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Erasmus Prize 2004 awarded to: Abdolkarim Soroush

Erasmus  Prize  2004  awarded  to  Sadik Jalal Al-Azm,  Fatema Mernissi and  Abdulkarim Soroush

The Patron, H.R.H. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, and Board of the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation, have decided to award the Erasmus Prize 2004 to Sadik Jalal Al-Azm (Syria), Fatema Mernissi (Morocco) and Abdulkarim Soroush (Iran).

The Erasmus Prize is awarded annually to a person or institution that has made an exceptionally important contribution to European culture, society or social science. The amount of the Prize is € 150.000. The presentation of the Prize will take place in the autumn of 2004 in Amsterdam.

'Religion and Modernity' is the subject of the Erasmus Prize 2004. Recent global developments in the political and social sphere have given new impetus to the societal and intellectual debate on the relationship between religion and modernity. In this debate the question is raised of what is the position of religion with regard to modernisation processes in society, processes such as knowledge development, secularisation, individualisation and democratisation.
At present it is especially modernisation processes in relation to Islam, which attract attention worldwide. One of the central questions concerns the attitude of Muslims toward social, political and religious implications of modernity. What sort of different positions do they take up with regard to such matters as democracy, separation of church and state, and human rights, including women's rights? To what extent do they take inspiration from modern philosophical and cultural movements? Where do they place the limits of criticism on their own religion and its traditions and customs? On matters such as these a broad range of opinions is voiced, varying from highly traditionalist to very enlightened.
In Western Europe, the public debate about Islam and modernity at the same time also leads to self-reflection. Western Enlightenment, generally considered the cradle of modernity, is critically being re-examined. For instance, while raising the question of whether religion should be an impediment to modernisation, one should realise that modernisation processes may not always follow the course of models developed in the West.
Given the broad, general scope of the subject, the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation wishes to do justice to a diversity of views, to a variety of themes and to regional differences. For this reason it has decided to divide the Erasmus Prize 2004 among three laureates. The three laureates have, each in their own way, occupied themselves with the question of how modernisation processes and cultures which are permeated by religion can be combined. They deserve a worldwide audience. In alphabetical order, the laureates are Sadik Jalal Al-Azm (Syria), Fatema Mernissi (Morocco), and Abdulkarim Soroush (Iran).


Sadik J. Al-Azm (retired Professor of Modern European Philosophy at the University of Damascus) was born in Damascus, in 1934, member of a well-known Sunnite family.
In 1963, after studies at Yale University he lectured philosophy at the American University of Beirut. Not considering himself a Marxist in particular, he rather sees himself as a materialistic thinker who in a practical way deals with the political and social circumstances in which he finds himself.
Al-Azm became well known with his book Self-criticism after the Defeat (1968), in which he gives an analysis of the Arab disillusionment after the Six Days War. Apart from publications in Arabic some of his books appeared in English translation. Besides, his books were published in German, Dutch, English, Norwegian and Italian (Unbehagen in der Moderne. Aufklärung im Islam,1993; Kritiek op godsdienst en wetenschap. Vijf essays over islamitische cultuur, 1996; L'Illuminismo islamico. Il disagio della civiltà, 2002).
During his career he taught, not only in Damascus and Beirut, but also at Harvard, Princeton and the University of Hamburg (visiting professor in 1998). In 1990/91 he was fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. He stayed as a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. during 1992-93. He lectured in Antwerp and in Amsterdam (2003). In 2004 he will be visiting professor at the University of Antwerp.
In May 2004 he will receive the Dr.-Leopold-Lucas-Preis of the Evangelical-Theological Faculty of the University of Tübingen.

