By Riyaz ul Khaliq
ANKARA (AA) – Muslims need to stop brooding over the past and start looking at the future, a pioneering scholar on Islam told a gathering in Ankara on Tuesday evening.
Speaking at an event hosted by Ankara Palas Meetings (Bulusmalari), Ziauddin Sardar said that the fundamental problem with the Muslim community is that it has idealized the past.
Sardar taught post-colonial studies at the University of London.
“We cannot imagine anything [but] our past,” he said, adding that there is a need to rethink how to approach and study Islam.
Sardar in his talk “Post-normal Times” said the Muslims need to create a new paradigm of Islam. “We should neither demonize the modernity nor the tradition; similarly, we should neither idealize the modernity nor the tradition, take best from both the paradigms,” he said.
Sardar, who has authored around 50 books besides numerous research papers, said that Muslims need to engage critically. “Our history has not been critically written which needs to be done,” he said.
He said that reform in its essence is futuristic and “that is why Muslims need to look at the future which means to remain aware of what is coming”.
The scholar warned Muslims against falling prey to pessimism. “The whole formation of faith is hope but then Prophet said ‘trust in Allah [but] tie the camel’,” he said asking Muslims to be “realistic”.
“Muslims need to revive the phenomenal reservoir of intellectual, cultural heritage and history,” he said.
“Muslim intellectuals are confused,” he said.
Referring to differences and contradictions among Muslims, he said: “Muslims need to transcend these differences to move forward.”
He emphasized on a multi-faceted approach to solve a problem. “Problems cannot be solved by a single discipline; we have to have multi-disciplinary approach. It has to be a collective exercise.”
- Role of Turkey
Sardar, who was born in Pakistan in 1951, said that Turkey had a pivotal location between the West and the Muslim world.
“Look at the complex situation [the country is in],” Sardar said, adding: “There are contradictions in society as well, so for the survival, looking at future [of Turkey] is essential.”
He said that Turkey should adopt a futuristic approach in policy making for its government machinery, municipalities, universities and its society.
“UNESCO is framing a global policy on introduction of future studies and Turkey should take lead in adopting it. ”
– 'Saudi Arabia is oppressive'
Sardar, who is a physicist by education, said that Saudi Arabia was the most “oppressive state”. “It is a police state,” he said, when asked about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Kingdom's Istanbul Consulate last October.
“It [Saudi Arabia] has nothing to do with Islam,” he said, adding: “[leaving out] Jamal Khashoggi, they [Saudis] even torture for minor things. They have no dignity, no humanity.”
He said that those in Saudi establishment want to “exercise power”.
“Look at the behavior of religious police Makkah, Haram sharif … how disrespectful they are even with the women,” he said citing examples. “There is something wrong.”
He said that first thing which defines kindness is giving respect to others. “To acknowledge that others also exist,” he said explaining that those characteristics are missing among Saudis. He added that “not every Arab is like that.”
Without mentioning the murder of Khashoggi, Sardar said: “What we will see is Saudi Arabia is being ruled by those who have blood on their hands.”
– ‘Future being colonized’
In his presentation, the British author said that due to technological advancement, “our future was being colonized”.
He said that the current times are “weird and very strange”.
Giving examples from politics and Oxford’s annual exercise on word of the year, Sardar said: “Something we believed in is shifting and moving away.”
Referring to process of Brexit which has been delayed, he said: “All this suggests something is happening.”
“There is debate about what European Union should be and what it was,” he said, foreseeing downfall of the regional bloc in coming two decades.
“Power structures are breaking down and shifting from West to East,” Sardar said, adding: “EU is breaking down [and] may last for 15 to 20 years [but] we need to prepare for and it may [directly] affect Turkey.”