03 February 2007

Islam Awareness Week

Do you know about the miracles of the Qur'an (site really worth reading, with illustrations)? Which are the five pillars of Islam? Who was Mohammad? How does Islam see Jesus? What are the different confessions of Islam? What is the relation between Islam and modernity? Is Allah really a masculine deity? Why do islamic countries "still" practice Sharia even if they are highly industrialised (i.e. Malaysia where both Sharia and what I will call the "Western" law system co-exist alongside each other)? How do Islam and democracy go together?

These are some of the questions which were addressed during this week. The SOAS Islamic Society has organised several highly interesting events such as the following

_ 21st Century Muslim Woman
Sarah Joseph did not only provided us with a critical and scholarly view of Muslims in British Society, Muslim women, Muslim communities and the role of the British state but also explained some aspects of Hijab.

Also with Cambridge Professor Tim Winter (aka Sheikh Abdul Hukim Murad - NOT to be confused with the same named terrorist!). A highly interesting interview with Tim Winter which is not related to this event can be found here.

Unfortunately, Fareena Alam did not come.

_ Colours of Islam: songs, poetry & comedy
Didn't go to this event but it sounds like a sociable evening!

_ Shariah for Dummies
Arrived a bit late but the talk was recorded by Channel 4. As soon as I find out if the event has been up, I will post it in the comments section!

Also, I had a very illuminating talk to Pete, someone who should have been studying at SOAS long ago and is now trying to realise himself (he was not involved in the events mentioned above). From midnight to 3am on a Friday night I had a lecture which covered everything from the creation of the world, what was before that, the expulsion of Adam & Eve, the Hajj, Sodom & Gomorrha, Babel, the Thora & Talmud, Jesus, up to the Day of Judgement, why graduates wear these funny hats that come with their academic dress (it originally was a Qur'an with a bookbind on top of the head of the scholars of Timbuktu). Also, I had an introduction to Arabic in order to understand why, if translated insuffiently (and Arabic is an extremely complex and expressive language which doesn't make it easy), a lot of people believe that Allah is a man. Allah is not. In short, it has to do with the female / male distinction in Arabic and the use of derivated words which differs depending on whether what we talk about is animate or inanimate and how an object is categorised!

To conclude, I want to express my amazement at the features and logics of many things about Islam which I haven't known before. Somehow, when you start looking into the subject matter, you will find that a lot of things suddenly make sense. I don't want to relativise this statement to particular aspects which would make it necessary to elaborate very extensively. Of course, I am still a lay person concerning this religion and my surprise at many things which I have heard during this week can partly be accounted for by the fact that I simply didn't know much about it in the first place. However, I still believe that there is more to Islam than the (mis-)conceptions most people in the West, I will dare to say, have. The past week also made me think about islamophobia in Austria, where a great deal of the "threat" of Muslims within the country but also outside the country (ie accession of Turkey to the EU) is due to the average age of the population (a lot of right-winged islam opposers are born prior to the 1960s/70s) but maybe also due to lack of political action to raise awareness about this religion. I will stop at this point. This blog welcomes an open discussion and promotes freedom of speech, therefore please feel free to post any comments or questions that you might have!

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