Central European University A Program for University Teachers, Advanced Ph.D. Students, Researchers and Professionals in the Social Sciences and Humanities Summer University

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Islam and the West

July 14 – July 25

Course Director

Ihsan D. Dagi, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey

Resource Persons

Sadık al-Azm, University of Damascus, Syria
John Calabrese
, The American University/The Middle East Institute, Washington D.C., USA
Anoush Ehteshami
, University of Durham, UK
Plamen Makariev
, Sofia University, Bulgaria
Hakan Yavuz
, Utah University, Salt Lake City, USA

Description of Course Content

As sharp ideological competitions have faded away by the end of the cold war we are told to face tensions along civilizational/cultural lines. Islam and the West, given their centuries old competition and confrontation, and the presence of a militant anti-Westernism among some radical Islamic groups, are cast as the most likely candidates to clash. September 11 and ensuing developments have contributed to the expectation of conflict between Islam and the West. Yet the politics of confrontation is likely to give rise to "securitization" of civil domain both in the West and the Islamic countries threatening open society, pluralism and difference. An expectation for clash of civilizations builds a particular mindset that eliminates elements of toleration, cooperation and dialogue between the two. In an age of globalization it is impossible to draw lines among civilizations and cultures. They are bound to co-exist contributing to interdependence of faiths and civilization breakdown of which may result in a total destruction of "global civilization". Thus it is a must to study the relationship between Islam and the West from a historical, political and sociological point of views, and debate the myths of conflict. The course aims at presenting the debate so that a sober understanding of the relationship between Islam and the West could be developed in a way to foster civilizational/cultural dialogue among the peoples of Eastern Europe and former Soviet space where Islam and Christianity meet and interact.

To present the debate a group of academics, each of them is an expert on the very subject-matter, is coming together from the US, Bulgaria and Turkey. The cooperation among the scholars launched by the summer course will certainly evolve into other projects of teaching and research. The course also aims at prompting further course development and research among the participants that would shed lights on the state and prospect of Islam-West relations. There is no doubt that issues raised by this course are widely debated in the news media, universities and NGOs of the region. Thus the course will contribute to these debates with a comprehensive and inter-discipliner approach.

The Rationale of the Course

It has been realized by September 11 that the West and Islam have reached a crossroad in their relationship that is posed to be hijacked by the radicals. To avoid a global confrontation with devastating impact on both sides reconciliation based on understanding and dialogue among the moderates is urgently needed. It is impossible to separate the "sides" in a global world. Muslims are not confined to the Middle East nor Islamic countries alone; they have been spread to the West as well. They have had centuries old presence in the Balkans. Muslim migration to the West and conversion to Islam also have made a significant Islamic presence in the West at large. One can talk of globalization of Islamic faith with implication on social peace and harmony both in the West and the rest. There are around 10 million Muslims living in Western Europe as well as the presence of 6 million American Muslims not to mention millions of them in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Russia and Central Asia. As is the case in many fields it seems that globalization has also created an "interdependency" between faiths that requires understanding, cooperation and coexistence. The course will be part of the quest to understand and hence highlight the need for a dialogical approach to conceptualize the relationship between Islam and the West despite growing popularity of the clash of civilization approach after September 11. What is needed now is to broaden cross-cultural/civilizational understanding between Islam and the West. By contributing to the debate with a dialogical approach the course will therefore attempt at exploring the possibilities for coexistence of Islam and the West.

Content of the Course

Is a ‘clash of civilizations’ inevitable between Islam and the West? This renewed debate following the terrorist attacks of September 11 on the USA that brought up the issue of Islam's encounter with the West will be the subject-matter of this course. As such the course will address the fundamental question of Islams's relations with the West in the age of globalization: are they destined to be in conflict? Are there avenues of civilizational dialogue and cooperation?

