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The Mediterranean

Mediterranean: literally the sea in the middle of lands, a bordering sea, and linking these lands. This characteristic makes the Mediterranean a sea that does belong to all the countries overlooking it, but to none in particular, a shared sea, not available for becoming private property..

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All types of thought –also those of scholars and scientists – proceed according to established models, stereotypes and prejudices.

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It is possible to participate in a brutal event – such as gang rape, lynching, an ethnic cleansing operation – or in a humanitarian event – fund raising, collective adoption, sacrificing oneself in an exchange of prisoners..

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Civil Society

From the mid-1980s to the present, civil society has been a key category of democratic politics, increasingly in a genuinely international setting.

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Though its semantic origins are pre-modern, revolution has been a fundamental category of the interpretation of modern times.

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A month of ideas.
Giancarlo Bosetti Editor-in-chief
Association for dialogue and intercultural understanding

Dialogue of Cultures


Optimism as a Moral Duty:
Overcoming Mutual Suspicion in Europe

Mohammed Hashas, Luiss University

Whether “European Islam” is possible or not appears to be one of the controversial questions of our recent times. “Institutionalized ignorance” – in the words of Mohammed Arkoun - feeds mistrust, which in turn feeds fear. Fear becomes a prejudice, which in turn becomes a generalization; and generalizations are wrong. Thus, [institutionalized] ignorance is wrong. European arrogance seems to have forgotten the legacy of its earlier Enlightenment. Muslims’ moral order and Golden Age, long time passed, seems hijacked by terrorists. Wise moderates from both sides are needed more than any other times, and there are plenty of them. Bloody events in the name of politicized Allah, especially since the 1970s until the current horrendous massacres committed by the “Intolerant State” of ISIS nurture the stories that demagogues use to uphold their antagonistic views about each other.

Resetdoc Videos

VIDEO: The Other as Mirror of Selfunderstanding.

Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd

According to the Qur’an God created human beings in nations, tribes, with different colors and different languages in order to know each other – human beings know themselves by communicating and understanding the Other. Historically Islam is the spiritual and ethical call for social justice. The Qur’an is about the poor and the needy. And it is about the Other. ResetDoc remembers the great Egyptian philosopher Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd with this interview, recorded in 2009.


Death took them in 2010: let’s celebrate their legacy

Brahim El Guabli

From Reset-DoC's Archive - For people of the Maghreb, or at least for those who are interested in the intellectual life, 2010 will undisputedly be associated with the heaviest harvest of intellectual and political figures of the region. As if death plotted against the region and decided to take away the emblematic figures of a glorious period of intellectual and political life. Mohamed Abid Al Jabiri, Edmond Emran El Maleh and Abraham Serfaty from Morocco; Mohamed Arkoun and Tahar Ouettar from Algeria and Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd from Egypt, took their leave in 2010. As much as these intellectuals’ works are widely studied in Western academia, especially in Europe and America, they remain unknown to large sections of the Arab world. Many factors inform this ignorance. First, the objective discontinuities that exist in terms of free circulation of knowledge between the Mashriq (the east of the Arab world) and the Maghreb (the west). Second, the historical jealousies that have always existed between the two sides of the Arab world. (This article was published on Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations in 2011)

Philosophy and Religion

Al-Jabri’s exegetic methodology and the presentation of the Qur'an

Mariangela Laviano

The intellectual project undertaken by the Moroccan thinker and philosopher Muḥammad ‘Ᾱbid al-Ǧābirī, better known as Mohammed Abed al-Jabri (1935-2010), considered one of the greatest Arab intellectuals of the century, would not be entirely “explored” if one did not also take into account his work involving a discourse on the Qur'an. So far, studies on his work emphasise the originality of his ideas that have proved to be decisive for the development of Arab thinking, for example the discovery of the three “cognitive orders” (bayān, ‘irfān and burhān), which have contributed significantly to the formation of Arab reasoning; just like the epistemological critique of Arab-Islamic cultural traditions (turāṯ) which resulted in a totally new perspective, thanks to an original approach in engaging with the past. The Muslim world was encouraged to reread, review and therefore also better understand its own cultural traditions so as to relate to modernity. But how could Islam’s relationship with modernity be re-established through the Koran and all the religious tradition gravitating around it? What is known of the “Koranic phenomenon”?


