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Critical Thinking within Islam #2: Lecture and text by Michiel Leezenberg

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In his lecture Inleiding tot de filosofische traditie binnen de islam [Introduction to the Philosophical Tradition in Islam], Leezenberg refutes the cliché that Islam has no Enlightenment tradition, and zooms in on two important thinkers from the classical period: Al-Farabi and Abu Bakr al-Razi. In the accompanying text Vrijdenken binnen de islam [Free-thinking within Islam] he talks about classical Islamic civilization, and sheds light on the work of certain philosophers and free-thinkers from that period. Their relevance today, including in the general debate on Islam, is also discussed.

Michiel Leezenberg

Michiel Leezenberg works in the philosophy and classical languages departments of the University of Amsterdam. He studied philosophy, classical languages and general linguistics in Amsterdam, after which he made several longer study and research trips to the Middle East. He has taught as a visiting professor in, among others, Paris, Krakow, Ghent, Leiden and Erbil (Iraq). In 2001 he published Islamitische filosofie: Een geschiedenis [Islamic philosophy: a History], that was awarded the Socrates challenge cup for the best Dutch-language book on philosophy. In 2017 his De minaret van Bagdad:  Seks en politiek en de islam [The Baghdad Minaret: Sex and Politics and Islam] appeared. He also regularly publishes scientific articles on the history and philosophy of the humanities, and on the intellectual history of the Islamic world, in particular on Kurdish culture and literature.

Critical Thinking within Islam

VUB Crosstalks and Moussem set up a lecture series on critical thinking within Islam. In their ideas about Islamic civilisation both Muslim extremists and Islamophobes go back to an originally 'pure' Islam, which was supposedly born 1400 years ago, but in reality did not really exist. Islam was never one block, one movement. On the contrary, it has always been a very diverse culture, strengthened by acculturation and by coming in contact with the Greek, Persian, Indian, African culture etc. A history that is also full of dissidence, heresy and rebellion. These sects and alternative theological currents are at the root of a fascinating culture of debate. Philosophers from the golden age of Islam such as Al Farabi, Averroës, Avicenna, Abu Al Alaa Al Ma'ari Abu Bakr Al Razi, Omar Khayyam, Abu Hayyan Al Tawhidi... are founders of a culture based on reason and science. In today's complex world, attention to these forgotten thinkers is more than necessary.
In this context, we present a series of online lectures and publish a new text by the speaker that relates to the theme.


Lectures and publications are protected by copyright, but may be used in an educational context, provided the name VUB Crosstalks and Moussem are mentioned and the authors are notified in advance.

Thoughts and opinions expressed in the lectures and publications belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the organizations presenting this programme.


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