To explore these questions the course will engage in a debate concerning the "formation of identity" in relation to the "other" with reference to Islam and the West. Is contemporary Islamic identity the making of the West through its policies of domination towards the Islamic world during the "modern times"? Or to what extent is modern Islamic identity a construction of the "representation" of the West by the Islamists? If the West and the "western question" brought to the Islamic world since the late 19th century by the rise of western civilization is somehow constitutive of modern Islamic identity through "representation of the other" how realistic is it to search for peace and understanding concerning the West and Western/modern values in the Islamic world instead of adopting a clash of civilizations approach? Is there hence any possibility of a dialogical relationship between Islam and the West, and expansion of modern political values like human rights, democracy, secularism and pluralism into the Islamic countries? Thus the course will explore the arguments that modern Islamic identity was a response to the challenge of the West posed in the 19th century. Western penetration into the Islamic world starting with the 19th century was a defining element in the making of a modern Islamic identity. By the first half of the twentieth century, the West had colonized more than two-thirds of the Muslim world, from Africa and the Middle East to Asia. Western superiority in military, political, economic and cultural fields dominated the Muslim mind at the turn of the 20th century. The Muslims were introduced to "modernity" by the domination of the Western civilization. The result, which will be debated thoroughly in the course, was the construction of 'modern' Islamic identity in relation (or opposition) to the West, western civilization and western political values.

September 11 also led to intensification of the debate on compatibility of Islam to modern political values. On the one hand it was argued that Islamic teaching is in line with democratic civilization and has nothing to do with violence inflicted on 'civilization' and 'civilizing values'. On the other some argued that there are inherent problems in Islam as to its relations with the Western civilization and democratic governance along the Western model. In response to this debate the course will examine the position of the Islamic movements vis-a-vis modern political values such as human rights, democracy, pluralism and secularism, which are conventionally rejected by the Islamists as products of western civilization. The course will examine historical, ideological and economic roots of modern Islamic identity with special reference to the West. An attempt will also be made to understand recent signs of 'rethinking' the West, 'western/modern' values and westernization by explaining the themes and terms of the Islamists' debate.

Thus within the course the attitudes of the Islamists concerning the West, westernization and Western/modern values and the shift that seems to take place in recent years in these attitudes will be studied. The course will explore Islamic identity politics and its attitude towards the West and western polity. The course will also explore the possibility for coexistence of Islam and the West by focusing on the elements of dialogue and cooperation. Yet one has to admit that September 11 made this rapprochement more complicated on the parts of both Western and the Islamic worlds.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by the 'Islamic' terrorist and the ensuing 'crusade' waged by USA President Bush against global terrorism have brought the relationship between Islam and the West to political as well as academic agenda. Amid the talks of clash of civilizations both in the West and the Islamic world there seems to emerge a new "iron curtain" between the West and Islam. The form of relationship between Islam and the West will have great impact on international peace and harmony. The course will examine in detail the impact of September 11 both on the Islamic world's perception of the West and the Western perception of Islam with reference to the arguments of clash of civilizations argued by some from both sides. It will also be debated if multi-culturalism may suffer as a result of tension emerged since September 11.

The course, while working on the assumption that the West and its representation in the Islamic world was an essential dimension of modern Islamic identity, will also present cases for the presence of a rapprochement with the West and modern/western values in recent years. While recognizing the common views, policies and beliefs among the Islamists the course will not approach the Islamic groups as if they are a monolithic entity. In recent years it can be observed that in a ‘unique’ way some moderate groups of Islamists have departed from their conventional position and seemed to engage in a process of 'rethinking' the west, modern/western political values and westernization. This new trend, although reflected only by moderate Islamic groups, is worth studying. Rethinking the west and westernization has its roots in recent political developments in the Muslim world where experimentation with "Islamic state" has failed in countries like Iran and the Sudan while it has not even captured power in the rest notably in Algeria, Egypt and Turkey. The result seems to be disillusionment with "political" Islam and a retreat to "social Islam" with no claim for political power. As Islamists move to turn "social" not "political" the chance to be more accommodative towards the West and modern/western political models is expected to increase. Thus the changing discourse of some Islamist groups concerning the West and modern political values even in the post-September 11 context presents an important sign for a possibility of rapprochement between Islam and the West. The course will therefore deal not only with "formation" of Islamic identity in relation to the west but also "trans-formation" of it again with reference to the West.

