Islamism and Post-Colonial Psyche

This essay is written upon invitation by Georgetown University’s Berkley Forum for expert panel discussion over Jocelyne Cesari’s book,We God’s People: Christianity, Islam and Hinduism in the World of Nations (Cambridge University Press, 2021)

“I went to the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims,” goes the statement that has been associated with Egypt’s top religious authority, Mohammad Abduh (1849-1905). “I got back to the East and saw Muslims, but no Islam.” 

A generation earlier, Muslim scholar Rifa’a Al-Tahtawi (1801-1873) produced an extensive travelogue on French culture, speaking highly about Western modernity without perceiving a clash between science versus religion. Indeed, among Muslim intelligentsia, such sentiments of combining the values of the Islamic tradition and Western modernity were quite common in the nineteenth century.

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