Does the loss of faith in a supernatural God or the divine origin of the Qur’an invariably lead to a radical break with the diverse cultural traditions of the Muslim world? How can one adopt a humanist stance without internalizing negative stereotypes about a community that has historically been demonized and largely viewed through an orientalist lens? What are the diverse cultural resources available to humanists emerging from Muslim communities as they attempt to create alternatives to faith-based communities and to diversify the larger humanist movement in North America?
Ginan Rauf draws on Anthony Pinn’s notion that cultural difference is a promise rather than a problem as she addresses these questions. Poetry, philosophy, popular culture and the literary arts have always flourished in the Muslim world, allowing people to practice humanism with a small “h.” Serious engagement with this history is crucial for creating humanistic communities and expanding spaces for freedom of expression.
Ginan Rauf is an activist, educator, photographer, oral historian and mother. A secular humanist and feminist, she is committed to promoting critical thinking and a nuanced knowledge of human cultures. She is a founding member of the humanist organization An-Nas: Humanists Rising from Muslim Communities, and co-founder, with her son Sherif Ahmed, of Narrative Lives, which produces oral histories using various mediums including photo essays, videos and audio recordings. Rauf’s PhD from Harvard is in comparative literature, and her MA degree from Brandeis is in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies from Brandeis University. Rauf has taught at Brandeis, Rutgers, University of Connecticut and University of Bridgeport, among others.
This week’s shared charity is the International Rescue Committee (IRC), whose mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods have been shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and rebuild their lives.