Course Syllabus and Lecturers

Historical Roots of Clash and Dialogue (Anoush Ehteshami)

1. Early Historical Encounter
. The Challenge of the West in Modern Times
. Cooperation and Confrontation Through Foreign Policy

From Domination to Globalization (Anoush Ehteshami)

1. Islamic World in the Global Age
2. Islam, Globalization and the West

Islam and Politics (Ihsan Dagi and Hakan Yavuz)

1. The Rise and Fall of Political Islam
2.De-politicization of Islam: the Rise of 'Social' Islam

Islam and the 'Modern' Political Values (Ihsan Dagi and Hakan Yavuz)

2.Human Rights

September 11: Roots, Responses and Results (Sadik al-Azm and John Calabresse)

1. September 11, the West and Islamic World: Debates and Representation
2. The US Response
3. Muslim World’s Reactions
4. Clash of Civilizations Revisited

Islam in the West: Identity and Politics (Plamen Makariev)

1. Islam in the Balkans
2. Islam in Western Europe

Identity Formation and Representation of the Other (Plamen Makariev and Sadik al-Azm)

1. Formation of the West and Islam
2. Formation of Islamic Identity and the West: Orientalism or Occidentalism?

Details of Course Content






Historical Roots of Clash and Dialogue:

1. Early historical encounter
. The challenge of the West in modern times

. Cooperation and Confrontation Through Foreign Policy



Lecture + participant presentations

Is it possible to discuss Islam-West relations outside their historical settings? Does historicity of Islam-West relations still imprison the sides in the age of globalization? How do the Islamic countries respond to the West through their foreign policies?

From Domination to Globalization

1. Islamic World in the Global Age
. Islam, Globalization and the West



Lecture + participant presentations

Where does the Islamic world stand vis-à-vis globalization? What are the political, economic and social impacts of globalization on the Islamic communities? Is it a new wave of peripherization of the Islamic world? What are the actors that are pro-globalization and anti-globalization? How does it influence Islamic communities’ approach to the West?

Islam and Politics:

1. The rise and fall of political Islam
.De-politicization of Islam: the rise of 'social' Islam

Ihsan D. Dagi (1)


Hakan Yavuz (2)


Lecture + participant presentations

What is the future of political Islam? Can it be substituted by social Islam? Is social Islam stripped off politics? Can we separate the social from the political in general and in Islamic countries?

Islam and the 'Modern' Political Values

.Human Rights

Ihsan D. Dagi


Hakan Yavuz (3-4)


Lecture + participant presentations

Is an "Islamic democracy" that incorporates modern notions of human rights, democracy and pluralism possible? Can Islam be secularized? Is democratization in Islamic countries a threat to stability and order?

September 11: Roots, Responses and Results

1. September 11, the West and Islamic World: Debates and Representation
The US Response
. Muslim World’s Reactions
Clash of Civilizations Revisited

Sadik al-Azm



John Calabrese (2, 3, 4)


Lecture + participant presentations

Is terrorism inherent in Islam? Can it be explained by references to political and economic circumstances? Will September 11 lead to a clash of civilizations? What were the responses of the US? How were they perceived by the Islamic countries? Did September 11 enhance historical stereotypes among the Muslims and the Christians or will it be a turning point for the search for dialogue? Are pluralist open societies with multi-cultural presence vulnerable to terrorist attacks?

Islam in the West: Identity and Politics

1. Islam in the Balkans
Islam in Western Europe

Plamen Makariev


Lecture + participant presentations

Is Islam and the West separable in the age of globalization? Is there a "European" Islam? Does it present a case for co-existence of civilizations in a globalized/multi-cultural world?

Identity Formation and Representation of the Other:

1. Formation of Islamic identity and the West
. Formation of the West and Islam

Sadik al-Azm (1)


Plamen Makariev (2)


Lecture + participant presentations

Is the history formative of social/political identities? What are present and what are re-presented in Islam and in the West? Are identities bound by the others?

Methodology and Assessment

The course will heavily rely on English-language literature on the subject matter. The literature will be chosen to represent the debate. Yet the students will be asked to develop a critical view of both the original text of the Islamic thinkers and the academics. For a critical reading of the texts written by Islamist leaders and intellectuals a discourse and content analysis will be encouraged.

The course will be organized in the forms of lectures and a critical debate to be followed by the contributions of the participants. As a course designed to be at post-graduate level a participatory and interactive format will be chosen instead of a one-way dictates of the lecturer.

Intensive reading of the course material and participation in discussion sessions that takes place at the end of each topic will be the essential parts of the course. The participants will be also asked to prepare and present case studies during the course in an attempt to broaden the debate.

Assessment of the participant's performance will be made at two stages. First their performance will be assessed by the presentation they will be asked to do. Second the participants will be asked to write a final essay on a topic covered by the course which will be assessed by the committee comprising of all lecturers.

Non-discrimination policy statement
Central European University does not discriminate on the basis of--including, but not limited to--race, color, national and ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation in administering its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.



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