Islam and Science Fiction
We wanted to turn your attention today to the website on Islam and Science Fiction, which looks at both Islamic science fiction writers and the way Islam is portrayed in science fiction. Alongside this excellent web site there is an anthology, A Mosque Among the Stars, edited by Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad and Ahmed A. Khan. In an exclusive for the World SF blog, here is Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad’s introduction to the anthology (reproduced by permission):
Introduction to A Mosque Among the Stars
By Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad
The current anthology has its roots in the Islam and Science Fiction website. When one of us, Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad, first started the website a couple of years ago he had not anticipated that the overwhelming positive response that the website would get. The scope of the website was to explore and document the range of depictions of Islam and Muslims in the Science Fiction literature. The idea of Anthology was conceived by one of us, Ahmed A. Khan who is a Canadian Science Fiction author. We both immediately recognized the need and usefulness of this Endeavour. It is an opportunity to present Islam and Muslims in a different light. Islam is an often-misunderstood religion. The media often presents a somewhat caricatured picture of Muslims which cannot be further from the truth. At the same time there are people who do use Islam for their own deranged purposes. However the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the world are peace loving people and are as diverse as any other group of people.
Science Fiction has sometimes been described as a quintessentially American genre of fiction. Although biased, the view however conveys some sense of how Science Fiction is perceived by many through out the world. From a historical point of view Science Fiction was the product of the times – a confluence of the industrial revolution and the socio-economic upheavals of the 19th century. While it was almost always focused on the future, Science Fiction was exploring the present through the lens of the future. These themes are especially relevant to the Muslim world as it makes it transition to modernity. Most Islamic cultures and languages traditionally associated with Islam have a rich history of fantasy epics – One Thousand and One Nights in Arabic, Shahnama in Farsi, and Dastan-Amir-Hamza in Urdu especially come to mind. However Science Fiction as a popular genre of fiction is not yet a phenomenon in the Muslim world despite the fact that the fans of Science Fiction amongst the younger generation of Muslims may be as widespread in the Muslim world as anywhere in the West. Indigenously produced Science Fiction, although not a rarity, is still less common. Western Muslims and non-Muslims who are interested in Islamic themes, have emerged as a distinct demographic in recent years. Consequently the number of Muslims depicted in Science Fiction has greatly increased in the last years and thus the need for the current anthology.
Outside the world of fiction, the Muslim world offers an interesting glimpse of the transformative power of science and technology. Thus Dubai looks like a city straight out of a classic science fiction story. Even the conservative interpretations of Islamic law are relatively open-minded towards many opportunities offered by bio-technology and genetic engineering. The current volume, which is also the first anthology on the topic of Islam and Science Fiction explores a whole range of topics related to Islam, paints Muslims in a different light and puts them in contexts which many people in the do not usually associated with Muslims. It is thus the hope of the editors that the current volume would be an important contribution to the expanding sub-genre of exploring Islamic or Muslim related themes in Science Fiction.
August 1, 2008
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