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Response To Orthodoxy

There are numerous examples throughout the world that show, in the diversity of intellectual approaches, appropriations, and rejections of Enlightenment rationality, acute tendencies toward fragmentation. Today, conflicts of unprecedented violence have resulted from intellectual, philosophical, and religious constructions stemming from narrow-minded orthodoxies. In setting off ethnic and religious subsets of the public sphere, customs and codes have been installed forbidding rebellion, questioning, and dissent. One could therefore take up the invitation to reflection and to critical dialogue offered by the Iranian philosopher Abdolkarim Soroush. In an interview with Farish Noor, Soroush commented on renewing and rebuilding intellectual engagement at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Although his particular concern is Muslim intellectuals, his message is of universal significance:

Modern Muslim intellectuals are, in a sense, a hybrid species. They emerged in the liminal space between modern ideas and traditional thought. We have seen the emergence of such figures in many Muslim countries that have experienced the effects of colonization and the introduction of a plural economic and educational system. They have their feet planted in their local traditions as well as the broader world of the modern age. As such, they are comfortable in both, handicapped by neither. The modern Muslim intellectual is one who is not daunted by the task of delving into his or her religious knowledge for critical answers and solutions to the present. Such intellectuals are better able to do so because they are not the product of a traditional educational system, which is narrow and rigid. They are not bound by traditional norms and rules of religious discursive activity, because they are not really part of that particular narrow tradition. Unlike the traditional ulama [learned men], who never go beyond the texts that they read, the modern intellectual will be able to read deeper into the text in a critical, imaginative manner.

See also Education; University.


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Noor, Farish A., ed. "The Responsibilities of the Muslim Intellectual in the 21st Century: Interview with Abdolkarim Soroush." In his New Voices of Islam. Leiden, Netherlands: ISIM, 2002.

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Mamadou Diouf

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Incomplete dominance to IntuitionismIntelligentsia - Intelligentsia And Society, Definitions, Challenges To Traditional Discourse, Response To Orthodoxy, Bibliography