Re-theorizing Democracy and Islam

How to talk about the relationship between Islam and democracy in the wake of "The Arab Spring", or what I call "The Categorical Revolution"? While there are efforts to begin to analyze the relationship differently, the dominant debate on Islam and democracy continues to operate in the realm of normativity. In this presentation, I engage with key literature showing the limits of such a line of inquiry. Through the case study of India's Islamist organization, Jamaat-e-Islami, I aim to shift the debate from textual normativity to demotic praxis. I demonstrate how Islam and democracy work in practice, and in so doing offer a fresh perspective to enhance our understandings of both Islam and democracy. One of my key propositions is that rather than discussing the cliché of whether Islam is compatible with democracy, or if Islam should be democratized, we should study the 'hows' of the de-democratization of Muslim polities.

Irfan Ahmad (Ph.D. University of Amsterdam) is an anthropologist and lecturer in politics at Monash University, Australia. Before taking up his current appointment, he taught at Utrecht University and University of Amsterdam. He was a Rubicon Postdoctoral Fellow at Leiden University, The Netherlands. Irfan is the author of Islamism and Democracy in India: The Transformation of the Jamaat-e-Islami (Princeton University Press, 2009) which was short-listed for the 2011 ICAS (International Convention of Asian Scholars) Book Prize for the best study in the field of Social Sciences. His numerous articles have appeared in leading journals. He is a contributor to the prestigious The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought.  Irfan is on the Editorial Committee of South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies and Associate Editor of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. He has held a visiting fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Gottingen, Germany. Irfan contributes to debates in the media and his interviews have appeared in Dutch, English, Hindi, Malayalam, Turkish and Urdu (BBC) media.
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