The theistic meaning of morality

ANGUS RITCHIE

An exciting feature of the Contending Modernities project is the way it links the academic with the deeply practical. In east London, the project has enabled us to develop new resources for Muslim engagement in public life — something I blogged about back in August. And we are currently conducting wider research on the way faiths work together to discern and promote the common good. It is also helping us to look at some apparently very abstract issues — including the relationship between morality and metaphysics — and show their relevance to the debates around faith in public life. Read the full article »

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Beyond the myth of Western-Muslim clash

SUMANTO AL QURTUBY

Since the rise of so-called “Western civilization” and “modernity,” the relationship between “the West” and the “Muslim world” is highly dynamic and unpredictable, marked by a constant ebb and flow. The encounter between the two has been marked by suspicions, tensions, clashes, and violent conflicts, as well as by cooperation and dialogue across these deep plural societies and overlapping cultures. These modernities will continue to be diverse and they will certainly continue to contend with each other. But their ongoing mutual contention and competition will be far less violent and far more fruitful if we can dispense with the destructive essentialisms recently in evidence in both Western and Muslim-majority societies.

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An honest conversation about Benghazi and beyond

TIMOTHY SAMUEL SHAH

“[T]he events of the last two weeks…speak to the need for all of us to honestly address the tensions between the West and the Arab World…” Those words were spoken by President Obama in his speech to the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2012. Indeed, all the events swirling around a crude video insulting the Prophet Muhammad demand an honest conversation about the tensions between the West and the predominantly Muslim cultures of the Arab World — not to mention Muslim cultures beyond the Arab World. A logical forum for such a conversation is Contending Modernities. And the ideal host for such a conversation is Dr. Paola Bernardini, the new Associate Director for Research for Contending Modernities.

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Contending conceptions of democracy

PAOLA BERNARDINI

The recent wave of violent reactions in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to the online video mocking the Prophet Muhammad may be taken as the most recent example of a clash between “contending modernities.” The US-based moviemaker is sometimes taken to represent the values of “Western democracy” and “free speech,” while the protesters in places such as Libya and Pakistan are taken to represent “extremism” and “illiberalism.” Arguably, though, they represent not a clash of “democracy” vs. “extremism” but a clash between rival conceptions of democracy.

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The tyranny of practice

SAM ROCHA

It is characteristic of Western modernity that in discussions of schooling and business and politics there is a common truism: “theory into practice.” At the very least, the underlying assumption of this truism can readily be found there. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in schools of education, teacher education programs, and the institutional teaching and learning efforts of higher education. This saying yields a soft hammer, a gentle reminder that the theory must always be “grounded in practice” in order to be worthwhile — and profitable.

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An interfaith encounter with America (Part 2)

MAHAN MIRZA

In my spiritual quest that led to political Islam, I had one all-important stroke of fortune. Despite my zeal, I did not happen to get recruited by al-Qaeda! Instead, I landed in a group called Tanzeem-e-Islami, a Pakistani-based movement that had a few unique elements going for it, including advocacy of a nonviolent strategy of pursuing justice as well as the “revitalization of faith with an intellectual dimension.” I internalized these elements of Tanzeemi thought by traveling to learn Arabic, remaining true to a strategy of nonviolence, and pursuing the path of higher education.

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A new covenant of virtue

ANGUS RITCHIE

Central to Contending Modernities is the interplay between academic research and resources that can be used at the grassroots. In east London, we are seeing the first fruits of this approach with the publication of “A New Covenant of Virtue.” The booklet contains an essay by British and American writers on the Quranic motivation for Islamic engagement in multi-faith community organising, alongside a series of short case studies by local Muslim leaders on what this work looks like in practice. The booklet was launched last week in east London at a multi-faith “Iftar,” the meal with which Muslims break their Ramadan fast each night.

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Which language, whose vernacular?: Vatican II and liturgical politics in Bangalore (Part 3)

BRANDON VAIDYANATHAN

This post is the third in a three-part series on the sometimes violent liturgical battles that have been waged in the Catholic Church in Bangalore, India, since the reforms of Vatican II. Though the Second Vatican Council began fifty years ago this year, conflicts about the place of Bangalore’s diversity of vernacular languages in the Church’s liturgy remain unresolved to this day. Part 1 recounted the origins of the conflict in the 1960s. Part 2 picked up the story at the beginning of the 1970s. Part 3, the present post, takes the story to the present day, drawing out its ironic implications for Catholic modernity and the Church’s modern “reforms.”

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