Select bibliography
Kant's theory of time, New York, Philosophical Library 1967
The Origins of Kant's Arguments in the Antinomies, Oxford, Clarendon Press 1972
Whitehead's Notions of Order and Freedom, The Personalist: a quarterly journal of philosophy theology literature 48: 579 (1967)
An-Nakd adh-dhati ba'da  al-hazima, Dar al-Tali'a, Beiroet 1968 (= 'Zelfkritiek na de nederlaag')
Naqd al-fikr ad-dini, Dar al-Tali'a, Beiroet 1969 (= 'Kritiek op het religieuze denken')
The Importance of Being Earnest about Salman Rushdie,  Die Welt des Islams: internationale Zeitschrift für die Entwicklungsgeschichte des Islams, besonders in der Gegenwart 31:1-49 (1991)
Unbehagen in der Moderne. Aufklärung im Islam, Frankfurt a/M 1993
Islamic fundamentalism reconsidered: a critical outline of problems, ideas, approaches, South Asia Bulletin. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East XIII: 93-121 (1993); XIV: 73-98 (1994)
 Is Islam Secularizable? In P. Koslowski & P. Schenk (Hrsg.), Jahrbuch für Philosophie des Forschungsinstituts für Philosophie Hannover, 15-24 (1996)
Kritiek op godsdienst en wetenschap. Vijf essays over islamitische cultuur, Amsterdam 1996
Dhihnijjat at-tahriem; Salman Rushdie wa-hakiekat al-adab, London/Beiroet 1992
= 'De mentaliteit van het tot taboe verklaren; Salman Rushdie en de waarheid van de literatuur'
= Beyond the Tabooing Mentality: Reading the Satanic Verses, Damascus and Beirut 1997
An Interview, Arab studies quarterly 19: 113-126 (1997)
Trends in Arab Thought, Journal of Palestine Studies: a quarterly on Palestinian affairs and the Arab-Israeli conflict 27: 68-80 (1998)
The View from Damascus, New York Review of Books, 15 June 2000
The View from Damascus continued, New York Review of Books, 10 August 2000

Born in Fez (Morocco) in 1940, Fatema Mernissi studied political sciences at the University of Rabat, the Sorbonne in Paris and Brandeis University (Massachusetts). She published several books on the position of women in the rapidly changing Muslim communities in Morocco. Raised in the harem of a well-to-do businessman in Fez, she had the possibility to describe this institution from the inside.
In 1975 she published the result of her first fieldwork: Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society. In 1985/87 a revised edition followed in which she added an extensive consideration on the social changes that had taken place since her first investigation.
The first books in which she expressly spoke for the emancipation of women were banned in Morocco. Since then most of her work was originally published in English or French. It has been translated in many languages and is widely read, also in Islamic countries. In the 80s of the last century she directed sociological research for UNESCO, ILO and UNFPA (Population Fund). This resulted in a book with selected interviews: Doing daily battle, 1988 (Le Maroc raconté par ses femmes, 1983).
In the mid 90s Fatema Mernissi stopped working on women's issues and switched to civil society as her major topic. She has served as a member in many national, pan-Arabic and international forums on women and development in the Islamic world. Presently she is Lecturer of Sociology at the Mohammed V University of Rabat, and Research Scholar at the University Institute of Scientific Research.
In May 2003 Fatema Mernissi received the Príncipe de Asturias Award for Letters.

Select bibliography
Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society, 1975 (rev. 1987)
Le Maroc raconté par ses femmes, 1983
L'amour dans les pays musulmans, 1984
Femmes du Gharb, 1985
Le harem politique, 1987
Shahrazad n'est pas marocaine, 1988 (rev. 1992)
Sultanes oubliées, 1990
La Peur-Modernité, 1992
Women's Rebellion and Islamic Memory, 1993
Dreams of Trespass. Tales of a Harem Girlhood, 1994
Les Aït-Débrouille, 1997
Etes-vous vacciné contre le Harem?, 1998
Scheherazade Goes West, 2001

