Islam, Globalization, and Postmodernity

By Akbar S. Ahmed; Hastings Donnan | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Islam in the age of postmodernity

Akbar S. Ahmed and Hastings Donnan

Islamic studies-or the study of Muslim groups and their religion Islam-has been changing dramatically in the last decades. Until recently, Islamic studies was largely the exotic focus of a relatively small group of academics who wrote books about it mainly for one another's consumption. Many of these intellectuals were based in the West, and few of these were Muslims. The Muslim voice itself was seldom heard outside the Muslim world. This has been changing, partly in response to the fact that the lives of many ordinary Muslims have been changing, and partly as a reflection of the equally dramatic changes taking place in the world more generally. Many factors can explain this, and this book sets out to trace both their impact on Muslims and the latter's responses to them.


GLOBALIZATION

Firstly, we consider the phenomenon sometimes referred to as globalization. Since it is not always clear that people mean the same thing when they talk about globalization-some talk about globalization theory, others about a global process defined with varying degrees of precision (see Robertson 1987; 1990:19-20)-it is as well to be clear at the outset about how the term is used here. By globalization we principally refer to the rapid developments in communications technology, transport and information which bring the remotest parts of the world within easy reach (cf. Giddens 1990:64). For instance, today if a development takes place in New York it can be relayed instantly across the world to Cairo or Karachi. A good example of this process of globalization is the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie which began in the late 1980s in the United Kingdom with the publication of The Satanic Verses. Within hours, developments in the United Kingdom-in Bradford and London-provoked responses in Islamabad and Bombay. Indeed, people died as they protested against the book. Government pronouncements, media chat shows, editorials, vigils and protests reflected the heated debate. Never

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