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Tuesday, 9 November 2021, 6:00PM - 7:00PM
Barnard's Inn Hall

Rethinking Islam and Secularism

Dr Usaama al-Azami

Most of us would consider Islam to be a religion, while we would generally view secularism as requiring the limiting of religion to the private sphere. But many scholars (and ideologues) beg to differ. Social scientists are divided over the definitions of religion and secularism, while Islam’s indigenous portrayal of itself as a 'dīn' is not easily translatable into English. 

This lecture asks both whether Islam might be viewed as an ideology, and whether secularism could be considered a religion.


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Dr Usaama al-Azami read his BA in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford, and his MA and PhD in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Alongside his university career, he also pursued Islamic studies in seminarial settings in which he has also subsequently taught.

He is primarily interested in the interaction between Islam and modernity with a special interest in modern developments in Islamic political thought. His first book, "Islam and the Arab Revolutions," looks at the way in which influential Islamic scholars responded to the Arab uprisings from 2011 through 2013.

His PhD is entitled "Modern Islamic Political Thought: Islamism in the Arab World from the Late 20th to the Early 21st Centuries". In it, he explores how Arab ulama (Islamic clerics) of a mainstream "Islamist" orientation have engaged Western political concepts such as democracy, secularism and the nation-state, selectively adapting and assimilating aspects of these ideas into their understanding of Islam. His broader interests extend to a range of disciplines from the Islamic scholarly tradition from the earliest period of Islam down to the present.

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