IIIT hosted Dr. Louay Safi, Common Word Fellow at Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding (ACMCU), the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, on Friday, May 27, 2011. Dr. Louay spoke on Christian Muslim Encounters: Conflict, Cooperation and Convergence. The presentation was based
on research work he is conducting, supported by IIIT, with the aim of producing a book manuscript before
the end of 2011.
In his lecture, Dr. Louay contends that modern society is shaped by a set of beliefs and value systems rooted in the Abrahamic tradition (Millat Ibrahim) and that the beginning of modern society started with the message of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), centuries before the Reformation. He referred to Hegel's famous work A Revolution from the East in support of his argument. The fundamental principles, shared narratives and values are all centered around the idea of a living God, human agency before authority, equal dignity and equal access to the divine, ethical basis for society and freedom of choice as the basis for responsibility and accountability to society.
The rivalry between Christianity and Islam – Dr. Louay argues – occurred throughout history in the realm of politics and not theology. Islam, by its very nature, doesn’t have a theology that precludes social action. He maintains, however, that the life of Jesus himself was testimony to his focus on action and resistance to tyranny. The Muslims entered into war with Byzantium – and not Abyssinia - for political reasons and not over theology. However, he concludes that while Christianity succeeded – through the Reformation of containing the transgressions of the State in Europe and later in America, leading to laying the foundations of liberal democracy, Islam fell short of taming the transgressions of the authoritarian political culture in most parts of the Muslim world leading to the thriving Sultanic attitude among Muslim rulers.
Dr. Louay Safi is currently Common Word Fellow at the Center of Muslim Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. He was associate faculty at Indiana University, and fellow of the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding. He authored eleven books, including The Qur’anic Narrative (Prager, 2008), Tensions and Transitions in the Muslim World (University Press of America, 2003), Peace and the Limits of War (International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2001), and Truth and Reform (The Open Press, 1998). He is a founding member of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), served as executive director of the Leadership Development Center of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). He also served as Executive Director and Director of Research of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) and editor of the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (AJISS) and President of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS).