HATTIESBURG, MS (THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI) – Much of the tension
in the Islamic world today can be traced back to French colonialism according to Dr. Ben Hardman, assistant professor of religion at The University of Southern Mississippi.
In his new book, "Islam and the Métropole," Hardman explores the colonial practices of France regarding Islam and the effects they had on religion in the early days of the Algerian Independence. This book posits Algeria as a reflection of the struggle of the Islamic world in the 20th and 21st century with contemporary politics and philosophy.
"The rediscovery and reconstruction of Islamic culture in Algeria is fascinating," Hardman said. Algeria is of particular interest, because she was incorporated into France for 132 years and suffered an organized problem of cultural cleansing before regaining political independence in 1962. There is much in this book that could inform America's current projects in the Middle East and in Iraq."
The book is based on 19th Century theories of progress from Saint-Simonian thought and the philosophy of Auguste Comte, who conceived religion as a symbolic language to be used for political gains in the name of progress. In a movement to legitimize colonial repression, traditional Islam was depicted as backward thinking while using the language of "progress" which created dissonance that continued during the early days of the Algerian Independence.
"Currently, there is a movement afoot to oppose "Islam and The West." Yet, Islam suffered immensely in the name of a democratizing civilizational experiment that posited the abjuring of Islam as a precondition for modernity."
Hardman, who specializes in Islam as a first-year professor at Southern Miss, became interested in this topic while living in Algeria for four years and Maghrib for more than 10 years. He has previously taught at universities in New Jersey, Kentucky, West Virginia and Tunisia.
For more information on "Islam and the Métropole," contact Hardman at 601-266-4518 or Benjamin.Hardman@usm.edu.