The case of Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd

Abdou Filali-Ansary

From our archive - At the end of the day, we find ourselves, again, in a familiar position. Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd held a moral high ground and commanded respect from most scholars, but was prevented from being heard by those who needed to learn from him. The artificial polarisation and tension around him prevented even serious criticism from those who could assess his work with expertise. The motives alleged to justify his ordeal will always sound ridiculous. (This article was published on Reset-DoC in August, 2010)

Philosophy and Religion

Mohamed Arkoun: Unveiling Orthodoxy and Hegemony through Spiritual Responsibility

Mohammed Hashas

Mohamed Arkoun (b. 1 February 1928, Algeria; d. 14 September 2010, France; buried in Morocco) passed away just three months before the so-called Arab revolts started in Tunisia on 17 December 2010. Like many other Arab-Muslim scholars of world fame who outlive him, he would have loved to see the masses chanting the slogans of change of these revolts in their early days: “liberty, equality, dignity.” His generation of Arab intellectuals (since the 1960s) did not experience massive social movements and events calling for such a change; rather, they lived war defeats (pre-and-post-1967), the rise of secular authoritarianism (like that of Iraq, Syria and Nasser) and religious conservativism and political Islam (like that of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Taliban, Sudan, and Algeria). However, Arkoun lived the environment of the European events of May 1968, especially its influential French version. He must have dreamt of something similar taking place in Arab lands! As a historian of ideas, he must have known that similar moments are unique, and need their own factors or “points of accumulation” – to use the terms of the historian Jalal al-Azmeh- to take place. If he lived to see the current disappointments of the Arab revolts in Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen he could have easily brought to the surface similar episodes from the history of the three monotheistic/Abrahamic religions to show that “orthodoxies” rise and fall, and that “hegemonies” give only lip-service to the malaise of the “wretched of the earth.” As a historian of ideas, he also developed his own project that was constantly in progress, an unfinished project one may say. Examining his treatises and their content allow us to categorize him also as a theologian-philosopher who struggled with big questions that the cultures and societies he lived in and belonged to raise(d), questions like reason, revelation, religion, theology, philosophy, politics, ethics, pluralism, identity, history, and language.

Philosophy and Religion

Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd: A Theologian Confronting Hijackers of the Quran

Mohammed Hashas

The late Egyptian theologian Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd (10 July 1943 – 5 July 2010) was destined to be an Azharite sheikh, but the death of his father when he was fourteen, and the obligations of life led him to contribute to family household from an early age. However, he did not leave his scholarly thirst; he got his PhD in 1981 with a thesis on "The Philosophy of Interpretation: Mohi Eddin Ibn Arabi's Method of Interpreting the Quran." He belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood in Tanta in 1954, worked in Radio, and held lectureships and fellowships in Sudan, the USA, Japan, and the Netherlands; he received scholarly rewards for his works from Tunisia, Jordan and other international institutions. He was the student and colleague of the living famous philosopher Hassan Hanafi (b. 1935), whose project of the Islamic Left he (Abu Zayd) critiques especially in Critique of Religious Discourse (1990). He also met in scholarly discussions with contemporary philosophers-theologians like Sadeq al-Azmeh, Mohammed Arkoun, Abdolkarim Soroush, and Mohammad Amareh. Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd will be remembered as a staunch rationalist and liberal theologian that defends three major values from within his own Islamic faith - reason, liberty, and justice. In his own words, “Islam truly liberated man”; to recover that achievement, re-interpreting the Sacred Text is a must for renewed liberation, based on considering “this-world” the essence of existence. This is an homage to his great contributions at the age of Arab-Islamic intellectual predicament, and political turmoil led by bloody hijackers of the Quran.

