Is Islam compatible with [blank]?

Here’s a quick exercise: go to Google and start typing the following: “Is Islam compatible with.” What are some of the predictions Google gives you for the end of that sentence? I get: Is Islam compatible with democracy? Is Islam compatible with modernity? Is Islam compatible with secular pluralistic societies? Is Islam compatible with evolution?

Google search predictions for the phrase "Is Islam compatible with..."

In comparison, when I type, “Is Christianity compatible with,” I get evolution, capitalism, yoga, and free masonry. Hinduism gets only one prediction: Christianity. Buddhism gets science, Christianity, atheism, and Judaism. Incidentally, there are no predictions for “Is Judaism compatible with.”

When Google predicts the end of your search, they’re looking for results based on what others before have searched for frequently. So although the exercise is admittedly trite, the message could not be clearer. People (or at least people who use Google) question Islam’s compatibility with fundamental political ideologies (democracy, modernity, secularism) much more regularly than they do other religions. Continue reading

Islam and the New Modes of Participation

Professor John O. Voll. Photo: Georgetown University

This past weekend academics and journalists from around the world gathered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the Inside Islam-cosponsored conference Islam and Democracy. The changing political landscape of the Middle East was a central focus of the event in general and was the main topic of a keynote by John O. Voll, Professor of Islamic history and Associate Director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. In tune with perspectives expressed on Inside Islam by Reza Aslan, Marc Lynch, and Tariq Ramadan, Voll stressed that the desires of the people have largely stayed the same—peace, justice, economic stability—but that the ideologies and particular models of making these demands, have shifted. Continue reading

Islam and Democracy

Protestors in Cairo, February 2011 Photo: AFP

Tomorrow (Thursday, March 15) at 3 pm Central Time, radio host Jean Feraca will speak with scholars Reza Aslan and Marc Lynch about Islam and Democracy. As part of our build-up to the Islam and Democracy Conference to be held April 13-14 in Madison, WI (see conference schedule), Aslan and Lynch will touch on a variety of topics related to the Arab Spring.

Tariq Ramadan recently offered his perspective on the Muslim Brotherhood and their ascendance within the new Egyptian political climate. Building on Ramadan’s perspectives, Aslan and Lynch will focus on the political transformation of the Middle East and the role of democratic principles inherent within Islamic philosophy.

You can learn more about Lynch’s recent work on the Middle East on his blog and website. And you can listen to past Inside Islam shows with Reza Azlan on such varied topics as Whitewashing Tales from the Arabian Nights, 100 Years of Literature from the Middle East, Losing the War on Terror, and Young Muslims and New Media.

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The Future of Egypt

Egyptian Women display their inked fingers after voting at a Cairo polling station. Image: Bela Szandelszky/AP/Press Association Images

Our recent Inside Islam radio show with Oxford University Professor Tariq Ramadan was a good history lesson for me. Ramadan talked about how both the western media and many of Egypt’s politicians are missing the boat: the role of Islam in future structures of Egyptian government is a relevant and important question, but there are much more pressing issues that need to be discussed. The western media has been especially interested in highlighting the headscarf or other tangibles that are symbolic of religious life, when there should be more of an emphasis on what Ramadan identified as the six themes all governments should work towards in their own way: rule of law, equal citizenship, universal suffrage, accountability of elected leaders, separation of power (executive, judicial, and legislative branches), and separation between religious and political power. He argued that it’s dangerous to have our sights on the trees when Egypt should be focusing on its future vision of the forest.

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Inside Islam Radio Show: Tariq Ramadan on the Muslim Brotherhood

Saad al-Katatni, member of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, and newly elected head of the Egyptian Parliament Photo: AP

Today at 3 PM CST (GMT+4), Jean will speak with Tariq Ramadan about the Muslim Brotherhood, and what its near control of the Egyptian Parliament means for Egyptian society. Ramadan, a Swiss academic, poet, and writer, holds a unique position, as he is the grandson of the founder of the Brotherhood, and also a harsh critic of many Islamic interpretations and notionally Islamic governments.

As tens of thousands gather in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to commemorate the Egyptian revolution of 2011 and celebrate the fall of the Mubarak regime, listen in to hear Ramadan’s thoughts on  the influence of the Brotherhood, and the future of Egypt.

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Tariq Ramadan on The Muslim Brotherhood

Tariq Ramadan Photo: britishmuseum.org

Next Wednesday, January 25, Jean will speak with Oxford University Professor Tariq Ramadan about the Muslim Brotherhood. Ramadan, the grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder and a leading scholar of political science and Islam, will speak with Jean about the Muslim Brotherhood’s platform and its likely influence on Egypt in the coming years.

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