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Public Lecture: "Social Innovation for Peaceful Coexistence: Intercultural Activism from Rumi to Gülen" by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz

Jointly Organised by 

The International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia
Malaysian Turkish Dialogue Society (MTDS)

Venue: IAIS Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.

Date: 31st March 2015 (Tuesday)

 Time: 3:00pm – 5.15pm

Ihsan Yilmaz iais

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Speaker: Associate Professor Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Fatih University, Istanbul, Turkey

Lecture Summary

"What would Mevlana Jalaluddın Rumi say to Europe if he lived in today's world?"

Despite the fact that some Muslims in the world have been radicalized as a result of being challenged and influenced by the juggernauts of modernity, nationalism, imperialism and neo-colonialism in addition to being harshly subjected to ignorance, poverty and dissension, the overwhelming majority of Muslims still believe that respect for diversity - as exemplified in the ideas and practices of Rumi and many others - is a religious obligation. When we look at modern times, this tradition is represented in the Turkish milieu by sufis and scholars, such as Mevlana Khalid-i Bağdadi, Bediüzzaman Said Nursi, Muhammed Lutfi and, recently, Fethullah Gülen. It would not be wrong to argue that Gülen is today's most prominent representative of apolitical Turkish Islam or Turkish Muslim identity based on socially active but tolerant Sufism (tasawwuf), which was once represented by activist scholars like Rumi. These Muslim scholars are social innovators - to use the modern terminology - who endeavor to address the pressing spiritual, social and cultural needs of the masses in tune with their respective zeitgeists. But they perform their tasks without radically departing from tradition and authentic religious sources, which allows them to maintain their legitimacy with the Muslim public. Although Rumi lived about 800 years before Gülen, they both lived in cosmopolitan environments and thus both made intercultural dialogue their main tool of in the search for social inclusion, coherence and peaceful coexistence. They also endeavored to strike a delicate balance between serving the community, solving pressing problems, challenging threats to the coherence of society and staying away from the instrumentalist use of religion in politics.

Both Rumi and Gülen have the same main messages of acceptance of the other and peaceful coexistence and they both employed similar instruments, such as socio-cultural activism, education and intercultural dialogue. Likewise, both men have been accused of seeking political power, although when analyzed in detail it can be seen that their ideas and practices have little to do with daily politics.

Gülen is renewing Rumi's message in accordance with the contemporary needs of the public for a lasting peaceful coexistence through education and dialogue. Given that Rumi's ideas and practices are deeply rooted in Islam, Gülen could be said to represent a renewal (tajdid) of Islam, which is another dimension of his social innovation.

About the Speaker

Dr.IhsanYilmazAssoc. Prof. Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz received his BA in Political Science and International Relations from the Bosphorus University, Istanbul in 1994 and completed his PhD at the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences, SOAS, University of London in 1999.

Between 1999 and 2001, Dr. Yilmaz worked as a fellow at the University of Oxford. From 2001 to 2008, he taught Turkish government and politics, legal sociology, comparative law and Islamic law at SOAS, University of London, where he also served as the Deputy Chair of the Centre for Ethnic Minority Studies (2003-2008) and the Director of the London Centre for Social Studies (2003-2008). Currently, he is an associate professor at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Fatih University, Istanbul.

His research interests include Turkish government and politics; media and politics; Islamism in international and global perspective; faith-based movements; Islam-state-society-law relations; diaspora studies; centre-periphery relations and sociology of Muslim law in the West. He has been publishing on these issues in the international scholarly journals as well as presenting conference papers at the eminent universities such as Harvard, Georgetown, Oxford, and Cambridge.

Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz is also a regular columnist at Today’s Zaman, an English language daily published in Turkiye.


2:00pm–3:00pm Registration
3:00pm–3:05pm Opening Remarks by the Moderator, Tengku Ahmad Hazri Tengku Zainal Abidin, Research Fellow, IAIS Malaysia  
3:05pm–3:10pm Welcoming Remarks by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil, Deputy CEO, IAIS Malaysia
3.10pm–3.15pm Welcoming Remarks by Dr. Alettin Duman, President, Malaysian Turkish Dialogue Society (MTDS)
3:15pm–4:15pm Presentation by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz
4:15pm–5:15pm Q&A Session
5:15pm Concluding Remarks by Moderator; Adjournment and Refreshments


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Contact Information

International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia

Jalan Elmu, Off Jalan Universiti 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tel: +603-7956 9188

Fax: +603-7956 2188 / +603-7956 2966

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