‘Islam compatible with modernism’ says Emeritus Professor

If modernism meant a framework where existence of religions was accepted, Islam was completely compatible with it, an expert in the field of Islamic studies said on Tuesday. Delivering a lecture on ‘Rethinking Islam within modernity’ at the University of Madras, Bruce Lawrence, Emeritus Professor of Islamic Studies at the Duke University, said it was essential that a differentiation was made between the terms “modernity” and “modernism.”

He said if the concept of modernism was one that gave space to religious beliefs, Islam was compatible with such a framework. But, when modernism is interpreted as something that was based on the rejection of religion itself, that might not be acceptable to Islam, he pointed out.

The professor said works of scholars such as Abul Kalam Azad in the Indian post-Independence period had indicated how the concept of democracy could easily co-exist with Islam.

Lawrence said the position of women in the holy text of the Muslims is often cited as an issue when dismissing Islam as archaic. However, much of the interpretation of passages in the holy book, that somewhat indicated a superior position for men, was superficial. “They have to be seen within the context of the time of the Prophet. Men in those times were expected to take the lead in the political sphere. The passages indicate this and not a sort of natural superiority,” he observed.

In this regard, he pointed out that parda or the veil too was a misunderstood issue, and it was largely a symbol of modesty rather than a tool of suppression.

Bruce Lawrence is Emeritus Professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University.

[Source: New Indian Express]


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