A talk on

“The Parallel Rise of Sectarianism in the Muslim World and Islamophobia”



Date: February 13th, 2018, Venue: CSSS Office

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rXzdOL0GfY&t=1s

“There are two kinds of prejudice: one which is a product of ignorance and the other is formed to suit a particular point of view.” said Dr. M. A. A. Khan, assistant professor of Political Science and History at Ashoka University, during a talk at the Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism. Dr. Khan was invited to the Centre to give a talk entitled “The Parallel rise of Sectarianism in the Muslim world and Islamophobia”. Dr. Khan argued prejudice is based on understanding the “Other” by asserting your own pre-determined knowledge of the “Other” onto the “Other”.


Dr. Khan spoke about sectarianismamong Muslims which he argued has always been a part of Muslim society. “The differences between the sects,” he added, “have sine wave pattern and sometimes used for political manipulations.”These divides are further used to fractionalize the society.

Dr.Khan cautioned that secularism might not be the best ideological framework to tackle sectarianism and Islamophobia because the former assumes a moral high ground and therefore disregards the faith of individuals and also the fact that in many parts of the world, including India, political identity is viewed through the prism of religion for a large number of people. He dwelt on the vexed and often tortured relationship of the sacred and the profane in modern society which often manifests itself, quite literally, on the body of individuals. This was in response to a question about Padmavati. According to Dr. Khan, if we start using faith-based vocabulary to counter sectarianism and even communalism then we may transcend  religious, cultural and social divides and come together for the goal of a harmonious society.

Close to thirty academicians, students, and activists attended the talk and stayed for the subsequent discussion. During the conversation, audience members from various walks of life and religious backgrounds were able to ask Dr. Khan questions and give their own ideas and perspectives. Dr. Khan also provided anecdotes and stories from his travels across the Muslim world.