Global Islam Initiative

In the fall of 2012, the Islamic Studies Program launched a colloquium series on the theme of “Global Islam.” This series highlights the rich history of Islam and diversity of Muslim communities around the world.

Islamism in Southeast Asia

Islamism has been on the rise throughout Southeast Asia since the late 1980s. Both the nature of its growing social and political influence and the political implications of its rise, however, have differed markedly across the states that comprise the region. The aim of this symposium is two-fold: first, to explore the different manifestations of Islamism and its impact in both Muslim-majority states (e.g., Indonesia and Malaysia) and Muslim-minority states (e.g., Philippines and Thailand); and second, to provide a comparative perspective so as to stimulate discussion among scholars with different regional expertise. The symposium thus highlights two panels of renowned experts on Southeast Asia, followed by a keynote address on the future of Islamism in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) by one of the most prominent scholars of the MENA. See the complete program description.

Islam in Contemporary Spain: Identities and Representations

Since the early 1980s, Spain has witnessed a boom in its Muslim population. Many assume that this demographic boom is directly linked to the increase in North African (mostly Moroccan) immigration to Spain since the country’s incorporation in the European Union in 1986. In fact, Spain’s Muslim population is quite diverse: it not only includes large immigrant communities from North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia, but also hundreds of thousands of native-born Spanish converts to Islam. The rise of Islam in contemporary Spain has coincided with a profound reevaluation of Spanish national identity. In the post-Franco era, Spanish intellectuals and politicians have striven to celebrate and promote Spain’s medieval Islamic heritage as evidence of the country’s tradition of exceptional tolerance and multiculturalism. See the complete program description.

Islamic Knowledge in Africa

The conquests of the first Islamic century did not reach sub-Saharan Africa, yet today Africa is probably the only continent with a Muslim majority and home to at least one quarter of the world’s Muslims. Far more of them live south of the desert than north of it, but only rarely did a jihad of the sword bring Islam to sub-Saharan African communities. Instead much of the work of spreading Islamic religious culture was accomplished by African Muslim intellectuals. The Prophet Muhammad was reported to have said: “The ink of the scholars is more precious than the blood of the martys,” and in sub-Saharan Africa the former was certainly more fundamental to the spread of Islam than the latter. Qur’an teachers, Muslim mystics, and scholars writing in Arabic or Ajami brought the core teachings of the religion to wide audiences. In this roundtable we will engage in dialogue with leading scholars to explore the dynamics of Islamic knowledge as they have developed over time and as they continue to shape Muslim life in Africa. See the complete program description.