-Christian relations within the rubric of thebe dangerous or irrelevant. In spite of this, so-called Judeo-Christian heritage sometimestransmitted knowledge is nonetheless a part of negate the Islamic contribution to the historythe historical record of Islamic civilisation. of Europe. However, the persistence of such a paradigm should not be at the expenseWhat constitutes useful knowledge? Who decides of engaging with the Islamic contribution towhat is taught? There isn’t a single answer, to be western thought and science. Another problemsure. While merely advocating the dissemination is rabid secularism, which inhibits the dialogue ofof Jewish and Christian works that are sometimes civilisations. A celebration of all faiths is required.polemical in nature and so-called heretical works Meaningful acknowledgement of Europe’slike those of Ibn al-Rawandi (b. 815) or Shahab Christian, Jewish and Islamic roots would allowal-Din Al-Suhrawardi (d. 1191) is not the solution, for greater interchange among cultures, religions 15
  21. 21. and civilisations. The same is true of Spain’s as the BBC documentaries ‘An Islamic History ofwell as Bosnia’s Islamic heritage. A more useful Europe’ and ‘Science and Islam’. However, therecounterpoint to ‘Judeo-Christian’ is Richard is an urgent need for making available on a freelyBulliet’s designation of ‘Islamo-Christian’; that accessible website Arabic and Persian worksis, conceiving of Europe and the Middle East as produced by Muslims, Jews and Christians in thepart of an Islamo-Christian civilisation. Historians original languages with levels of annotation forrefer to a Judeo-Islamic heritage in the Middle different audiences and in English translation.East, North Africa and Iberia, a designation that Moreover, relevant scholarly studies would beis liberating. It is liberating in the sense that it made freely accessible to those in the Middleencompasses transformations that have occurred East and third world. Do the relatively fewin the Middle East and Europe in the interaction existing pre-modern Jewish works written inof peoples, languages, cultures and ideas. Arabic, Hebrew or Persian have to be treatedHowever, like all binaries, it compartmentalises apart from works published by Muslim authors?the interactions (in this case, of Muslims and Although such works mainly had a JewishJews). audience, they nevertheless, were produced in an Islamic context. Leading Jewish personalitiesA historian of interfaith and communal relations like Maimonides (d. 1204) were influenced bywould engage with the shared humanity of Arab-Islamic science and thought. Iberian poetsMuslims, Jews and Christians, which in turn like Judah Ha-Levi (d. 1141) wrote in Hebrew onrequires an intimate awareness of the history, secular and religious themes.literature, culture and religions of the Islamicworld and Middle East. History is replete with Disseminating knowledge of Islamic civilisationexamples concerning Muslims, Jews and and its contacts with European history andChristians exchanging, borrowing and adapting thought is required. This requires a long-termideas and learning from each other. The great collective strategy of publishers, scholars anddiscoveries and works of Muslim scientists and media working together to make relevant andthinkers along with those of Jews and Christians accessible knowledge of Islamic civilisation andliving in the ‘abode of Islam’ must be at the to pro-actively promote scholarship that appealsheart of any enterprise that purports to look to non-academic audiences and engage authorsat interfaith relations and the contributions of in public discussions and forums.Islamic civilisation to the West. — Dr Josef (Yousef) Meri, D.Phil. (oxon),How do we counter misperceptions about the F.R.A.S. is academic director at thehistory of Muslim-Jewish-Christian relations in Center for the Study of Muslim-Jewishthe Islamic civilisational context? One way is Relations at the Woolf Institute,through continuing to publish accessible works. Cambridge, and a visiting fellow at theOver the years, relevant publications for non- Centre of Islamic Studies, Cambridgespecialists have appeared, including María Rosa University.Menocal’s Ornament of the World (2003),4 whichlooks at medieval Andalusia based on literarysources, and Medieval Islamic Civilization: AnEncyclopedia.5 More recently, Intertwined Worlds(, an e-platformthat recently published its first virtual issue (April2012), made accessible peer-reviewed articles byleading international scholars on various aspectsof Muslim-Jewish and Muslim-Jewish-Christianrelations as well as a blog, book reviews andinterfaith resources. Another excellent exampleis the production of documentaries concerningvarious aspects of Islamic civilisation such as 16
