A Discussion on Islamic Thought

Posted on March 15, 2021
Joy Washington

Dr. Asma Afsaruddin, professor of Middle Eastern languages and cultures at Indiana University, will speak at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, as part of the 2021 virtual Mahan Lecture hosted by the department of history in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Alabama. This lecture series is endowed by the USA Foundation.

Afsaruddin, the author and editor of seven books including the monograph “Contemporary Issues in Islam,” published by the Edinburgh University Press, will speak on “Arguing the Caliphate: A Critique of the Views of ISIS.” The event is free and open to the public.

Afsaruddin’s talk will focus on how ISIS ideologues deliberately twist scripture and history to justify their attempts to establish a so-called global caliphate and the brutal tactics that they resort to.

“During my lecture, I will present the findings of my research into classical interpretations of key Quranic verses that these ideologues often cite, and detail how classical Islamic political thought is remarkably different from ISIS political ideology,” Afsaruddin explained. “I will also discuss issues that are often raised in connection with Muslim-majority societies, which include politics, Islamic law, the status of women and religious minorities, and violence.”

Overall, Afsaruddin will provide a broad account of the central issues in Islam.

“I will reveal the dynamism within Islamic thought and the intellectual resources available within the Islamic tradition to respond to the challenges of modernity,” she said. “I like to think my work is important because it addresses issues of current concern where there is considerate lack of public knowledge and media disinformation. I focus on evidence-based scholarship and take a longer historical, and more nuanced, approach to such issues.

Afsaruddin said she hopes the audience will be encouraged to question what they read or hear in the news, on social media platforms and on the Internet about the Middle East and the Islamic world. She recommends researching every source.

“The Mahan Lecture focuses on world history, American history and European history, in rotation,” said Dr. David A. Messenger, chair of history at USA. “Our commitment to forwarding all of that together is important in the class experiences that we give our students, and in our lectures and events. We have invited Dr. Afsaruddin, a scholar on Islamic thought, to discuss her interpretation of ISIS, which is drawn from her historical work. It is another moment to emphasize how the contemporary moments are really shaped by history. Certainly, the events in the United States around race in the last year have reminded us how contemporary historical events are, and the impact they still have on us today.”

The Mahan Lecture is named after Howard F. Mahan, founder of the University’s department of history. After serving a full tour in the U.S. Army Corps in World War II, Mahan decided to study history to better understand his experiences during the war. As one of the original faculty members of South Alabama, he served as chair for the department of history from 1964 to 1983 and retired in 1993. The USA department of history established the annual lecture in honor of Professor Mahan’s enduring contributions to his students, colleagues, community, and state.

To attend the Zoom event, visit https://southalabama.zoom.us/j/97510540234. The Meeting ID information: 975 1054 0234.

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