The annual York-Noor Lecture Series will present two talks by Professor Farid Esack, a South African Muslim theologian and visiting professor at Harvard University, examining the larger theological and ethical questions related to Muslim identity and the current struggle to re-shape the meaning of Islam.
The first talk, titled "Muslim Minorities: Beyond an Existence in the Belly of the Beast", takes place from 3:30 to 5:30pm on Sunday, April 6, at the Noor Cultural Centre, 123 Wynford Dr. (DVP & Eglinton), Toronto.
The second talk, co-sponsored by the York Centre for International & Security Studies, titled "Beyond Uncle Sam and Osama: Reflections on Islam, Empire and Justice" takes place on Monday, April 7, from noon to 2pm in York Lanes, Keele campus.
In "Muslim Minorities: Beyond an Existence in the Belly of the Beast", Esack will argue that since Sept. 11, 2001, Muslims in many parts of the world feel increasingly challenged by political and security concerns as they struggle to negotiate their own survival in the West. He will also look at some of the larger theological and ethical questions related to Muslim identity and survival as a minority.
Right: Farid Esack
These questions include – does a faith community only seek to survive? Or, how do we negotiate the tensions between survival as a community on the one hand and, on the other, continue to affirm the value of Islam as a deeply personal matter which simultaneously seeks to challenge all systems that seek to reduce human beings to commodities and the earth to real estate?
After experiencing South Africa’s struggle for liberation, Esack went on to study in Pakistan, the UK and Germany. He is currently the Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal visiting professor of contemporary Islam at Harvard University.
In his second talk – "Beyond Uncle Sam and Osama: Reflections on Islam, Empire and Justice" – Esack will examine how Muslims are increasingly being presented as awkward and not entirely dependable citizens or allies of the Empire requiring a more hands-on type of management.
"The project to embrace Muslims as part of the larger family of humankind can at times even be an extension of empire building," says Esack. "Yet, Muslims are not agency-less victims of an empire ‘out there’. Muslims are not immune from the hegemonic impulse both in terms of buying into dominant power systems as well as nurturing visions of becoming the ultimate imperial power."
In his discussion, Esack will reflect on the current struggle to re-shape the meaning of Islam and the larger political context wherein the war for the minds of Muslims is taking place. He will also critique the dominant "presentation" of Islam and Muslims as violent or peaceful.
He is the author of Qu’ran, Liberation and Pluralism (Oneworld Publications, 1997), On Being a Muslim: Finding a Religious Path in the World Today (Oneworld Publications, 1999) and The Qur’an: A User’s Guide (Oneworld Publications, 2005). He is also the author of HIV, AIDS & Islam – Reflections Based on Compassion, Responsibility, and Justice (Positive Muslims, 2004).
He has published on Islam, gender, liberation theology, interfaith relations, and Qur’anic hermeneutics, served as a gender commissioner for South Africa and taught at the University of Western Cape, the University of Hamburg, the College of William & Mary, the Union Theological Seminary in New York and at Xavier University in Cincinnati.
For more information on the York-Noor Lecture Series, visit York’s Division of Humanities Web site.