Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World
by Carl W. Ernst
(c) 2003 by the University of North Carolina Press. All
Dr. Carl W. Ernst (right) receives the Distinguished Prize in the
Humanities at the Bashrahil Prize award ceremony in Cairo on July 4.
UNC ISLAM SPECIALIST WINS NEW ARAB PRIZE
(Chapel Hill, N.C.) Dr. Carl W. Ernst, professor of religious studies at
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a leading scholar of
Islam, received a major new prize from an Arab cultural organization in
Cairo on July 4.
The Distinguished Prize in the Humanities, which carries a $30,000 cash
award, was established this year in Egypt by the board of trustees of
the Shaykh Muhammad Salih Bashrahil Prize for Outstanding Cultural
Ernst won one of four distinguished prizes awarded in different fields
to recognize "an Arab who stands out for his pioneering role and
impressive accomplishment on the Arab cultural scene, or a notable
figure, Arab or foreign, whose role has been effective and influential
in the fields of social and humanistic activity."
Ernst was awarded the prize for his recent book Following Muhammad:
Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World (UNC Press). The book
introduces readers to Islamís ethics, practices, spirituality, and
culture, while clarifying the diversity and debate within the tradition.
It concludes with an overview of critical debates on important
contemporary issues such as gender and veiling, state politics, and
science and religion.
Other distinguished prizes were awarded to Amre Moussa,
SecretaryGeneral of the Arab League, and to the prominent Arab poet
Adonis. Ernst was the only American among eight winners of the
distinguished prizes and juried awards.
The Bashrahil Prize, awarded for the first time this summer, aspires to
be comparable to the Pulitzer Prize in the United States, or the Booker
Prize in the United Kingdom, as a recognition of literary and cultural
The prizes honor the late Shaykh Muhammad Salih Bashrahil, who was an eminent philanthropist in Mecca.
"I am particularly encouraged by this honor conferred by an Arab
cultural organization, especially at this time," said Ernst, who
presented a brief acceptance speech in Arabic. "This recognition of my
book is an important statement about shared humanistic values that
transcend political boundaries. It is also a great honor for me to be
recognized alongside such outstanding contributors to modern Arabic
literature and culture."
Departing from the usual Arabcentric bias, Ernst's book addresses
Euro-Americans and illuminates the diversity of Muslim societies and
thought. It describes how Protestant definitions of religion and
antiMuslim prejudice have affected how Islam has come to be viewed in
Europe and America. It also explores the contemporary importance of
Islam in both its traditional locations and its new homes.
"Numerous publications repeat incessantly the charge that terrorism is
inseparable from Islam," observed Ernst. "I argue to the contrary that
we must seek instead what others have called a dialogue among
civilizations. Knowledge and respectful exchange should be our goals,
rather than conflict. I am hopeful that my book, both in English and in
translations into other languages, will help enable increased
communication and dialogue between Americans, Europeans, and Muslims
around the world."
Following Muhammad is being translated into Arabic, Indonesian, and Korean.
"My principal goal has been to change the focus of humanistic study in
the American academy, so that Islamic culture and civilization are
included as normal subjects of study, rather than as exotic and remote
topics of interest only to specialists," Ernst said.
Carl W. Ernst is Zachary Smith Distinguished Term Professor of Religious
Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ernst is
also author of Sufi Martyrs of Love: Chishti Sufism in South Asia and
Beyond, among other books.
Following Muhammad was published in hardcover by the University of North Carolina
Press in October, 2003. The paperback version will be released on August 30, 2004.
The book was published in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the Middle
East under the title Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World by
Edinburgh University Press.
Press Contacts: Dr. Carl Ernst, 919-962-3924, and Gina Mahalek, UNC Press, 919-966-3561, ext. 234.
For more information about this book see: www.uncpress.unc.edu/books/t-7369.html
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