September 19, 2019
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Religion and Belief – An interview with Sadik Al-Azm


The main themes of the book are several critical essays on issues that pertain to Islam Islamic societies and modernity Arab societies and science and the impact of modernization processes that we wanted to do as underdeveloped societies their impact on traditional religious beliefs the traditional world view and to come frankly to state this very often these things are implicit not explicit so the theme of my book was to bring this out openly for public debate and in this I succeeded because the public debate produced 15000 pages of discussion replies and counter-replies and so on. I did the same when I wrote on Rushdie. When I defended Salman Rushdie and the novel and the freedom of expression and so on it also produced a debate in the Arab world. 500 pages. And I published all the 500 pages. When I replied to my critics I published the 500 pages of debate on the Rushdie affair. In the Arab world. I think that many things aged in the book but it remains relevant because the situation has not improved. The bad situation that it was exposing and criticising and attacking has gotten worse and this is why it seems to be relevant right now. Well, the most important thing is to keep an enlightened, critical position to all the major issues and questions that sometimes you debate with yourself and then you debate with your circle of friends, family, and so on and then it goes to the public sphere. Always to maintain this critical approach and to be absolutely honest and sincere in dealing with this thing and not allowing yourself to be deluded by easy answers or easy solutions. Well, the impression I formed here in Europe on this issue and in the States is that I want this new youth the new generation to recognize and admit the debt they owe to the 60s generation. A lot of the empowerment and improvements and progress that has been made would not have been possible what they enjoy now would not be possible without the 60s generation and its struggles and achievements. For example you know, when I’m in the States they take it for granted that women are in a place like Harvard or Princeton or Yale but I keep reminding them you see that when I was a student there it was only men. And they owe the fact that they can go to Princeton and Harvard to the 60s generation. They are the ones who made it possible. Definitely. Of course I am an educator and an academic and so on and I tend naturally to give education and science and enlightenment and so on a very important role for an improved future a more emancipated future. I think the struggle now over the question of human rights is very important. And the problem of human rights is not a question of east and west Orient and Occident or Islam and the West the problem of human rights is a problem in every society. It is a problem in China. It is a problem in America. Its a problem in the European Union. In the Arab world. In the Islamic world. So we must not think of the issue especially for the future of respect for human rights and their ascendance we must not think of it anymore in terms of east and west Islam and Europe because in every one of these societies there is a problem of human rights. And the emphasis on this is important and if this improves in three, four or five societies I think it would make a difference for the whole world. This is why I think it is important now after the Arab Spring for the experiment that started in Tunis to succeed. Because we do need a model that is successful even by 70%. It is equally important that the democratic experiment in Turkey should also succeed and for the European Union to help Turkey succeed in this. Because the Islamic world needs and the Arab world, the Middle East needs a model where elections are not rigged. At least in Turkey nobody questions not even the opposition accuses that this was rigged. So it’s very important to have these models. It’s important for Europe. It’s important for America. It’s important for us. For the Middle East and for the whole world that these things get improved and progress.

Otis Rodgers

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