Muslim Renaissance Challenges in the Twenty-first Century

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Louay M. Safi

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Abstract

The last three decades have brought profound changes to how we look at
the funadmental notions that define the modern world, such as culture, ideology,
religion, reform, and progress. A drastic shift from a bipolar world
defined by the rivalry betweeen the liberal West and the communist bloc in
the 1980s, to a globalization intent upon breaking both market and cultural
barriers in the 1990s, to a new form of polarization driven by religious and
cultural exclusivism at the turn of the twenty-first century. Not only has
communism succumbed and disappeared as a credible sociopolitical force,
but liberalism itself is in retreat even in the United States, the most liberal
society of all, giving way to a new tide of conservatism.
Evidently, the tide of conservatism seeking to replace both progressive
and revolutionary movements does not bring new hopes of a better
future; rather, it seems to be bent on reclaiming old postures of selfrighteousness
and ethnicity that fueled hatred, international hostility, and
wars. Secularist idedologies are giving rise to religious ideologies, as can
be seen clearly in almost every culture, whether in the United States,
India, or Turkey.
In Muslim societies, religious conservatism has cloaked the Islamic
reform movement’s forward vision and threatens to roll back its achievements.
The reform movement also has been suppressed by the overbearing
political regimes ruling the Muslim world. Many people question
whether an Islamic renaissance – or a renaissance based on Islamic values
– is even posible and, if so, how does it relate to rising conservative
and declining modernist ideologies? ...

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