Syed Haider

A PhD candidate at SOAS and English teacher.
38 Articles

Echo on the Web

12 Min Read

Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE AR-SA Introduction In my lessons I always stress the importance for students to learn the skill of analysing and adopting an analytical frame of mind. This makes sense of course in the context of an English lesson at school, but does the value of an analytical frame of mind transcend the boundaries of the English classroom? My unambiguous answer to this is a firm and affirmative: ‘yes’. The value of it, moreover, is particularly salient in issues of social change. Here, we need to constantly assess and query the effectiveness of our strategies

History and the Role of the Historian

6 Min Read

Without the faculty of memory man would not quite be man. This may sound a little peculiar but a moment’s consideration may reveal the profundity of the observation. Our sense of our surroundings, of our life, and our very self rests on our ability to juxtapose the past to the present and thereby conceive the future as a spatial and temporal potentiality. Without the ability to retain information at all would deprive man of his achievements, of the civilisations that he has been able to build. History as the grand recording of the past similarly operates to provide us a

Reading Nudity: Rethinking the Issue of the Body Scanner

1 Min Read

Abstract: The paper makes a decidedly radical re-reading of the installation of body scanners in Britain and the US, so as to question the singular emphasis on security that discussions about these machines have had so far. The author analyses the Muslim response to these scanners and draws attention to certain shortcomings in those responses. He also argues that the impulse to install these machines has been irrational as much as rational. The paper also makes a bold challenge to the Obama administration by questioning how different his administration is or can really be. This latter task is accomplished by

Israel is its Worst Antagonist

6 Min Read

In 1947 a ship bound for British controlled Palestine was intercepted by the British Navy. Aboard were some 4,500 Jewish Holocaust survivors all of whom hoped to settle in Palestine. But faced with sporadic violence from committed Zionists, scores of illegal Jewish immigrants wanting to escape the camps set up for them in the aftermath of the Second World War and strong resistance from indigenous Palestinians, Britain had placed a restriction on further Jewish immigration and so the ship, named the Exodus, was stopped before it could reach Palestine. The Navy boarded the ship and tried to wrest control so

“Vote Today; Be Kafir Tomorrow”: The Issue of Voting

27 Min Read

 That season of jostling for space to express a view on voting has once again descended upon the population here in Britain and I (I should add quickly) am no exception to that. I too have a view and in the democratic spirit feel it my right to speak it. You on the other hand, dear reader, have the right to 'turn the page'. I hope, however, that you will not; for I promise (on my part) to not bore you with a simple treatise on the virtues or pitfalls of voting. That, unfortunately, has become the ho-hum tune of

Reflections on and from Istanbul

9 Min Read

Introduction I must have looked quite a sight sitting by the river late at night observing all the hustle and bustle and writing in my book. In fact the few individuals who came up to me to ask what I was doing may well have wondered whether the ‘polis’ in Istanbul had opened a Gestapo-esque unit, delegated to note down details of subversive conversations! I was – needless to say – doing nothing of the sort. The decision to write was impulsive. I remember feeling so overwhelmed by the beauty and paradoxes of Istanbul that I was saddened by my

The Liberation of Sex

7 Min Read

Put the words Islam and sex together and it seems you almost have an oxymoron. It is a fact that in the early Middle Ages Islam was seen by the West as a religion which promoted promiscuity and those who followed it as sexually perverse. Now, when the West has broken free of the chains of the Church and ‘liberated’ itself, Islam has become the religion of oppression and strict sexual conservatism. This of course reveals much more about the anxieties of the West than it does of Islam. The West has throughout history used Islam as a permanent ‘other’,

Critical Imagination

10 Min Read

It is thought by some that natural science has a deadening influence on the imagination... But the experience of the last hour must, I think, have convinced you that the study of natural science goes hand in hand with the culture of the imagination. Throughout the greater part of this discourse we have been sustained by this faculty. We have been picturing atoms, and molecules, and vibrations, and waves, which eye has never seen nor ear heard, and which can only be discerned by the exercise of imagination. Imagination, as Tyndall saw, is not so much a preserve of the


34 Min Read

This essay is divided into two parts; the first is a sociology of the institution of the mosque, while the second is a theorisation of the role mosques can play in social change. My analysis will bear a triadic focus looking in turn at the dynamism of the mosque as space, the sociality associated with mosques in the past, and the patterned functionality that is at the centre of the mosque as a Muslim and Islamic institution. The approach that the essay takes draws loosely upon hermeneutics and semiotic theory and owes something to a phenomenological attitude that seeks to

Thirst for Knowledge

4 Min Read

I was teaching a few days ago and had devised a lesson in which I wanted students to develop their research skills. I carefully selected material that was suitable and with a large bag of books, articles, and clippings of book reviews and some images came to class. I set everything up; distributed the material and asked the students to work in small groups to extract relevant information from the material in light of the unit of work that we were focussing on: poems from other cultures. It was in the middle of this lesson when, what a student said