AKF once again teamed up with the Jaipur Literature Festival for a vibrant weekend of debate and discussion featuring writers, poets, historians, journalists and more. We were proud to be participating in and sponsoring four great talks:
Christopher de Bellaigue in conversation with William Dalrymple
A revelatory and game-changing polemic that rewrites everything we thought we knew about the modern history of the Islamic world. Christopher de Bellaigue presents an absorbing account of the political and social reformations that transformed the lands of Islam in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Islamic Enlightenment is an astonishing and revelatory history of Middle Eastern history. Beginning his account in 1798, de Bellaigue demonstrates how Middle Eastern heartlands have long welcomed modern ideals and practices, including the adoption of modern medicine, the emergence of women from seclusion and the development of democracy. With trenchant political and historical insight, de Bellaigue further shows how the violence of an infinitesimally small minority is in fact the tragic blowback from these modernising processes. What makes The Islamic Enlightenment particularly germane is that non-Muslim pundits in the post-9/11 era have repeatedly called for Islam to subject itself to the transformations that the West has achieved since the Enlightenment―the absurd implication being that if Muslims do not stop reading the Qur’an and other holy books, they will never emerge from a benighted state of backwardness. The Islamic Enlightenment, with its revolutionary argument, completely refutes this view and reveals the folly of those demanding modernity from those whose lives are already drenched in it.
Vasuki Shastry, Steve Tsang, Ellen Barry and Lijia Zhang in conversation with Salil Tripathi
While the phenomenal economic rise of India and China is of key interest to economists around the world, the civilisational links between these two ancient cultures are equally fascinating. A session on how the ‘elephant’ and the ‘dragon’ negotiate their relationship with each other and how their growing influence is reshaping the world. Author and expert on Asian economies and public policy Vasuki Shastry, Political scientist and historian Steve Tsang, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ellen Barry and factory worker-turned writer Lijia Zhang discussed the two Asian superpowers and their impact on the world as we know it with author Salil Tripathi.
Navin Chawla, Mukulika Banerjee and Meghnad Desai in conversation with John Elliott
India is the world’s largest democracy. It has faced daunting challenges, sustaining democratic institutions against all odds. India’s vigorous political system remains credible and sound in its fundamentals, and almost a billion citizens, young and old, exercise their constitutionally given freedom to choose in what remains a disciplined and peaceable process. A session that examines the results of the recent national elections as well as the strengths and fault lines in India’s democratic convictions with Mukulika Banerjee, Navin Chawla and Meghnad Desai in conversation with John Elliott.
Zulfikar Hirji, Sussan Babaie, Vivek Gupta and Venetia Porter in conversation with William Dalrymple
Muslims have always had complex artistic responses to their faith, and while some elevated the arts (i.e. visual, musical, and literary) to their greatest heights, others have regarded artistic expressions as opposed to Islam’s doctrines and values. This session examined the very varied historical and contemporary responses to the Islamic arts that Muslims have had and considered the plurality of ways in which the arts have played a critical role in expressing Islamic ideas and concepts.