Cosmopolitans and Heretics: New Muslim Intellectuals and the Study of Islam

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Columbia University Press, 2011 - Religion - 324 pages

Contemporary critiques of Islam focus more on politics and the rise of extremism than on the development of liberal alternative discourses, which have gained impressive traction among Muslim intellectuals in recent decades. These individuals now engage their Islamic heritage in more creative ways, understanding Islam in the comprehensive terms of a civilization rather than in the strict terms of a religion, and deploying relevant theories from the Western human sciences to build a more expansive history.

Cosmopolitans and Heretics examines three of these individuals and the controversy, if not outright accusations of heresy, their work has produced: Nurcholish Madjid, Indonesia's most prominent public intellectual; Hasan Hanafi, one of Egypt's leading philosophers; and the influential French Algerian historian Mohammed Arkoun. Grounding their reading of the Islamic tradition within modern, Western religious scholarship, these figures counter narrow conceptions of a monolithic Islam with their cosmopolitan attitudes. Underscoring the global dimensions of a new Muslim intellectualism, this volume is a welcome and necessary addition to the intellectual history of the modern Muslim world.

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About the author (2011)

Carool Kersten is lecturer in Islamic studies at King's College London. He earned his MA in Arabic language and culture, a certificate in Southeast Asian studies, and a Ph.D. in the study of religions at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and has worked for many years in the Middle East.

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