Conversion to Islam & the Dialectics of Modern Jewish Identity: The Case of Hugo Marcus & Muhammad Asad
Lecture by Dr. Abraham Rubin
Conversion from Judaism to Islam does not rank among the hallmarks of European-Jewish history in the modern era. Yet despite their idiosyncratic character, such conversions are arguably inextricable from, and reflective of, the broader social and cultural dynamics that defined Jewish identity since the age of emancipation. The upcoming lecture will focus on the case of two Jews who converted to Islam in interwar Berlin: Muhammad Asad (1900-1992) and Hugo Hamid Marcus (1880-1966). It will examine how Asad and Marcus articulated their views of Islam and forged their Muslim identities in relation to their Jewish backgrounds. The talk will ask how these two figures drew on the dilemmas of modern Jewish selfhood in order to think about the challenges of Muslim identity, tradition and culture in the geographical contexts they lived in and travelled to. On a broader level, this lecture explores the transformations that religious identities undergo in the process of modernization and migration, and investigates the central role that conversion plays in the transmission and circulation of religious beliefs and narratives across cultures.
Abraham Rubin is a postdoctoral fellow in the Martin Buber Society of Fellows at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the City University of New York. His work on early twentieth-century German-Jewish literature and thought has appeared in such journals as Literature & Theology, The Jewish Quarterly Review, and Jewish Social Studies.
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