Abdulkarim Soroush (pseud. of Hossein Dabbagh) was born in Tehran in 1945. After being trained in Tehran as a pharmacologist and philosopher he left for the United Kingdom where he studied history and philosophy of science, particularly the philosophy of Popper and Kuhn. During the months preceding the Islamitic Revolution of Iran Soroush had a large share in the gatherings of young muslims, opponents of the Shah's regime, that took place in the London imam-barah. His book, Dialectical Antagonism, a compilation of his lectures delivered in the imam-barah, was published in Iran. When the revolution began, in 1979, Soroush returned to Iran. In the spring of 1980 Soroush was appointed member of the Council for the Cultural Revolution, established by Ayatollah Khomeini. In 1982 he left this council for good and never accepted any governmental offices after that. Among the subjects he taught in Tehran University and elsewhere the Islamic mysticism, especially Rumi's Mathnawi, was a major one. Soroush became member of Iran's Academy of Sciences in 1990. However, he became gradually more critical of the political role played by the Iranian clergy and after a few years distanced himself from this role. As a result he not only became subject to harassment and censorship, but also lost his job and security and was forced to leave the country for England and Canada in 1996.
In 1990 he and a number of his closest friends founded a monthly magazine Kiyan which soon became the most visible forum ever for religious intellectualism. In this magazine he published his most controversial articles on religious pluralism, hermeneutics, tolerance, clericalism etc. The magazine was clamped down in 1998 among many other magazines and newspapers by the direct order of the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic. About a thousand audio tapes of speeches by Soroush on various social, political, religious and literary subjects delivered all over the world are widely in circulation in Iran and elsewhere.
From the year 2000 onwards Abdulkarim Soroush has been a Visiting Professor in Harvard University teaching Islam and Democracy, Quranic Studies and Philosophy of Islamic Law. Also a scholar in residence in Yale University he is currently teaching Islamic Political Philosophy at Princeton University. For the next academic year he will be a visiting scholar in the Wissenschaftkolleg in Berlin.

Select bibliography
Dialectical Antagonism (in Farsi), Tehran 1978
Philosophy of History (in Farsi), Tehran 1978
What is Science, what is Philosophy (in Farsi), 11th ed. Tehran 1992
The Restless Nature of the Universe (in Farsi and Turkish), reprint Tehran 1980
Satanic Ideology (in Farsi), 5th ed. Tehran 1994
Knowledge and Value (in Farsi)
Observing the Created: Lectures in Ethics and Human Sciences (in Farsi), 3rd ed. Tehran 1994
The Theoretical Contraction and Expansion of Religion: The Theory of Evolution of Religious Knowledge (in Farsi), 3rd ed. Tehran 1994
Lectures in the Philosophy of Social Sciences: Hermeneutics in Social Sciences (in Farsi), Tehran 1995
Sagaciousness, Intellectualism and Pietism (in Farsi), Tehran 1991
The Characteristic of the Pious: A Commentary on Imam Ali's Lecture About the Pious (in Farsi), 4th ed. Tehran 1996
The Tale of the Lords of Sagacity (in Farsi), 3rd ed. Tehran 1996
Wisdom and Livelihood: A Commentary on Imam Ali's Letter to Imam Hasan (in Farsi), 2nd ed. Tehran 1994
Sturdier than Ideology (in Farsi), Tehran 1994
The Evolution and Devolution of Religious Knowledge in: Kurzman, Ch. (ed.) Liberal Islam, Oxford 1998
Political Letters (2 volumes), 1999 (Farsi); 3rd volume in preparation
Reason, Freedom and Democracy in Islam, Essential writings of Adbolkarim Soroush, translated, edited with a critical introduction by M. Sadri and A. Sadri, Oxford 2000
Intellectualism and Religious Conviction (in Farsi)
The World we live (in Farsi and Turkish)
The Tale of Love and Servitude (in Farsi)
The definitive edition of Rumi's Mathnavi  (in Farsi), 1996
Tolerance and Governance (in Farsi), 1997
Straight Paths, An Essay on religious Pluralism (in Farsi), 1998
Expansion of Prophetic Experience (in Farsi), 1999
The Divine Ethics (in Farsi), 2001


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