‘Religion of War, Religion of Peace’ – Arrival Lecture of Abdolkarim Soroush

On 7 december 2006 Abdolkarim Soroush will deliver his Arrival Lecture as ISIM Visiting Professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and ISIM have jointly organized this lecture to mark the start of the cooperation by which they host Abdolkarim Soroush from 15 November 2006 through 15 September 2007.

Abdolkarim Soroush (Tehran, 1945) is a leading philosopher of Islam, a reformer, and a public intellectual.

Abdolkarim Soroush’s research focuses on philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, Islamic philosophy, and the philosophical system of Rumi. Abdolkarim Soroush maintains that one should distinguish between religious and divinely revealed as the interpretation of religion or religious knowledge is based on socio-historical factors.

After having studied Pharmacy in Iran and Analytical Chemistry in London, Dr Soroush focused on History and Philosophy of Science in the UK. During his London years, the confrontation between the people and the Shah’s regime in Iran was gradually becoming more serious, and political gatherings of Iranians in America and Europe, and Britain in particular, were on the increase. Soroush, too, was drawn into the Revolution.

After the Revolution, Soroush returned to Iran, where he was appointed the Director of the newly established Islamic Culture Group. One year later, Ayatollah Khomeini appointed him a member of the new Cultural Revolution Institute. The purpose of this institute was to bring about the re-opening of the universities and total restructuring of the curriculums.

In 1983, he transferred to the Institute for Cultural Research and Studies where he has been serving as a senior scholar until today. He submitted his resignation from membership in the Cultural Revolution Council to Ayatollah Khomeini and has since held no official position within the ruling system of Iran, except occasionally as an advisor to certain government bodies.

During the 1990s, Soroush gradually became more critical of the political role played by the Iranian clergy. He co-founded the monthly magazine, Kiyan, where he published his most controversial articles on religious pluralism, hermeneutics, tolerance, and clericalism. The magazine was clamped down in 1998.

About a thousand audio tapes of speeches by Soroush on various social, political, religious and literary subjects delivered all over the world are widely in circulation in Iran and elsewhere.

In recent years Dr Soroush has been a Visiting Professor at Harvard University, teaching Islam and Democracy, Quranic Studies and Philosophy of Islamic Law; a Scholar in Residence at Yale University; and teaching Islamic Political Philosophy at Princeton University. From 2003 until his arrival at VU and ISIM, he has been a Visiting Scholar at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin.

Among his publications is, in English:
Reason, Freedom and Democracy in Islam, Essential Writings of Adbolkarim Soroush, translated, edited with a critical introduction by M. Sadri and A. Sadri, Oxford 2000.

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