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09/07/07

  14:30:41, by admin   . Categories: politics, religion cosmology, Us and Them, books

Akbar Ahmed's anthropological excursion into Islam

"One of the most famous anthropologists in the world" was he called by Alan MacFarlane. According to the BBC he is "probably the world’s best known scholar on contemporary Islam". Akbar Ahmed's new book Journey Into Islam: The Crisis of Globalisation is out and according to a review in The Blade he has "painted a fascinating picture of contemporary Islamic world":

He is a master of simplification. He can take snarled strands of culture, religion, and traditions and through the reason and logic of an anthropologist, Islamic scholar, and historian, is able to untangle the complex jigsaw puzzle and present it in an easy to comprehend narrative.

But maybe this ability to simplify also represents a weakness as he seems to generalize too much? Ahmed's book was "Book of the week" in The Guardian. Reviewer Edward Mortimer writes:

To a surprising extent he (Akbar) accepts Huntington's premise that Islam and the west are still distinct civilisations. Only once does he abandon this construct and refer to "a world civilisation", in which "people are now too close to and dependent on each other to afford the luxury of ignoring and excluding others". The rest of the time he treats western and Muslim cultures as discrete entities, which need to be brought closer together.

Two weeks ago he said according to The Guardian:

"It's not just 9/11. It started in the 19th century when the first clashes between the west and Islam took place. We're seeing the same patterns being played out today."

The book is based on a "anthropological excursion": Ahmed Akbar and two students visited eight Islamic countries — India, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Qatar, Malaysia, and Indonesia — to talk to a cross section of people about their attitudes towards America, their fears and their concerns according to The Blade:

Most of the people in those countries feel alienated from the West and believe that the war on terrorism is in fact a war against Islam being waged under the rubric of globalization. (...) This fear is partly based on the 500-year colonial era. The colonists ruled Muslim lands with two objectives; to exploit natural resources of the occupied lands and to civilize them by converting them to Christianity. The current push for globalization is, to many, the re-colonization of the Islamic world, albeit with a difference. This time the seeds of exploitation are hidden in the Trojan horse of globalization.

>> review in The Blade

>> review in The Guardian

>> Alan MacFarlane interviews Akbar Ahmed

Akbar has also started to blog (a bit) and has a professional website with links to articles and interviews.

Akbar Ahmed appears regularily in the media, see for example:

West 'must stop looking at Islam through the lens of terror' (The Guardian, 28.6.07)

Akbar Ahmed’s Call for Compassion: How has globalization changed the world in terms of religious tolerance and stereotyping? (The Internationalist, 4.3.07)

Interview with Prof. Akbar Ahmed (ABC News Austraia, 19.9.01)

'It Is Time for Muslims to Reciprocate' (Newsweek, 28.9.06)

Globalist Interview: Akbar Ahmed: Islam Under Siege (The Globalist, 20.6.03)

Conflict with Iraq: Akbar Ahmed (BBC, 2003)

Akbar Ahmed studies differences but seeks unity (Princeton University, 7.11.00)

Articles on Islam by Professor Akbar S. Ahmad (Islam For Today)

SEE ALSO:

New blog: Islam, Muslims, and an Anthropologist

Anthropological perspectives on suicide bombing

Protests against British research council: "Recruits anthropologists for spying on muslims"

Doctoral thesis: Towards a transnational Islam

Muslims in Calcutta: Towards a middle-class & moderation

What does it mean to be Muslim in a secular society? Anthropologist thinks ahead

Islam: Embracing modernity while remaining true to their traditions and core beliefs

Book review: Mahmood Mamdani: "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim"

Islam in Europe: Mainstream society as the provider of conditions

Interview with Arjun Appadurai: "An increasing and irrational fear of the minorities"

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