On Civil Islam, Education, Sharia Law and Ethics, and Democratization

A Conversation with Robert Hefner

January 14, 2021
12:30 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. EST
Location: Online Zoom Webinar

Robert W. Hefner is a professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University (BU). For three decades, he worked with renowned sociologist Peter L. Berger and served as director or associate director of the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs (CURA) at BU. He has directed 24 major research projects, organized 19 international conferences, and published 21 edited or single-authored books and seven major policy reports for the U.S. government and private foundations on issues ranging from Muslim politics and sharia law to citizenship and civic education in Western democratic societies. Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, has been the primary focus of Hefner’s anthropological research, complemented by field studies of religion and citizenship in Malaysia, Singapore, France, and the United States.

Hefner joined Berkley Center Senior Fellow José Casanova to discuss the background to and aftermath of his major work Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia (2000) and the promises and limitations for democratization in Muslim-majority countries two decades later. The two scholars also discussed the dynamics of contention and patterns of collaboration between public and Muslim education in Indonesia and the broader Muslim world, as well as between public and religious education globally. They considered how the rise of mass education and the profound changes taking place in the everyday lives and aspirations of Muslims around the world (women in particular) have created powerful social pressures for the reformation of Muslim public ethics and popular understandings of sharia. Finally, they considered how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is impacting global social orders and the struggle for a socially effective and inclusive civility. This was the ninth conversation in the Global Religious and Secular Dynamics Discussion Series.

This event was co-sponsored by Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and Reset Dialogues on Civilizations.

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