Islam and Multiculturalism
A Fundamental Research Project for Constructing Symbiosis with Islam
We are pleased to announce that the proposal for an “Islam and Multiculturalism: A Fundamental Research Project for Constructing Symbiosis with Islam” project based at Waseda University’s Organization for Islamic Area Studies has been accepted by the JSPS’s Asia & Africa Science Platform Program.
Please refer to the following web site for an overview of the JSPS’s Asia & Africa Science Platform Program.
This “Islam and Multiculturalism” project will be implemented in academic year 2011 as follows.
- It will be structured into two research offices, in Japan and Malaysia.
- The Japan-side research office will be located at Waseda University’s Organization for Islamic Area Studies.
- The Malaysia-side research office will be located at the University of Malaya’s Asia-Europe Institute.
The “Islam and Multiculturalism” project has three objectives.
- Understanding the background and current status of Islam vis-a-vis multiculturalism.
- Building a bridge between modern science and Islam.
- Laying the groundwork for a model for coexistence with Islam.
Note the choice of Malaysia as a counterpart for the first objective, “understanding the background and current status of Islam vis-a-vis multiculturalism”. In Malaysia, multiculturalism is a matter of national policy. But at the same time, Islam forms the nucleus of cultural policy in Malaysia. Multiple ethnicities and cultures already coexistence there. This research project’s counterpart office at University of Malaya’s Asia-Europe Institute has previously gathered a wealth of information on Malaysian multiculturalism, which is the core of their ongoing work.
Malaysia is the home of indigenous peoples, as well as merchants from the coast of China, and South Indians who arrived via a long-standing network of marine trade routes. Moreover, it is home to the peoples of the states of Sarawak and Sabah on the island of Borneo. Separated from the Malaysian peninsula, these states have their own cultural traditions and strong ties to Western Europe as former British colonies. Having maintained separate identities in the midst of such religious and historic diversity, they have a learned wisdom on peaceful coexistence. In the Islamic world, even the Middle East and the coastal regions, the existence of such an Islam so strongly tied to multiculturalism is worthy of special attention.
Yet, at the same time Malaysia has been dealing with these ongoing multicultural issues, it has undergone internationalization and has lead the economic development of South-east Asia. It is also noteworthy as a member of the international community that has toed the line of globalism.
Today, symbiosis with Islam is of course an issue faced by not just Malaysia and Japan, but the world at large. With ongoing rumblings of conflict with Islam, and Islamic “fundamentalism” in particular, an understanding of the historical ties between the international community and all Islamic regions, including the Middle East and South-east Asia, is indispensable in considering coexistence with Islam from a global standpoint. Coastal nations in particular attract workers with varying ethnicities and religions from countries around the world, which raises the issue of how these diverse cultural traditions can live together in peace. Among the Persian Gulf nations, the Qatar campus of Georgetown University is known as a leading institution for international political studies. With the cooperation of its scholars, we will examine the relationship between all Islamic areas and the international community.
A scientific examination of the past and present of multiculturalism in Malaysia, and a broader examination of all Islamic areas (including Persian Gulf states like Qatar) and their relationships to the international community, will provide hints for constructing a model for symbiosis with Islam. This first objective will be the focus of our work in 2011. But, bearing in mind the overarching theme of “Islam and Multiculturalism: A Fundamental Research Project for Constructing Symbiosis with Islam”, this work will continue into 2012 and beyond.
In regards to the second objective, “building a bridge between modern science and Islam”, the application of Islamic law and ethics to modern science is causing a great deal of debate in the Islamic world, not just about the chemical composition of food and medicine, but about topics like genetic engineering, cutting-edge medical techniques, and the global environment. But, at the same time, these are also hot topics for the international community at large.
While there are very few Muslims in Japan, Islamic countries do have strong ties to Japan as trading partners and tourist destinations. In contrast, multi-ethnic Malaysia, despite Islam forming the core of its cultural policies, has seen remarkable economic growth for a South-east Asian country. Putting these together, an examination of Islam’s stance on modern science is uniquely positioned to bring out meaningful academic exchange between Japan and Malaysia.
Through joint research and exchange of opinions with scholars in Malaysia, an advanced Islamic South-east Asia country, we can start to formulate plans for an academic bridge between modern science and Islam. In 2011, we will start the planning to make this second goal a main theme of our joint research. In 2012, we will begin to implement those plans. In regards to the third objective, “laying the groundwork for a model for coexistence with Islam”, the Waseda University Organization for Islamic Area Studies, as a Japanese base for Islamic area studies, is moving forward with multi-faceted research on topics from the thought that underlies Islamic law, to the particularities of life in different Islamic regions.
Capitalizing on these strengths, we will use the multi-faceted analysis (begun in 2011) of Malaysian multiculturalism’s history, current state, and place in the world, and the analysis (begun in 2012) of Islam’s handling of modern science, to lay the groundwork (in the final year of 2013) for construction of a model of symbiosis with Islam.
With this as our base, and through ongoing research, our goal is to establish an international center for Islamic understanding in Japan.