Freethinking, Secularism, and the Arab Spring

Tuesday, 23 October 2012, 6:00pm - 7:30pm, IWM library
11 September 2012 gave the start of massive protests and outbursts of violence in parts of the Arab world, leading to the deaths of US diplomat and a number of civilians. The violence was unclogged first in Libya, then with varying intensity in some other Muslim countries, and spilled over beyond, as a reaction to an amateur video depicting Prophet Mohammad as fraud, womanizer and a paedophile. The film was condemned by activists and politicians, Muslim and Christian alike, as a tasteless provocation, but this had little effect on protests where they occurred.

In his lecture the prominent historian Aziz Al-Azmeh will address the present condition of the relationship between religion and polity in the Arab World following the upheavals in the two years since the Arab revolution. He will look at the current interactions between religion and polity in the context and relation to the long history of secularism and freethinking in the Arab World.

Aziz Al-Azmeh is University Professor at the School of Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies at the Central European University, Budapest. Born in Damascus, Syria, he is widely recognized as a leading scholar in the world in the fields of Arab and Muslim history. Aziz Al-Azmeh has been a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin, the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris, the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences, Uppsala, the Rockefeller Foundation Center for Scholars, Bellagio, the Käte Hamburger Kolleg/Dynamics in the History of Religion, Bochum, and the Kollegium Budapest. He has been a visiting professor at the American University of Beirut, Yale University, Columbia University, University of California, Berkeley, Georgetown University, the Institute for the study of Muslim Civilizations at the Aga Khan University, London, and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques, Paris. He has served on the editorial boards of several academic journals, including the Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies. His books in English include Islams and Modernities, Muslim Kingship: Power and the Sacred in Muslim, Christian and Pagan Polities, and The Times of History.