Erasmus Prize awarded to Islamic thinkers
In November, three Islamic thinkers were awarded the Erasmus
Prize 2004. They are Sadik Jalal Al-Azm from Syria, Fatema Mernissi
from Morocco and Abdulkarim Soroush from Iran. The theme of this
year's award was 'Religion and modernity'. The prizewinners are
all very involved in the modernisation processes going on within
Fatema Mernissi is famous for such works as her
Beyond the veil book published in 1975 about the role of the woman
in the Islamic world. She is an important figure in the Moroccan
women's rights movement and for many years now has been organising
writing workshops based on the Civil Society model. A major theme
of her current work as a sociologist is the impact of satellite
television and the Internet on Islamic society and on the woman's
role in it.
Abdulkarim Soroush is an Islamic who champions
cultural diversity, democracy and human rights from a religious
perspective. For him, this does not mean secularism but instead
a democratic society founded on religious principles. For instance,
he does not oppose the sharia, advocating instead a new interpretation
based on the principles of human rights. After years of exile he
has now returned to Iran. He has been called 'the Martin Luther
King of Islam'.
Sadik Jalal Al-Azm's field of activity is the
area of tension between orthodox ideology and modern reality. He
argues that in practice the Arabian world is very secular, but that
this secularism lacks ideological underpinning and embedding in
law. He sees today's extremism as a last-ditch stand against this
secularism. Al-Azm is emeritus professor of Modern European Philosophy
at the University of Damascus.
The Erasmus Prize is awarded each year to a person or institution
that from a European perspective has made an extraordinarily important
contribution in a cultural, social or socio-scientific field.