By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS
Camp Meeker (Calif.)–February 28th–This discussion was observed some time ago in Berkeley, but your essayist is only finding the time to write it up this Sunday afternoon.
Asadâ€™s father was an Austrian Jewish convert to Islam and his mother was a Muslim-born woman. The philosophically-oriented Talal was born in the Saudi Kingdom, but raised in India and Pakistan. The younger Asad was trained as an anthropologist, and now is a professor in New York City. Your critic is mainly familiar with his compilations as an historian.
He began the exchange with â€œâ€¦I can give you aâ€¦location [of] where I am [stand] today. I was much more confident [of] rational criticismâ€ in the past than now. â€œWorking through certain materialists, [can be]…positive.â€ In this way, he has transformed the Islamic tradition to respond to Western Secularism with an (Islamic) Modernism of its own uniqueness, â€œâ€¦a straight forward approach â€¦â€ to problem solving (â€œreality testingâ€) is required according to our philosopher.
â€œâ€¦ [cultural] continuity is still relevantâ€¦for creativity.â€ The question is â€œWhat can be continued and why,â€ but he still has much to work out for a comprehensive â€œcritiqueâ€¦I donâ€™t know what we can doâ€¦Thinking is good [positive], but what kind of thinking?â€
Speaking especially of the Middle East, â€œLife isâ€¦entangledâ€¦The scope of the horror has tremendously increasedâ€ with the Afghani and Pakistani theaters, â€œWe are in a new type of Warâ€¦â€ Unlike President Obama, he disagrees with the Just War theories (both Christian and Islamic). There is a threat of a nuclear holocaust at present. We are following a suicidal logic!
In the Occident, Classic Eighteenth Century â€œLiberalism hasâ€¦evolved historically [into Neo-liberalism during our generation]…â€ Sarcastically, he exclaimed â€œLet the market ruleâ€ although â€œâ€¦the State can interveneâ€¦â€ â€œTheâ€¦Westâ€¦ [â€˜s cultural] languageâ€™â€™ contains violenceâ€¦â€ He, personally, does not hold to a Culture of Death as he describes it.
â€œâ€¦any texts we write can be interpreted in many waysâ€¦â€ Curiously, therefore, he maintains he is not responsible for his writings.
Although he is fully conversant in European and American humanism, â€œâ€¦I am committed toâ€¦ [the]â€¦values of Islamâ€¦â€ constantly employing his religion within his philosophical doctrines. Towards the end of the dialogue, he noted certain similarities between Eastern Christianity and Islam. In this manner, he has emphasized the commonality between the roots of the West and the Islamic; and, thereby, a space for meeting.