Session 1: Introduction to “Islam at the Crossroads”

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It is undeniable that Islam is today in a condition of deep crisis. Political upheavals that dominate popular discussion of the subject are no more than surface expressions of a problem of historic dimensions: the inability of Islamic scholars and institutions to reconcile the teachings and perspectives of their Faith with the realities of modernity. Democratic and constitutional government, pluralistic societies, the authority of the sciences, such principles as gender equality and religious freedom, a rapidly integrating world all these familiar features of contemporary civilization pose insurmountable challenges to anyone who attempts to accommodate them to religious guidance laid down fourteen centuries ago for an earlier, much simpler stage in humanity’s social evolution. One sees in contemporary Islam a society desperately searching for and failing always to find, a formula that will make it possible to retain traditional Muslim faith in God while embracing the inescapable requirements of a world beyond the imagination of ages past.