Ebrahim Moosa on the Challenges Facing Islam

Professor presented Thomas Langford Lecture Tuesday

Ebrahim Moosa discusses new developments in the Islamic world.
Ebrahim Moosa discusses new developments in the Islamic world.

With a daily surplus of images and negative
portrayals of Muslims in multiple societies around the world and in the US,
Muslims face a "very dismal picture of ethical life among this faith
community," Professor Ebrahim Moosa said Tuesday as part of the Thomas
Langford Lecture Series.

"Saturated media coverage spotlights the
reprehensible deeds of a range of Muslim actors: from the pitiless brutalities
of terrorists and their apocalyptic visions, to the painful accounts of women
at the receiving end of misogynous practices," said Moosa, a professor of
religion and Islamic studies. "As true as many of these headline items
might sound, any reasonably informed person would agree they do not tell the
whole story.  The acts of a few, some
people would resolutely argue, have managed to tarnish the reputation of
millions and dehumanize an entire civilization."

Moosa, who spoke on "Contesting Virtue:
Between Law, Ethics and the Public Good in Contemporary Islam," was one of
four Duke faculty members chosen this school year to receive the Thomas
Langford Lectureship Award, presented annually to provide Duke faculty with an
opportunity to hear about the ongoing scholarly activities of new or recently
promoted colleagues.

research interests span both classical and modern Islamic thought, with a
special focus on Islamic law, history, ethics and theology.  

In the wide ranging lecture and question
session in the Doris Duke Center, Moosa addressed challenges in the realm of religious
thought in Islam, including how Islamic laws in the 9th and 10th
centuries translate today in South Asia and elsewhere, the often deadly consequences
faced by writers and scholars accused of committing acts of apostasy and
blasphemy, inroads of new media and technology into the madrasas, and the place
of religion in the global public sphere.

"It is difficult to forecast the future
of Islam as a complex and varied religious tradition which is inflected with
multiple cultures and civilizations of the world," said Moosa, who joined
Duke just weeks before Sept. 11, 2001. "But all of you have witnessed in
just a decade, from Sept. 11, 2001, to the Arab Spring of January of 2011, the
sea change that has occurred in one part of this very diverse map of a discrete
civilization.  I do not need to tell you
that this is one massive and fast-moving work in progress."

As part of his introductory
remarks, Provost Peter Lange quoted a review describing Moosa's work as "sophisticated, relevant, technically sound, ideationally
rich; challenging, fresh, imaginative and at times provocative." He also
read a comment by a Duke student that Moosa "keeps the lectures from
getting too boring and occasionally goes on some pretty funny rants."

members from the Committee on Appointments, Promotion and Tenure choose four to
five recipients of the Langford Lectureship award each year. Lange created the award in 2000 to promote the legacy of Thomas
Langford, who served as Divinity School faculty member, dean and provost at

year's lectureship awardees also include Anirudh Krishna, professor of public policy and political science;
Vincent Conitzer of computer science & economics; and Jenni Groh professor of psychology
and neuroscience.