  22. 22. What the East taught the WestBy Professor Carole HillenbrandThis paper will investigate two aspects of a windows. The aridity of much of the Islamic worldvast subject: first, the extent of the Muslim triggered all manner of irrigation devices, fromcontribution to global civilisation, particularly underground canals to dams, mills, waterwheelswestern culture; and second, how the details and and other forms of turning rotary into linearimplications of that contribution can be brought motion and thus ensuring the flow of water. Into wider attention in the West. In short, it will deal mathematics, words like algebra and logarithmfirst with ‘what?’ and second with ‘how?’ proclaim the origins of these concepts in the Muslim east, and our system of numbers, downParadoxically enough, the Muslim cultural to the concept of zero itself, is inherited from theachievement was in many respects better known Arabs.and better appreciated in the pre-modernWest than it is today. The reasons are not far toseek: Islamic discoveries and innovations were Imitation is the sincerestahead of those in the West in that period of a form of flattery, and themillennium and more. It was above all Muslims West gratefully plagiarisedwho brought light to the Dark Ages, and it is ahistory of western ignorance and hostility that the knowledge steadilyhas obliterated that achievement. Imitation is the built up in the ‘exotic’ east.sincerest form of flattery, and the West gratefullyplagiarised the knowledge steadily built up in Similarly, textiles of all kinds betray in their verythe ‘exotic’ east. This can be demonstrated in names—atlas, satin, organdie, damask, muslin—any number of fields. ‘World histories’ written in the dependence of western society on Islamicthe medieval West scarcely ventured beyond fabrics. The lore of the stars was far furtherthe confines of the Bible and Europe. But their developed in the Orient than in the Occident,equivalents in the Islamic world covered the as the Arabic names of over a hundred starsknown globe from Ireland to China. Did not reveal, not to mention devices like the astrolabe,the Prophet Muhammad himself say, ‘Seek ye the celestial globe and the compass. Theknowledge, even unto China’? astronomical tables of Sultan Ulugh Beg, drawn up in Samarqand in the mid-fifteenth century,No European traveller of medieval times can were still being used at Oxford University overcompare with the Moroccan Ibn Battuta, who in two centuries later. The Egyptian physician Ibnthe fourteenth century crisscrossed continents, Nafis discovered the circulation of the blood intravelling some seventy-five thousand miles over the later thirteenth century, almost four hundredsome three decades and writing a gazetteer that years before Harvey, while in the tenth century,is a mine of information to this day for historians, the Spaniard Ibn Zahrawi was perfecting surgicalgeographers and sociologists. Islamic architects devices like scrapers, cauterisers and forceps;experimented with pointed and horseshoe his book lists some two hundred separatearches, rib vaults and elaborate systems of instruments, many of them virtually identical todome support long before their counterparts those used today in modern hospitals. And thein Western Europe stumbled onto these regime in Islamic hospitals in terms of cleanliness,forms. It was in the Middle East that the most environment and patient care (for example, thetechnically innovative ideas in castle building holistic medicine championed by Ibn Sina) waswere developed, from parapets to machicolation, far more advanced than it was in Europe at thepolygonal towers to barbicans and splayed or slit time. 17
  23. 23. Nor did medieval Europe produce a thinker in necessarily involve on-going provision forthe field of sociology and economics to match teachers’ workshops and seminars.the great North African polymath Ibn Khaldun.The foundations of modern chemistry, with For the general public, targeted exhibitions (notinstruments like the crucible and the still, were just one-off events but also touring shows) andlaid in medieval Baghdad—and to underrate television series would complement popularBaghdad is to underrate Rome. For here was books as well as articles written for newspapersthe celebrated House of Wisdom, where in the and magazines. At both school and adult levels,ninth century, government-funded scholars the potential of Islamic art as a source ofengaged in vastly ambitious translation projects information and inspiration, to excite wonder andthat brought the wisdom of Greece and Rome, curiosity, would be exploited. The great buildingsof Persia and India, to an Arab audience—and of Islamic architecture—the Dome of the Rock,from those Arabic versions of ancient texts, the Alhambra, the Taj Mahal—would play theirLatin translations were made in Spain in the part in such programmes. Summer schoolscenturies to come, thus saving the precious at universities open to the general public butheritage of antiquity for our own times. Paper aimed particularly at sixth-formers and would-bemade by Muslims was crucial to all this and to university students would be a useful medium forthe massive medieval Islamic libraries; the Arabs this kind of education, which could also highlighteven invented the fountain pen. Islamic cities had the careers of the great Muslim pioneers instreet lighting, public bathhouses and sewage many a science. Harnessing the potential ofdisposal a thousand years ago. From shampoo to the Internet would be an integral part of thedeodorants, from the lute to the flamenco, from vision, with dedicated websites for the variouscoffee to chess, from cryptology to the camera categories of Muslim heritage studies.obscura, Europe’s debt to the Islamic world isbeyond computation. — Professor Carole Hillenbrand is Professor Emerita of Islamic History, University of Edinburgh. The achievements of the past could serve as a bridge to learning about the subject in contemporary guise.How best can the riches of this heritage bepresented to a modern audience? The keyis surely to mount a campaign on multiplefronts. To reach schoolchildren, new curriculahave to be devised, preferably in the form ofmodules that can be inserted into a variety ofsubjects—mathematics, geography, history,religion, science. In each of these subjects,the achievements of the past could serveas a bridge to learning about the subject incontemporary guise. Teaching aids and materialsto be used in this process would include DVDs,films, posters, teachers’ packs, workbooks andproject outlines that each student could shapeto his or her individual interests and capacities.School discussions and debates could take thesubject further. This school programme would 18
