On 4 December, AKU-ISMC held the inaugural Research Fellowship Programme Seminar for faculty and research staff of the Institute, to introduce its research fellows and their projects, as well as raise questions related to the development of a collaborative research project for the fellows. The seminar is the first of the Research Fellowship Programme Seminar Series, which will culminate in an international workshop in 2009, leading to a publication.
In addition to providing an opportunity for Research Fellows to share their research projects and progress to date; the seminar presented the opportunity for the Institute’s faculty and staff to contribute to the conceptual process. As the inaugural seminar, the aim was to provide an introduction to the work of each fellow, as well as to the concept of a collaborative research project.
Professor Abdou Filali-Ansary, Director of the Institute, introduced the fellows and the proposed collaborative research project – ‘Dynamics of Networks and Institutions in Predominantly Muslim Contexts’. Initial discussions held with the research fellows led to the identification of a number of overlapping research themes and interests, which resulted in the consideration of this common project.
The Institute has awarded four research fellowships to researchers who are working on various aspects of social change within Muslim contexts: Habiba Fathi (France); Torkis Lubis (Indonesia); Iftekhar Iqbal (Bangladesh); and Bakary Sambe (Senegal).
Habiba Fathi’s project, Islam, the State and the Transformation of Rural Space in post-Soviet Central Asia: a Study of the Family Through its Exchange Strategies , aims to study new relationships developing between independent states and Islam, from the perspective of social change.
Beginning with an exploration of family structures in the rural areas of post-Soviet Central Asia, the research project aims to explore the role and status of religion in the context of nation building; the impact of land privatisation on rural dwellers; and, Muslim actors within society who are involved in these processes of social change.
More generally, it will analyse relations between the religious, political, and economic fields. To this end, the project will take into account both local and national levels affected by rural transformation of Post Soviet Central Asia in order to identify internal factors that may influence the redefinition of the norms, socio-cultural and religious values of a given group.
Torkis Lubis’ research project, The Debate between the Indonesian Muslim Scholars Council (MUI) and the Contemporary Liberal Islamic Network in Indonesia seeks to map the landscape of Islamic institutions – in particular the Indonesian Scholars Council (MUI) and the Liberal Islam Network (LI) – considered within the multicultural and socio-culturally complex Indonesian context.
This research project aims to explore the above organisations – highlight their discourses and reflect on their contribution to intellectual life in Indonesia. As the major concerns of the Ulama in Indonesia have been the issues of Tajdid and Ijtihad, Lubis’ research will seek to place these concerns within the perspective of ‘modernity’.
Iftekhar Iqbals’ research project, Beyond ideological paradigms: an exploration of the relationship between secular and Islamic civil societies in Bangladesh , seeks to explore the relationships between the two mutually contesting paradigms of secular-liberal civil society and an emerging ‘Islamic civil society’, with specific reference to Bangladesh.
Three interconnected sets of queries will engage these themes in order to examine their relationship. The first set of questions relates to the evolution of the above forms of civil society in Bangladesh since 1971, when the country was born, breaking away from Pakistan. The second set of issues relates to the institutional and socio-cultural manifestations of the two paradigms – the signs, symbols and languages employed to indicate legitimacy. The third set of queries concentrates on the specific areas of contestations between the two paradigms.
Iqbal’s research aims to show that the key to understanding the so called ‘failure’ of the state in Bangladesh, and by extension many postcolonial Muslim countries, lies in understanding the temporal significance of tensions arising out of the claims of each paradigm to the formative process of state-building.
Following the introduction to the projects of each research fellow, a discussion was held, raising questions about each project, as well as the proposed collaborative research project – ‘Dynamics of Networks and Institutions in Predominantly Muslim Contexts’. The seminar was the first of a series to be held over the course of the academic year.
Coordinator, Planning & Academic Development
Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations