Panelists Rashad Ali, Andrew Scott, Fariborz Pooya, and Dolan Cummings discuss religion and radicalism. Alex Hochuli moderates the event.
We're told that religion today is radical. Islamic extremists, evangelical fundamentalists, Catholic militants - the threat that faith poses to secular society is an aggressive, assertive and vehement one.
But historically, the faithful were slated by humanists for their conservatism - where religion went wrong was its opposition to change, not its advocacy of it. So are the religious now radical - or has secular society simply taken on the conservatism of its God-fearing forebears?- IoI
Born and raised in Sheffield, Ali Rashad is a specialist in Islamist economic theories, Muslim sectarianism, and an avid reader of classical Muslim scripture. Until recently, he was a leading member of Hizb ut-Tahrir.
He sat as an activities director on the secret command structure of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, the Wilayah committee. He was a contributor and a member of the editorial board of the group’s flagship publication, Khilafah magazine. He regularly wrote and edited many of the mass-distribution leaflets HT produced. His seniority and grasp of Party literature led him to become head of the 'source cell' in Britain, or instructor to cell instructors. He authored HT’s widely distributed book (now retracted by him), The Method to Re-establish the Khilafah.
After a period of suspension from Hizb ut-Tahrir, the global leadership of the Party - or al-Qiyadah - requested Rashad return from Qatar to Britain to help in reviving UK Party activities. By that time, however, he had begun his journey out of Islamism altogether. Soon, his public disagreements and condemnation of the leadership led to his expulsion from Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Until early 2007, he was a lecturer at King Abdul Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He also taught at Taybah University in Medina. He recently worked as a financial consultant with Royal Sun Alliance, specialising in research and development of Muslim-related products and markets.
Rashad is the author of several articles on Islam and modernity, as well as demonstrating the scriptural deviancy of Islamism from traditional Muslim discourse.
Rashad holds an MA in Islamic studies from Loughborough University, majoring in Islamic Law and Economics. Among his other interests are classical literature and music.
Dolan Cummings is research and editorial director at the IoI. He edits the IoI's reviews website, Culture Wars and is a co-convener of the yearly Battle of Ideas festival, next taking place in London in October 2007.
Cummings's interests lie in the relationship between ideas and politics, the role of the intellectual, ideology, and religion in public life. He is especially interested in the question of intellectual authority and how it is contested. Cummings firmly believes that politics should start from the needs and passions of the public, and that this puts a premium on open debate and free speech. Most recently he has edited a collection of essays, Debating Humanism by contributors to the Battle of Ideas 2005.
His interest in the role of intellectuals builds on Ideas, Intellectuals and the Public, a conference he organized in 2003.
Alex Hochuli is a masters student in European studies at King's College London and editor of the Battle of Ideas and Institute of Ideas websites.
He assists in the development of the IoI's communications and new media, and with the Debating Matters Competition. Alex is a Battle of Ideas committee member and is on the editorial team of the 2007 Battles in Print.
He occasionally writes articles for spiked and reviews for Culture Wars. Alex co-edits the Manifesto Club freedom blog, Speaking Our Mind, and is a regular guest on news discussion programme Up Front on internet talk TV channel 18 Doughty Street.
Alex is a recent graduate in International Relations and History from the London School of Economics (LSE) with a special interest in religion and secularism, co-producing the IoI and Bishopsgate Institute series of debates on secularism in early 2008. He also has a keen interest in issues relating to the media and the internet, particularly with regard to censorship and free speech.
Fariborz Pooya is the co-editor of WPI Briefing and member of the Worker-communist Party of Iran.
Andrew Scott studies theology at Glasgow and is a member of the SCM group there.