  24. 24. Between Europe and theIslamic World: Science asan intercultural bridge toprosperityBy George SalibaIn the context of the interaction between Europe All that was accomplished when there wasand the world of Islam, history offers us several a willingness on the northern shores of thelessons that continue to be useful for our own Mediterranean to take wholeheartedly the newday. In its past, and when it was searching for ideas their southern neighbours had produced.its own identity, Europe did not hesitate to turn We now romanticise that age of convivenciato new scientific ideas that were then found in first in the Iberian Peninsula and then in Normanthe world of Islam. I use that episode in order to Sicily and along the southern shores of France.illustrate how scientific ideas could constitute an Unhampered by political, economic or culturalintercultural bridge. considerations, and despite the Crusades, the march of science to Europe then seemed unstoppable. The proof of its durability is evident Renaissance scientists may in our abandoning of the old Roman numerals have not been aware that in favour of the Arabic/Indian ones in all our they were using ideas from scientific research, banking and day-to-day transactions. We all acknowledge this legacy, with the Islamic world, and they great joy, and use it as a win-win situation for all did not seem to care about concerned. the sources of those ideas, and that is how science can The other occasion was during the Renaissance when Arabic/Islamic sources were deeply stealthily trespass cultural embedded in the scientific writings of the boundaries. Renaissance scientists like Copernicus and Galileo. This latter transfer touched on the veryThe occasion when science played a celebratory foundations of modern science. People likerole by fostering social and political harmony Copernicus did not shy away from borrowingwas when scientific ideas crossed freely, directly the lunar model of the Damascenefrom the southern and eastern shores of the astronomer Ibn al-Shatir. He also did not hesitateMediterranean to the shores of the Latin West, to borrow the model of the motion of the planetproducing what was once called the twelfth- Mercury, even when he did not understand itcentury ‘Renaissance’. That transfer of ideas fully. As if that was not enough, we now know thatbrought with it the building blocks of what we he also borrowed from the works of Nasir al-Dinnow enjoy as universal science. The so-called al-Tusi who lived some three hundred yearsArabic/Indian numerals, the very conception before Copernicus. All this transmission of highlyof algebra, and with it the term ‘algorithm’—an technical theoretical mathematics, mistakes andaccidental corruption of the name of the father all, was not a coincidence.of algebra, Al-Khwarizmi—are now part of ourdaily life. Spherical trigonometry, medicine and Almost half a century later, the father of Modernastronomy soon followed. Science, Galileo (1560–1642) himself, also used 19
  25. 25. from the works of Copernicus the very same can? And if monopoly governs most of moderntheorem that the latter had borrowed from Tusi. scientific behaviour, could it then be shared with others without losing its very advantage ofThose Renaissance scientists may have not been incentives and the like?aware that they were using ideas from the Islamicworld, and they did not seem to care about the To my mind, these are the real questions thatsources of those ideas, and that is how science should be addressed both in the industrial world,can stealthily trespass cultural boundaries. which uses science for making capital, and in the rest of the world in order to find an equitableBut something else happened in Europe at that adjustable system that will allow the existence oftime. Someone in Europe got the brilliant idea incentives for new production and at the sameof transforming all that search for knowledge time create a legal system that allows everyoneinto a profitable commercial activity, thereby to share in the benefits.transforming science from a research project intoa capital-making enterprise. The very invention There is no doubt that the wealth that hadof the concept of patent for new scientific and accrued in the industrialised world, mostly astechnological ideas was born in Europe and was a result of the capital-driven production ofan idea totally alien to non-European cultures. science, has, through the monopolistic patentWhile ancient Greeks, and the Islamic scientists system it created, also created tremendousafter them, sought science to understand natural gaps between the rich and the poor nations allphenomena, the European Renaissance scientists around the globe. In my estimate, this gap cannotsought science in order to enrich themselves be overcome with the existing monopolisticand produce further capital. Neither the Greeks system in place, and as such, these inequitablenor the Islamic scientists would have shunned a discrepancies are bound to produce politicalreward, but none of them ever dreamt of taking and economic upheavals no matter how mucha patent specifically to prevent others from using we try to patch them by diplomatic talk. Wean idea without paying them