logo Crosstalks


Critical Thinking within Islam #4: Lecture and text by Silvia Naef

video text

In her lecture, Silvia Naef refutes the theory that Islam is fundamentally hostile to images. In the text accompanying the lecture, she retraces the history of the relationship between Islam and images from the great pre-modern Muslim empires to the appearance of “modern imagery” from the 19th century onwards. The text is available in French, Dutch and English under 'Downloads'.

Silvia Naef

Silvia Naef is a full professor at the University of Geneva Arabic Department and director of the Master in Middle Eastern Studies degree course (MAMO). A specialist in modern Arab art and the issue of images in Islam, her publications include Y a-t-il une question de l’image en Islam? (2nd edition. 2015 (2004), translated into German, Italian, Farsi, Turkish and partially into English); A la recherche d’une modernité arabe, L’évolution des arts plastiques en Egypte, au Liban et en Irak (1996; Arab 2008). She recently co-edited Other Modernities: Art, Visual Culture and Patrimony Outside the WestArtl@s Bulletin 9, 1 (2020) and Visual Modernity in the Arab World, Turkey and Iran: Reintroducing the ‘Missing Modern’ (Asiatische Studien/Etudes Asiatiques, 2016). She also headed the project Other Modernities: Patrimony and Practices of Visual Expression Outside the West (2013-2017), a project supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Her current research project is Cultural Diplomacy at the Palais des Nations in Geneva - A Study of Donations and Gifts from MENA Member States to the United Nations Office and International Agencies in Geneva, supported by the Boninchi Foundation.  She is a founding member of Manazir, the Swiss Platform for the Study of Visual Arts, Architecture and Heritage in the MENA Region.

Critical Thinking within Islam

VUB Crosstalks and Moussem set up a lecture series on critical thinking within Islam. In their ideas about Islamic civilisation both Muslim extremists and Islamophobes go back to an originally 'pure' Islam, which was supposedly born 1400 years ago, but in reality did not really exist. Islam was never one block, one movement. On the contrary, it has always been a very diverse culture, strengthened by acculturation and by coming in contact with the Greek, Persian, Indian, African culture etc. A history that is also full of dissidence, heresy and rebellion. These sects and alternative theological currents are at the root of a fascinating culture of debate. Philosophers from the golden age of Islam such as Al Farabi, Averroës, Avicenna, Abu Al Alaa Al Ma'ari Abu Bakr Al Razi, Omar Khayyam, Abu Hayyan Al Tawhidi... are founders of a culture based on reason and science. In today's complex world, attention to these forgotten thinkers is more than necessary.
In this context, we present a series of online lectures and publish a new text by the speaker that relates to the theme.


Lectures and publications are protected by copyright, but may be used in an educational context, provided the name VUB Crosstalks and Moussem are mentioned and the authors are notified in advance.

Thoughts and opinions expressed in the lectures and publications belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the organizations presenting this programme.

Don't miss any updates!

Subscribe to the newsletter