Friday, September 8

City Circle: Bringing Salafis, Sufis & Secularists together: Rearticulating Civil Society in Islam Click for more info

Today we were to discuss the concept of Civil Society in Islam. The three panellists each had their own distinct takes; although I think I only really understood one of them.

First up was Professor Iftikhar Malik. For him, the problems surrounding Islamic Civil Society were based on polarisation of extremes. So for example: liberals vs. new capitalists, Sufi vs. Salafi or artists vs. intellectuals and so on. His solution was for all to realise that it was the common humanism that we should all focus on, and success with respect to civil society would then follow.

Next we had Dr Najah Kadhim. He took a more academic approach to the problem, citing scriptural proof (social contracts in the time of The Prophet, and the like) regarding the importance of organised civil society in Islam. His main conclusion was that a successful Islamic Society would be both spiritual and materialistic, with freedom of choice being the central idea. He also gave a more short term solution in that Muslims should empower themselves by participating in civil matters.

Last but most certainly not least, Professor Ziauddin Sardar had his say. His was a more pragmatic angle: our problems were not due to our differences (note that tonight's talk was supposed to be regarding the separate prevailing points of view within the Muslim community) but more due to our collective common failings. The three things these boiled down to were crisis in knowledge (Muslims don't produce any anymore), power (misunderstanding on how to achieve it) and society itself (it's not just a geographical state).

That was mainly it. This week's CC was bit different for me, in that I could only hang around for the main presentation and so I ended up missing the Q&A session afterwards. The panel was still pretty interesting on their own, but they had set the stage for the audience to participate so it was a bit of a shame I have to leave early. I suspect that they continued to explore the above themes in further detail.

As for the talk itself, although interesting I was looking for a more literal discourse on the question the title puts forward; on how the various different mindsets within Islam today contrast and possible solutions to allow them to coexist. With that stuck in my mind I come away slightly disappointed.

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