royalties. are only witnessing the beginnings of those upheavals, and they do take different twistsNon-European cultures seem to have intuitively and turns, but in the end, they will all seek toconcluded that patenting an idea was tantamount create more equitable lives for millions, if notto creating a form of monopoly. And monopoly billions, of people doomed to poverty. How canby itself was abhorrent. Benign as it was in its the industrialised world that owns the capital,beginning, and ferocious as it has become in and the science that is now defined as theour modern days, monopolistic tendencies still means to produce further capital, participate incharacterise the modern science we inherited the reduction of the inequity that has becomefrom Renaissance Europe. The incentives of this obvious for all to see?system certainly gave Europe the edge that allother cultures now find themselves obliged to — George Saliba is Professor of Arabicemulate. and Islamic Science at Columbia University in New York.My concluding question is the following: If therest of the world is to benefit from the scientificadvances that were made in Europe since thetime of the Renaissance, then should that worldfollow the same system of monopoly as it seemsto be trying to do with slow relative success?Alternatively, should the southern and easternshores of the Mediterranean, and behind themthe rest of the world cultures, take back thedebt owed to them by the modern Europeans?Or should they opt for a different system if they 20
  26. 26. Tolerance is not a valueBy Hussein FancyAt the heart of the contemporary notion of demands. It’s not difficult to detect the hostiletolerance lie deeply rooted ideas about religion attitude among these scholars, who saw religionthat obscure more than they reveal about both as a prison, a sign of intellectual or civilisationalthe past and the present, a fact that should immaturity. And thus, it’s also not surprising thatgive scholars and political advocates pause. contemporary scholarship has tried to moveNevertheless, the very same rich and complex away from these attitudes. Now, we attempt tohistory of interaction between Muslim, Jews understand religion as one aspect of culture.and Christians that underpins these claims of We attempt to understand religious men andtolerance also holds the promise of troubling its women from within their beliefs, emphasisingunspoken assumptions, allowing us not only to the manner in which they exercise free will andrethink the history of religion but also to redirect choice within the broader ideas that frame theircontemporary discussions about the values that lives, the manner in which they can both resistshould ground our shared religious and political and shape their beliefs to achieve their ownfutures. ends. To put this contrast most bluntly, if, for an earlier generation, religion posed an obstacle toPerhaps, it bears examining one relatively free and rational behaviour, then, for the currentuncontroversial but also relatively unknown generation, it poses no real obstacle to freedomexample. Over the course of the twelfth to and thus toleration at all.fourteenth centuries, in the heart of the periodof the Crusades, thousands of Christian and Although sympathetic with the aim and intentMuslim soldiers crisscrossed the Mediterranean of the latter approach, I would argue that bothto serve in armies of the other faith. In a period views share an inner solidarity: They share thepunctuated by expulsion, persecution and forced same idea of religion. Simply put, to say onconversion—a period easily dismissed as one the one hand that religion impedes tolerancelong night for religious toleration—these soldiers is no different than to say that individuals orseem to run against the current. One sees them communities act tolerantly when they setin battles across the Mediterranean: Christian religious beliefs aside and pursue their own,soldiers defended the city of Tunis against rational ends. If these positions differ about theFrench Crusaders in 1270, and Muslim soldiers importance of religion in determining choice,fought along Templar knights—the soldiers that they agree that religious belief is essentiallyepitomised the Crusades—in armies of the Crown incompatible with the modern ideals of freedomof Aragon. And perhaps even more strikingly, one and tolerance, a line of argument, it’s worthfinds them in royal courts, where North African, adding, that has appealed to both religiousSicilian, Iberian and French kings used them as fundamentalists and their secular critics.their personal protectors. The problem, I would argue, is less the qualityWhat does one make of all this dizzying and of historical research than the degree to whichvertiginous interaction? For a generation of the ideals of freedom and tolerance havenineteenth-century historians, committed distorted the lessons we take from history. Itto the ideals of the Enlightenment and the bears remembering that tolerance—at least, astransformative potential of history, such a positive ideal—was not a value spoken of ininteraction demonstrated that tolerance was the Middle Ages but rather an idea first rooted ingrounded in man’s ability to act rationally and Reformation attitudes toward heretical, Christianfreely, to ignore the constraints of religious minorities. Liberal tolerance, as paradigmatically 21
