Public Forum on: “Is It Time to Look Beyond the Idea of Liberal Islam?”

July 16, 2018

Date: Sunday, 22ndJuly 2018
Time:  1400-1730
Venue: Spices Restaurant, Concorde Hotel, KL


Prof Asma Afsaruddin

Dr Isham Pawan Ahmad
Dato’ Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa

Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin

Organized by:
Islamic Renaissance Front & G25

For the past several decades, the idea of what is usually termed as ‘Liberal Islam’ has been at the forefront of critical and progressive voices towards liberty, democracy, and equality in the majority Muslim societies.

There is no doubt that central to the Liberal Islam discourses is the influence of Liberalism and the Enlightenment ideals from Western philosophical traditions, which look highly on the human reason as the path towards freedom, against dogmatic thinking and despotic authoritarianism which is still widely practiced by both the political and religious establishments within the majority Muslim countries. Thus, for the proponents of Liberal Islam, the liberal struggle may not just be a necessity, but also an obligation in opening the path for Muslim liberation.

But obviously, there are major critics towards ‘Liberal Islam’, perhaps even more than any other ideologically-based movements in Muslim majority countries, including in Malaysia with strong traditional, cultural and institutional foundations within our Islamic authorities and establishments. The term ‘Liberal’ itself usually brings along a derogatory immoral connotation, and even deviant to the more extreme perspectives. The ‘Liberals’ are seen as a threat to the Muslim values by being ‘the darlings of the West’, bringing along a Western agenda that is in no way beneficial to the development of Muslims.

Such harsh critics towards Liberal Islam have frequently sidelined its core liberating massages, raising an important question on how far is it still effective to advocate the ideas of ‘Liberal Islam’ for progress and reform in Muslim majority societies. Is ‘Liberal Islam’ still useful in the struggle of Muslim liberation? Or is it time to look beyond the idea of Liberal Islam?

200-230:          Registration
230-240:          Opening speech by the Chairperson, Ehsan Shahwahid
240-250:          Speech by moderator, Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin
250-330:          Presentation by Prof Asma Afsaruddin
330-350:          Speech by Dr Isham Pawan Ahmad
350-410:          Speech by Dato’ Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa
410-530:          Discussion
530:                  Tea

Speakers’ Biographies

Prof Asma Afsaruddin is a professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University, Bloomington. She specializes in the religious and political thought of Islam, Qur’an and hadith, Islamic intellectual history, and gender. In addition to numerous articles, her books include Contemporary Issues in Islam (2015); Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought and Praxis (2013); Islam, the State and Political Authority: Medieval Issues and Modern Concerns (2011); and The First Muslims: History and Memory (2008). Afsaruddin is a member of the academic council of Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and of the American Academy of Liberal Education’s board of trustees. She has received research funding from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York, which named her a Carnegie Scholar in 2005. Afsaruddin earned her Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University and previously taught at the University of Notre Dame and Harvard University.

Dr Isham Pawan Ahmad is an Associate Professor teaching philosophy and theology at the International Islamic University, Malaysia. He obtained his Master at the University of Chicago under the late Prof. Fazlur Rahman and his PhD from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. His research interest focuses mainly on questions on epistemology and how it impacts our understanding of the relationship of revelation to reason. This understanding shapes our view of religion and ethical worldview. He has expanded this research to include works on interfaith dialogue which translated in collaborations in works on global religious understanding and appreciation with recognition and acceptance of global ethics. He has written and presented numerous papers both locally and internationally.

Dato’ Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa is an academician and researcher at Monash University, and a cardiothoracic surgeon. As an ardent researcher, he has presented his work at prestigious conferences across Asia and Europe. He is actively involved in civil society and the emerging discourse on post-Islamism. He was a Vice Chairman of BERSIH 2.0, a powerful coalition promoting free and fair election and a founding member of the Muslim Professionals Forum. He is currently a Commissioner at the Commonwealth Initiative for the Freedom of Religion or Belief (CIFoRB) based in Westminster, London, a Director of the Centre for Combating Corruption and Cronyism (C4) and also a Research Fellow at Sekolah Tinggi Filsafat Islam – STFI Sadra, Jakarta, Indonesia.