Islamophobia and resurgent anti antisemitism are becoming new traits of European "modernity" and that is being replicated in other societies as well. Let us take a moment -ask ourselves and history two questions: what is modernity in narrowest political frameworks and who do Europeans owe their modernity to?
It is the separation of state and church which becomes the criteria to declare one's state or society modern.
Answer to the second question is Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Muslim by faith and Musa ibn Maimoun (Rabbi Moshe ben Mainmon), Jew by faith.
Sometimes it becomes important to remind ourselves about histories and remember where the process of reformation began. That will help us to find relevance of past in our day to day lives.
Close reading of Ibn Rushd and Musa Ibn Maimoun's life is more important than ever before. Their arguments on secularism and secular state authority are not just important to Europeans, they are relevant to countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka who all are on the path of modernity. They have past, strong red lines of faith. There are many in these nation-states who have aspirations to construct plural and inclusive societies placed on firm pillar of secularism.
To flame those aspirations this time we will be visiting 12th century Andalusia (in Spain) and learn about the adventures of Ibn Rushd and the challenges he faced in his times by watching the Egyptian movie "Al Massir" -Destiny.
About Al Massir (135 minutes): Al Massir directed by Youssef Chahine is set in the 12th century in Arab-ruled Spanish province Andalusia, where famed philosopher Averroes is appointed grand judge by the caliph and his liberal court judgments are not liked by everyone. The caliph's political rivals, centered around the leader of a fanatical Islamic sect, force the caliph to send Averroes into exile, but his ideas keep on living thanks to his students.
The movie also gives the glance of intolerance and censorship faced by those who challenge the existing norms which is no different from present times of ours where bloggers, writers, painters are murdered, placed behind bars or sent in exile for showing dissent.
To build up for the movie, we will be reading a chapter from Githa Hariharan's new book "Almost Home" where she has highlighted the role played by Ibn Rushd and Musa Ibn Maimoun in European Renaissance.