In depth

Iran. The Silent Revolution That (still) Frightens Power

Marina Forti

The Iranian monthly magazine Zanan-e Emruz (“Today’s Women”) had barely reached its tenth issue when it was forced to stop publication following a ruling by the Tehran courts’ Office of Press Control. The announcement was made in April and the news itself is nothing new; over the past fifteen years dozens of newspapers have had authorisations issued and then revoked on the basis of changing internal political events. In the past two years, following the election of President Hasan Rouhani, the social and political atmosphere has certainly changed drastically. Books once censored are now given an imprimatur, banned films have returned to theatres and new newspapers are published. Censorship, however, has not disappeared although the ‘red lines’, the boundaries of what is permissible, have been moved.

Focus EXPO 2015 - Feeding the planet

Religious Pluralism in School Canteens

Maria Chiara Giorda, University of Milan Bicocca

Co-authors: Luca Bossi and Elena MessinaCultural and religious diversity characterizes today’s Italy (Melloni 2014). An outcome that has become more evident as a trait of contemporary migration flows, which have put the country among the first three-four receiving destination in the whole Europe since the 2000s. Yet, even though diversity and religious pluralism may have become politically salient issues in current public debate, they were nonetheless traits that had already contributed to forging the Italian identity during the previous centuries (Ventura 2013; 2014). The different relationships entangling political and cultural institutions and the school system in Italy, traditionally see the search for common paths that conciliate religion, religious diversity and secularism a confrontational and divisive field of action. Actors who are involved in this field actively strive to find strategies to adjust the needs emerging from relatively new religious settings – with an increasing share of students coming from a diverse population and religiosity - which are disrupting the long established cohabitation of the Catholic Church and the State in the public sphere. TO VIEW ALL GRAPHS AND TABLES IN THIS PAPER, PLEASE DOWNLOAD THE ATTACHED DOCUMENT

Focus EXPO 2015 - Feeding the planet

Food ‘suitable’ for Jews. The Origins of Kosher

Piero Stefani, University of Ferrara

“You must be able to distinguish between what is sacred (qodesh) and what is profane (chol), between what is clean (tahor) and what is unclean (tame’)” (Leviticus 10,10). In a fundamentally important essay on this subject, Paolo Sacchi asks himself whether the organisation of the words in this sentence should be understood in a parallel or chiastic manner. The answer is that one must opt for parallelism; the proportion is the following, sacred : impure = profane : pure. At a more ancient level, the sacred was perceived as if gifted with an intrinsic force that, just like impurity, acts of its own volition. As time passed things changed and the foundations of pure and impure became heteronomous. Yochanan ben Zakkay, the “legendary” founder of Rabbinic Judaism, is attributed the sentence, “a corpse does not defile nor does ash of the red heifer make levitically clean, but it is the decree of the Holy One” (see Numbers 19,1-16).

Focus EXPO 2015 - Feeding the planet

European Halal. Theological definitions and social depictions

Khalid Rhazzali

The word Halal is part of a complex lexical and a conceptual system that is particularly refined in its more authentic and articulated configuration. The opposition between Halal (allowed) and Haram (not allowed) creates a broad area within which there are many intermediate words, such as, for example, Makruh (inadvisable) and Mubah (admissible), which allow one to contextualise the various forms of behaviour regarding an inclination to contribute positively or negatively to a relationship of a complex physical and spiritual order in both individuals and communities. Leaving aside the aspect usually addressed, that of vetoes concerning some types of meat or drinks, this system of precepts is best addressed from a theological perspective in which the believer is called upon to elaborate ways in which the best use of oneself can be made, in view of a more active and successful obedience to divine will.

Focus EXPO 2015 - Feeding the planet

Nourishing the Soul. Food and Religions

Contribtions by G. Filoramo, M.C. Giorda, K.Rhazzali, P. Stefani, D. Zoletto

A moment of sharing and gathering, a vehicle for traditions and a means of communication, food signifies far more than simply providing the body with the energy is requires to work. Food is also a religious symbol; it nourishes the soul and sharing it at the table is a moment of conviviality and intimacy with others. But what happens when we dine with someone only eating halal food? And what attitude should the authorities assume regarding school cafeterias when faced with families refusing to eat pork? And what answer should the state provide to those demanding to know how an animal was butchered before its meat is sold in supermarkets? - Read the special focus

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