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Vol. 1, Summer 2011
Issue Index
What about Levantinization?
Jacqueline Kahanoff
Beyond the Sea of Formlessness
Daniel Monterescu
The Mediterranean Option
Gil Z. Hochberg
Center or Frontier
Guy Miron
The Orient in the Literature of the Haskalah
Amir Banbaji
The Long Shadow of Max Weber
Salman Bashier
The Struggle for Humanism in Islamic Contexts
Mohammed Arkoun
Rediscovering the Mediterranean
Wael Abu-'Uksa
Mahmoud Darwish
Almog Behar
Review Essay: Tormented By Politics
Victor Roudometof
Book review
Andrekos Varnava
Book review
Merav Mack

The Struggle for Humanism in Islamic Contexts

Mohammed Arkoun


 The section is a translation of the introductory chapter of The Struggle for Humanism in the Islamic Context, by the late French-Algerian philosopher Muhammed Arkoun, who was one of the most important Muslim philosophers in the last few decades. Arkoun believes that the key to rejuvenating and revitalizing Islam is in understanding and reviving tenth-century methods. He attacks the separation of disciplines that removes Islamic studies from religious studies, as is customary in both the Muslim and the Western world and rejects the ceaseless quest for authenticity. He complains that the Muslim world is afflicted by modern ideologies without being included as a partner in the construction of this modernism, and calls for intellectual, sociological, legal and philosophical activity by scholars of Islam to restore reason to Islam. He blames the failure of enlightenment in the Muslim world on the education systems of countries and religious movements that emphasize authenticity, patriarchal nationalism, national character and difference, thus sowing the seeds of fanaticism and hatred of strangers. The obsessive search for authenticity serves the dominant movements as an escape from their problems and hinders the development and revitalization of humanism in the Islamic context. Arkoun argues that hiding behind the search for authenticity will not let them permanently avoid the difficult challenge of analyzing the text underlying Muslim law. Only such an act will restore Islamic studies to the disciplinary framework of religious studies and energize humanism in the Muslim world.

About The Blog
The Social History Workshop is a platform of public history that aims to bring to the general public current discussions that concern the past, present and future of the Middle East. The Workshop was founded in August 2013 by Dr. Liat Kozma of the Hebrew Univesity, Dr. On Barak and Dr. Avner Wishnitzer of Tel Aviv University. For us, social history is not only a history that focuses on society as its main object of study, but also history as a socio-political act. Our main venue is a blog in Haaretz website. Over the last two and a half years, the blog has published almost 150 short articles about different aspects of Middle Eastern history, from warfare to desertification, from nocturnal life to slavery, and from technology to prostitution.

In addition, we organize public events in different venues outside the campus, aiming to engage in direct conversation with our readers. In addition, we aim to intervene in the public sphere beyond the virtual world. One such project, funded by the Rashi Fund, was a report about the history of the Mikve Israel school, as part of a major preservation plan. A series of articles we published about the public dimensions of archives in Israel has generated interest among archivists across the country, and lead to the organization of several panels of historians and archivists about issues of accessibility of data in Israeli archives, preservation and digitization.

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