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From the Sharia to Turkish soap operas

Knowledge of Islam and of Muslim societies is indispensable when trying to properly understand the globalising world, as well as changing Dutch society. Researchers from Leiden are therefore immersing themselves in the languages, culture and religion of Muslim societies. Their work and insights can now be explored in the online dossier on Islam and Society.

Islam is a dynamic phenomenon

It is commonly held that there are as many Islams as there are Muslims. In Leiden, scientists therefore approach the religion both as a dynamic, worldwide phenomenon and at the same time as a product of local experiences and customs. Researchers from Leiden talk about the history of Islam in the online dossier on Islam and Society. Professor of Arabic Language and Culture Petra Sijpesteijn studies what it meant to be a Muslim in various periods in history. How did those past societies function and how did people interact with each other? And what does this tell us about contemporary Muslim societies? Sijpesteijn combined official documents with ‘informal’ sources to answer these questions.

Turkish soap operas raise taboo issues

Promo from the Turkish soap opera Şefkat Tepe (Compassion Hill) © Samanyolu TV.
Promo from the Turkish soap opera Şefkat Tepe (Compassion Hill) © Samanyolu TV.

But modern issues are also discussed. Turkey specialist Petra de Bruijn explains, for instance, how the growing religiosity of Turkish society is reflected in popular soap operas aired on religious and pro-government television channels. For a number of years now, the sympathetic characters have always been pious Muslims, while the bad guys indulge in alcohol abuse and other inappropriate vices. The dossier also discusses the Islamic judicial system, the Sharia: How does it work? And what religious rules are alive and well in Islamic societies, regardless of their presence in national legal frameworks? And how are they being treated by lawmakers and judges?

Islam and the West

How are Muslims in Western societies protecting their identities? How much room do they have to do so, what barriers do they come up against and how do Muslims respond to them? This chain of action and reaction is being studied by Professor Maurits Berger. His research focuses not just on Muslims in Western countries, but also on the influence that Western ideas have on Muslims in the rest of the world.

Islam Outreach Programme

Maybe you have been inspired by the website and would like to know more about Islam? The Leiden Islam Outreach Programme offers a number of courses that are accessible to everyone. On 21 May, for instance, the three-day programme on ‘Introduction to Islamic Theology’ will begin.

From language to tax evasion

The online dossier on Islam and Society is the latest addition to a series of websites on some of the most exciting research being done in Leiden. The dossiers are intended for the media and the mainstream public. Scientists from very diverse disciplines talk about their fascinating specialisms and the impact of their work on society.

In the dossier on Language Diversity linguists talk about how world languages can unearth a wealth of information about periods in history and people about whom we have no written sources.

How do multinationals evade paying taxes, and how can we resolve this problem? You can find out more about this subject in the online dossier on International Tax Law.

(13 May 2015)

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