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Ayesha Jalal
Muslims and Liberalism: Insights from Colonial India

Thursday | October 25, 2018
DML 240 | 4:00 pm

Do Islamic imperatives prevent Muslims from embracing liberal values? Or is Western liberalism designed to exclude Muslims?  This lecture addresses these questions by assessing Indian Muslim responses to the liberal ideals propagated by the British in India during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  It will question the Orientalist privileging of “religion”, narrowly and imprecisely defined, to the point of reifying Islam in everything Muslims think, say or do. The aim is to offer an alternative and historically nuanced interpretation of “liberalism” or, more aptly “roshan khayali’ (enlightened thought) as understood by Muslims, who not only engaged with but also exposed the contradictions in the articulations and practices of Western liberalism in the age of empire.

Dr. Ayesha Jalal studies South Asian history and the history of Muslim identity.  She is the Mary Richardson Professor of History and the Director of the Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies at Tufts University.  Jalal’s work explores the creation of Muslim identities across South Asia.  She is the author of more than ten works on the history of India and Pakistan, including The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League, and the Demand for Pakistan (1985) and The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics (2014). She has received numerous accolades for her work, including the 1980 Prize Fellowship of Trinity College, the 1998 MacArthur Fellowship, and the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, one of the highest civilian awards in Pakistan.

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