Michael PrivotUniversity of Liège
Michael Privot has a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from the University of Liège (BE). He studied previously Arabic as a major and compared history of religions. His fields of research range from classical Islamic philosophy to religious based radicalization. He is increasingly profiled as a liberal theologian reflecting on how to articulate Islam in the specific European episteme of the 21st century. He is the founder of the European Institute for the Studies of Islam, currently collaborating on the development of a European Master’s degree programme to train ulamas for contemporary Europe. Michael is Scientific collaborator at the University of Liège and is also the executive director of a key European antiracist network. His upcoming book explores a methodology for generating contemporary forms of Islamic theology.
Communicating a historical-critical history of Muhammad in Muslim milieus: challenges for pedagogy and faith
In 2018, I authored with the Belgian playwriter Ismaël Saidi (author of the international success theatre play Djihad, seen by more than half a million people) a totally new way of narrating the Sîra: a 6 chapter dialogued history book targeting late teenagers tapping into pop culture as well as the latest developments of critical academia on the formation period of Islam in the Arabian peninsula during the 1st quarter of the 7th century (Mais qui était vraiment Mahomet? Le prophète comme on ne vous l’a jamais raconté, Flammarion, 2018). While building the book was a challenge in itself, we anticipated its reception would be interesting to follow, in particular in Muslim milieus. Without surprise, the feedback has been ranging from enthusiastic to fiercely opposed or disdaining. Critical approaches to the formation period of Islam raise as many questions as they bring enlightening perspectives on the deep embeddedness of Muhammad and the Quran in one of the most specific anthropologies and cultures in history. After having engaged for one full year with different audiences on our conclusions (with youngsters in prisons, in classrooms, with adults from all backgrounds including imams), we feel it is time to share our learning about how, as European Muslims, we can engage our communities in adopting a more reflexive approach to some elements of traditional Sîras that amount to myths and support them in redefining, rebuilding a (more cogent?) faith in the process.