Keywords: Al-Azhar Park, Aziz Al-Azmeh, Charles Baudelaire, cosmopolitianism, Durkheim, everyday pluralism, Jafar Panahi, Kevin McDonald, modernity, post-secular, tradition.
Modernity is best understood in the context of everyday pluralism. Here, cultural and political realities do not dwell in compartments labelled ‘east’ and ‘west’, but instead overlap and intertwine. In the convergence of what is ‘Muslim’, ‘secular’ or ‘traditional’ and what is not, everyday cosmopolitanism is a more reliable measure of modernity than are ideologies of the state or of social movements.
From births, weddings and funerals, to rules on who inherits property and where you park your car: these everyday practices come together to shape the ‘social imaginary’ that we have as communities and societies finding our way in the world. The everyday may be mundane and routine, but it is where modernity is actually encountered and made sense of. There is even high poetry in the everyday, as we are reminded by T.S. Eliot, Saadi Youssef and Forugh Farrokhzad.
Amyn B. Sajoo is a Scholar-in-Residence at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Comparative Muslim Studies in Vancouver, Canada. A specialist in international human rights, civil society and public ethics, Dr Sajoo was educated at King's College London and McGill University, Montreal. He has taught at the University of British Columbia, McGill, Simon Fraser University and The Institute of Ismaili Studies, and was a 2005 Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University.
Dr Sajoo earlier served as a human rights advisor with the Canadian department of Justice in Ottawa. He also served as a Canada-ASEAN Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, where his fieldwork in Indonesia and Malaysia culminated in the monograph Pluralism in Old Societies and New States (1994). He subsequently led a comparative civil society seminar project at the IIS, and was editor of the ensuing volume, Civil Society in the Muslim World: Contemporary Perspectives (2002).
As the chief editor of the IIS’ Muslim Heritage Series, Dr Sajoo launched A Companion to the Muslim World in 2009, which was followed by A Companion to Muslim Ethics in 2010 and A Companion to Muslim Cultures in 2011. His work on plural modernities resulted in the edited volume Muslim Modernities: Expressions of the Civil Imagination in 2008. Dr Sajoo is the author of Muslim Ethics: Emerging Vistas (2004), and has contributed extensively to scholarly journals and anthologies, as well as to the newsmedia on both sides of the Atlantic - including the Guardian, the Globe & Mail, the Times Higher Education Supplement, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
The latest volume in the Muslim Heritage Series, published in 2018 is The Shari‘a: History, Ethics and Law