Category Archives: Islam & Modernity

Islam and globanalisation

Hamid Dabashi

Until late last month, when Salman Rushdie added his name to those of a few other like-minded souls and signed a statement attacking Muslims for having been outraged by a set of Danish cartoons depicting their prophet with satirical ridicule, something seemed amiss in that whole global uproar, writes Hamid Dabashi*

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Tending to Muslim Hearts and Islam’s Future – Part III

Part III of “An Imam in America” series by the NY Times.

Part I can be found here.
Part II can be found here.


March 7, 2006
An Imam in America
Tending to Muslim Hearts and Islam’s Future
By Andrea Elliott

The young Egyptian professional could pass for any New York bachelor.

Dressed in a crisp polo shirt and swathed in cologne, he races his Nissan Maxima through the rain-slicked streets of Manhattan, late for a date with a tall brunette. At red lights, he fusses with his hair.

What sets the bachelor apart from other young men on the make is the chaperon sitting next to him — a tall, bearded man in a white robe and stiff embroidered hat.

“I pray that Allah will bring this couple together,” the man, Sheik Reda Shata, says, clutching his seat belt and urging the bachelor to slow down.

Christian singles have coffee hour. Young Jews have JDate. But many Muslims believe that it is forbidden for an unmarried man and woman to meet in private. In predominantly Muslim countries, the job of making introductions and even arranging marriages typically falls to a vast network of family and friends.

In Brooklyn, there is Mr. Shata.

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Filed under Islam, Islam & Modernity, Islamic Scholarship, Muslims, U.S.

To Lead the Faithful in a Faith Under Fire – Part II

Part II of “An Imam in America” series by the NY Times.
Part I can be found here.
Part III can be found here.


James Estrin/The New York Times
Sheik Reda Shata begins a seminar in cultural sensitivity at the 68th Precinct in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Through these kinds of efforts, the imam hopes to foster better understanding between law enforcement and his fellow Muslims.

March 6, 2006
An Imam in America
To Lead the Faithful in a Faith Under Fire
By Andrea Elliott

The F.B.I. agent and the imam sat across a long wooden table at a Brooklyn youth center last August.

Would the imam, the agent asked, report anyone who seemed prone to terrorism?

Sheik Reda Shata leaned back in his chair and studied the agent. Nearly a year had passed since the authorities had charged two young men, one of whom prayed at Mr. Shata’s mosque, with plotting to blow up the Herald Square subway station in Manhattan.

The mosque had come under siege. Television news trucks circled the block. Threats were made. The imam’s congregants became angry themselves after learning that a police informer had spent months in their midst.

At the meeting, the imam chose his words carefully. It is not only the F.B.I. that wants to stop terrorism, he answered; Muslims also care about keeping the country safe.

“I would turn him in to you,” Mr. Shata finally said, pointing his finger at the agent, Mark J. Mershon, the top F.B.I. official in New York City. “But not because I am afraid of you.”

The moment captured one of the enduring challenges for an imam in America: living at the center of a religion under watch.

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Filed under Islam, Islam & Modernity, Islamic Scholarship, Muslims, U.S.

A Muslim Leader in Brooklyn, Reconciling 2 Worlds – Part I

The NY Times has recently come out with a 3-part series on Reda Shata, an Imam at the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, New York. The following 3 posts will contain each part of the series. The links to the NYT articles contain interactive media, video, and photographs.


Part II can be found here.
Part III can be found here.


James Estrin/The New York Times

March 5, 2006
An Imam in America
A Muslim Leader In Brooklyn, Reconciling 2 Worlds
By Andrea Elliott

The imam begins his trek before dawn, his long robe billowing like a ghost through empty streets. In this dark, quiet hour, his thoughts sometimes drift back to the Egyptian farming village where he was born.

But as the sun rises over Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Sheik Reda Shata’s new world comes to life. The R train rattles beneath a littered stretch of sidewalk, where Mexican workers huddle in the cold. An electric Santa dances in a doughnut shop window. Neon signs beckon. Gypsy cabs blare their horns.

The imam slips into a plain brick building, nothing like the golden-domed mosque of his youth. He stops to pray, and then climbs the cracked linoleum steps to his cluttered office. The answering machine blinks frantically, a portent of the endless questions to come.

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Filed under Islam, Islam & Modernity, Islamic Scholarship, Muslims, U.S.

Big Ideas Lecture by Tariq Ramadan

Lecture by Tariq Ramadan

Tariq Ramadan is our first speaker. He is a Swiss-born grandson of one of the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt whose PhD dissertation was about Nietzsche, the intellectual grandfather of post-modernity. Ramadan defines himself as Western Muslim and he speaks to other Western Muslims about what it means to be both a Westerner and a Muslim. As you can appreciate, he is a very busy man nowadays.

In this talk, which he gave late last Fall at Queen’s University, Ramadan speaks to Canadians as much as to Canadian Muslims about complex identities and multiculturalism. Most importantly, he suggests that for a society to be truly multicultural it needs to be more that just tolerant of immigrants, it must show itself to be receptive to being re-shaped by the newcomers. A subject worthy of your input on our discussion board.

To listen, click here.


Filed under Islam & Modernity, Media, Middle East & Muslim World

Amr Khaled: Islam’s Billy Graham

Amr Khaled: Islam’s Billy Graham

More popular than Oprah Winfrey, the world’s first Islamic television evangelist commands an army of millions of followers

David Hardaker reports from Cairo
Published: 04 January 2006

In a tiny house on the West Bank a young Palestinian woman is jogging the length of her hallway and back. Again and again. The pain becomes unbearable. But she keeps going. Eventually she completes two thousand laps. Why? Because Amr said so. He called on young Muslims to get fit, and the woman could find no other safe place to run.In the choking grime of Cairo, another young woman is tending to a small tomato vine, struggling into life atop a 10-storey city block. Why? Because Amr wants his young followers to see something grow. It will provide hope – and maybe a small income – in a part of the world where both are in short supply. The greening of rooftops in the filth and decay of this Arab mega city is a story being repeated again and again throughout the Arab world.

It is a powerful metaphor for the work of a religious and marketing phenomenon called Amr Khaled, who is trying to pump oxygen into the arid lives of Muslim youth. Amr (rhymes with “charmer”) Khaled is the Arab world’s first Islamic tele-evangelist, a digital age Billy Graham who has fashioned himself into the anti-Bin Laden, using the barrier-breaking power of satellite TV and the internet to turn around a generation of lost Muslim youth.

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Karen Armstrong’s Question to the Prophet Muhammad

The BBC World Service’s World Today programme asked a number of high-profile figures what they would ask if they could ask just one question – and who they would put it to. Karen Armstron has a question for the Prophet (as).

Karen Armstrong is a leading religious historian.

I’d like to ask the Prophet Muhammad what he thinks of the current situation.

I think I know what he would say, but I would like Western people to hear the Prophet’s abhorrence of these actions done in his name, abhorrence with the intolerance and hatred and violence that he dedicated his life to transcending.

I’d also like to hear him tell Muslims who believe that he would have endorsed these vile actions to look more seriously at the compassion of the Koran.

As for the West, he would say: ‘Look at the message of the Koran’ – which is all about treating all people equally, and that includes my Muslims in disadvantaged parts of the world who are struggling to make sense of lives in violent and hopeless situations.

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