The S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) conducted a one-day conference on “Islam in the Contemporary World” on 28 April 2016 at the Nanyang Executive Centre, Singapore. The conference, which examined and addressed the current challenges facing Muslim societies worldwide, was the first of its kind to be organised in Singapore.
The future of Islam in the contemporary world, as a creative civilisation that is open and vibrant and that co-exists confidently within the framework of modern and plural polities, rests upon Muslim societies overcoming a myriad of challenges. The conference aimed to contribute to this timely and much-needed task by providing robust academic approaches that examines these challenges through the multi-faceted prisms of theology, politics and society. In undertaking this initiative, RSIS is positioning itself as a centre for a new paradigmatic and academic-oriented approach to the study of Islam in the contemporary world.
Nine distinguished panellists from diverse academic fields that included political science, sociology, philosophy, anthropology and Islamic studies participated in the conference. These leading scholars engaged in an interactive exchange of ideas over three panel discussions that included audience participation.
The first panel looked at the Evolution of Islamic Intellectual Tradition. Dr Ali Ünsal highlighted the necessary criteria for creating a new breed of Islamic intellectuals that would bring about a second wave of Islamic Renaissance; one of which is the willingness to synthesise knowledge from the East and the West, which is an attitude that was held by the Islamic intellectuals of the past. Dr Syed Farid Alatas stressed that the perpetuation of certain myths in Muslim tradition fuelled extremist beliefs and actions, and this would hinder efforts at revivifying Islamic intellectualism. Dr Robert Hefner noted that the interaction between Islamic scholars and the plural societies in which they live in, for example in Indonesia and in the United States, was positively contributing to a nascent renewal in new approaches to Islamic education.
The second panel examined Religion, Politics and Violence in the Muslim World. Dr Olivier Roy noted there was a discernible shift to growing secularisation in all societies that has caused religious communities to feel under siege. This tension could be managed by adopting a new approach to politics in the Muslim world that synthesises Islamic values with democracy. Mr Said Ferjani drew on his experience as a member of a Muslim democratic political party in Tunisia and suggested that the future of Islam would be shaped by the interlinked nature of the political strategies of Islamist parties and politics. Dr Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid underscored that problems emerge when governments engage in reverse takfirism (excommunication of Muslims) in a manner very similar to the extremists and violent groups they are opposed to.
The third panel discussed The Future of Islam in the Modern World. Dr Ebrahim Moosa proposed that one way forward is by using the process of ijtihad (independent reasoning) that is meant to provide an account of the present by accepting the contemporary knowledge of modernity. Dr Osman Bakar argued that the success of Islam in the contemporary world lies in its capacity to broaden commonalities and to reduce the differences between Muslim values and modern ones. Dr Sahar Amer pointed out that progressive Muslims who prioritise social justice in their religious interpretations are already challenging the various exegeses that have been imposed on women and minorities for centuries.
Event Reports / Global / Religion in Contemporary Society
Last updated on 06/09/2018