Seminari Alta Scuola
FSCIRE, Biblioteca La Pira, Via Umberto Maddalena, 112, 90137, Palermo

Global Islam between East-West Encounters in the Colonial Age

Umar Ryad
KU Leuven

The seminar will zoom in on various Muslim intellectual and religious figures, practices and responses to Europe in the global context of the colonial age. We shall see how Muslim reformers in their collective religious and political actions deployed different strategies to counter the western assumption that Islam is not compatible with modernity, science, rationality and progress.  In their encounters with the colonial realities, Muslim modernists and reformers tried to create a global Muslim civilizational discourse in order to refute the idea of the “inferiority” of Islam as compared to the West, which was shared by European Christian missionaries and secular theorists alike. Among the topics which we will discuss are: 1) pan-Islamism and anti-imperialist resistance, 2) religious and political projects for the umma in early-twentieth-century, and 3) Muslim religious and political activism in Europe.

Umar Ryad is Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Leuven, member of the Young Academy of Belgium (2018-2023) and holder of Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for Experienced Researchers (2021-2024) at the Centrum für Nah- und Mittelost-Studien (CNMS), Philipps-Universität Marburg. He is also currently the chair of the research unit East Asian and Arabic Studies, and the director of Leuven Center for the Study of Islam, Culture and Society (LCSICS). He earned a BA in Islamic Studies in English from Al-Azhar University in Cairo (1998), followed by an MA degree in Islamic Studies (2001, Cum Laude) and a PhD degree (2008), both from Leiden University. Prior he has worked as assistant professor at the University of Leiden (2008-2014) and as associate professor at Utrecht University (2014-2017). His current research includes the dynamics of the networks of pan-Islamist movements, Arab reception of Orientalism, Muslim polemics on Christianity, the European trans-imperial connections with the Hajj, transnational Islam in the modern world and the application of Digital Humanities to Arabic and Islamic Studies.