Punjab Research Group

Book Review: The Politics of Religion in South and Southeast Asia edited by Ishtiaq Ahmed

Posted in Book reviews by Pippa on March 1, 2012

Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed, a renowned scholar of Pakistani origin, is presently a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Stockholm in Sweden. However, this book The Politics of Religion in South and Southeast Asia was conceived after a symposium in March 2009, when he was a visiting research professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. The purpose of the seminar was to investigate the role of religion in the countries of South and South East Asia. Dr Ahmed, as editor, has given an overview of the politics of religion in this region, followed by articles on the two areas separately: on South Asia by Ali Riaz and South East Asia by Bilveer Singh. These are followed by research studies in the form of chapters on Pakistan (Ishtiaq Ahmed and Tahmina Rashid), India (Tridivesh Singh Maini, Ishtiaq Ahmed and Rajesh Rai), Bangladesh (Taj Hashmi), Malaysia (Maznah Mohamad), Indonesia (Noorhaidi Hasan), the Philippines (Raymond Jose G. Quilop) and Singapore (Eugene K. B. Tan).

Read the full review by Tariq Rahman in Newsline: http://www.newslinemagazine.com/2012/02/book-review-the-politics-of-religion-in-south-and-southeast-asia/

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Raziuddin Aquil, ed. Sufism and Society in Medieval India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010

Posted in Book reviews by Pippa on November 14, 2011

Reviewed by Usha Sanyal (Queens University of Charlotte)

This is an interesting collection of essays on aspects of Sufism during the twelfth through eighteenth centuries by well-known scholars in the field, such as K. A. Nizami, J. M. S. Baljon, and Simon Digby, among others. All nine essays have been published previously. They are brought together here, along with an introductory essay by Raziuddin Aquil, the editor, as part of Oxford University Press’s Debates in Indian History and Society series. Thematically, many of the essays are concerned with the role of Sufis in the subcontinent in Islamization and conversion of Hindus to Islam, with the authors taking different stands on the issue. Subsidiary sets of issues relate to Sufis and their relation to the state and to possession of wealth and property, as well as relations between different Sufi orders and between Sufis and scholars of Islamic law (the ulama), language, and social class. One essay, by Richard M. Eaton, deals with the role of women’s songs in transmitting Sufi ideas to illiterate villagers in the seventeenth-century Deccan.

Aquil frames the primary concern of the book, namely, the roles that medieval Sufis played in the conversion of Hindus to Islam, in historiographic terms by focusing on the perspectives of the essay writers themselves. Broadly, Aquil sees three distinct scholarly positions: those whose “writings … emphasize the pluralistic character of Indian society and the commendable role of Sufis in providing a practical framework for communal harmony” (essays by Nizami, S. A. A. Rizvi, and Carl W. Ernst, in Aquil’s view, belong in this group); those who adopt “a more empirically sustainable approach even while remaining committed to the idea of secularism and such other virtues expected from historians in Indian academia” (in this group, he places the contributions by Eaton, Digby, and Muzaffar Alam); and those who take “a Muslim separatist position” (the only example in the volume is the piece by Aziz Ahmad) (p. x). On the one hand, Aquil expresses strong disagreement with Ahmad, writing that he “offers a somewhat cynical interpretation marred by his separatist outlook, which, in turn, was influenced by the post-Partition Muslim predicament in the Indian subcontinent” (p. xv). On the other hand, Aquil feels that Nizami, for example, is prone to making broad generalizations, characterizing the ulama as “conservative and reactionary theologians,… [leaving] the Sufis to rise to the occasion, releasing ‘syncretic forces which liquidated social, ideological, and linguistic barriers’ between Hindus and Muslims for building a ‘common cultural outlook.’” In contrast, Aquil clearly esteems the work of those he terms “empiricist,” describing the essay by Alam, for example, as a “balanced and empirically dense argument on the question of community relations” (p. xvi). Seen in this light, the essays not only offer different perspectives on the roles of Sufis in medieval India, but also illustrate different academic approaches, over the past fifty years, to that history.

Read full review: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=32240

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CFP: Postcolonialism and Islam

Posted in Conferences by Pippa on September 14, 2009

The Northern Association for Postcolonial Studies (NAPS) and The Sunderland-Nizwa Centre for Anglo-Arab and Muslim Writing are inviting abstracts and expressions of interest for a conference to be held at the University of Sunderland, UK, 16-17 April 2010.

Postcolonialism and Islam are two terms that frequently appear in tandem, however, the relationship between the two and the question of their compatibility has not been extensively investigated. The speed and intensity of the changes characteristic of late modernity under the pressures of cultural and economic globalisation has traumatised Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Hybrid identity formations, very often provisional, are generated in the articulations of difference marked by imaginary relations to faith, nation, class, gender, sexuality and language. Postcolonialism might seem to provide a framework for approaching the experiences of not only formerly colonized subjects but émigrés, exiles and expatriates and their host societies. However, Muslim writers and intellectuals have both adopted and rejected postcolonial theory as an effective tool for analysing and accounting for the experience of Muslims in the modern world.

This multidisciplinary conference will be relevant to specialists in postcolonial theory, and cultural, historical, political, sociological, literary, and religious studies who seek to problematise both the terms themselves and their juxtaposition. It will mainly focus on these six main themes:

* Muslim identity and its connection to race, cultural politics, integration;
* The experience of Muslim communities in Britain and elsewhere in the West particularly as representative site(s) of settlement, networking and diasporic mobility;
* Terms such as multiculturalism, citizenship, secularism, ethnicity;
* The way in which Muslim culture(s) become(s) embedded in and thematised by Muslim and non-Muslim writers in English and other literatures in translation;
* The connection between Muslim women and the activities of western orientalism;
* The conditions and possibility of ‘Islamic’ feminism; its response to the way in which Muslim women have often been represented and theorised according to western, Christian and white feminist versions of female experience;

Other related topics will also be considered. The intention is to publish an edited volume based on the theme of the conference to which a selection of participants will be invited to contribute.
Confirmed Keynote speakers so far include:
– Dr. Tahir Abbas, FRSA, currently principal analyst at Deen International
– Prof. Ceri Peach, Emeritus Professor at the Oxford School of Geography and Professor at the Insitute for Social Change, Manchester University
– Prof. Patrick Williams, Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies, Nottingham Trent
If you wish to attend please submit a proposal (maximum 300 words) to one of the following by October 30th, 2009:

Dr. Geoffrey Nash (geoff.nash@sunderland.ac.uk), or Dr. Sarah Hackett (sarah.hackett-1@sunderland.ac.uk)

Islam and Hinduism’s blurred lines

Posted in Articles, News/Information by Pippa on July 14, 2008

By Jyotsna Singh, BBC News
Forty-two-year-old Sohan Singh is delighted to call himself a “full-fledged” Hindu.  Recently he cremated his mother, defying a family tradition of burying their dead. Mr Singh is a member of the Kathat community in Rajasthan and follows what his community believes is a pledge undertaken by their forefathers.

To read further http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7473019.stm

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