  27. 27. expressed in John Locke’s ‘Letter Concerning The implications of this material on ourToleration’(1689), emerged as a pragmatic understanding of medieval religion aresolution to religious violence, which is to say profound, but more generally and for imaginingthat it was not an unquestioned good but rather the future, histories such as these caution us‘tolerance’ in the strictest sense of the word, against drawing easy conclusions about thethe willingness of a majority to put up with meaning or significance of past interaction.(but not admit as equals) vexing minorities. Thus, they also provide us an opportunity toReligion, Locke argued, should have no bearing unsettle contemporary debates that wittinglyon political, social and economic life. Religion or unwittingly stand upon the horizon of liberalshould be a matter of private belief, nothing tolerance and redirect those debates to moremore. Tolerance, in other words, emerged both enduring values such as justice and a means of defining what religion shouldbe—a matter of conscience—and as a means of — Hussein Fancy, University of Michiganestablishing political hegemony—of Protestantsover Catholics. This historical legacy aloneshould give scholars and political advocatespause before advancing it as a moral value. Histories such as these caution us against drawing easy conclusions about the meaning or significance of past interaction.To return to our historical example, themovement of Christian and Muslim soldiersacross the Mediterranean, for example, highlightsthe surprising degree to which peacefulinteraction reflected and reinforced religiousboundaries. As hundreds of unexamined charters,contracts and letters in Arabic, Latin andRomance demonstrate, these troops were oftentraded for one another, moving like strokes of anengine. And within these agreements, both rulersand soldiers sought and agreed to fascinatingrules and limits. Soldiers wore distinguishingreligious and political markers, such as crossesand flags. They were allowed to practice theirfaiths and prevented from conversion. And moststrikingly, limits were placed on their violence:Christians could only fight Muslims, and Muslims,Christians. In this way, far from representinga break from the abstract logic of religiousviolence—crusade and jihad—these exchangesrepresented a surprising reconfiguration andconfirmation of that logic. Christian and Muslimkings, to put it simply, traded crusade for jihad. 22
  28. 28. From misperception to a new,‘more important’ realityBy Elma DizdarIn the crowded, bustling world of today, culture of the target language, intermediariesperceptions tend to become ‘the more important bringing cultures into relation. Thus, by shiftingreality’, countries and nations are marketed the focus of foreign language teaching fromas brands, while stereotypes and clichés, the mere developing of language proficiencywhether positive or negative, true or untrue, of learners to developing competence thatfundamentally affect people’s behaviour towards would enable them to interpret and bring intoother peoples.6 Living in this world, we should relation different cultural systems and manageseek for ways to enable the public to form dysfunctions and resistances of interculturaltheir perceptions of other cultures, nations communication, it actually might be possible toand religions based on their own experience facilitate a better interaction and communicationrather than on information and, quite often, between cultures and begin to redefine some ofmisinformation they receive from individuals the deeply rooted misperceptions.and voices that do not necessarily reflectunderstanding of the Other and Different, or awish thereof. We should seek for ways to enable the public toSociolinguistics and neuro-linguistic form their perceptions ofprogramming propose the concept of mentalmaps as a way whereby we perceive the world, other cultures, nations andas vast and rich as it is. Maps, however, being religions based on theirsimplification by their very nature, both leave own experience.out and give information and inevitably lead tofiltering our perceptions through our beliefs, Successful interaction between cultures does notinterests and preoccupations, thus determining only involve positive attitudes of their memberswhat sort of world we live in.7,8 It is this filtering about each other. Teaching facts is as importanteffect of our mental maps that makes it so as teaching interest in and openness towardsdifficult for people to change their perceptions, other cultures, developing learners’ readinesseven when confronted with evidence to the to relativise and question their own viewpointscontrary. and systems of values, helping them acquire the ability to distance themselves from theThat is why the task of addressing usual simplistic relation to cultural differencesmisperceptions implies more than simply and preparing them to act as intermediariesgiving information. It involves the rewriting between cultures. Moreover, in order to be ableand reshaping of people’s mental maps, of the to act as intermediaries, learners must developway they see the world, themselves and the understanding of how the process of interactionOthers. A possible path to effecting this change works. They must be aware of their position incan be found in innovative foreign language communication as representatives of their ownteaching techniques. Such techniques, aimed culture through which their interlocutors tend toat the strengthening of learners’ sociocultural perceive the culture as a whole as well as of theircompetence, aspire to transform learners into own perception of their interlocutors as members‘intercultural speakers’,9 persons able to embrace of the other community.both specific characteristics of their own and 23