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Six questions about the book 'Ruminations' by Tahir Abbas

Tahir Abbas, Professor of Radicalisation Studies at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs, is organising a book launch for his new book: 'Ruminations: Framing a sense of self and coming to terms with the other'. The book launch will take place on Thursday 15 December from 16.00-17.00 hrs. at Campus The Hague. In this article Abbas answers six questions about the book.

What were your motivations for writing this book?

'I began authoring this book over 15 years ago, when I had some time to reflect on my life and consider my immediate future. This was just before I chose to pursue a new job as a sociology professor in Istanbul. I liked the opportunity to reflect on my life and some of my concerns about identity and belonging. While I am an ethnic studies and social conflict expert with a specific focus on radicalisation and extremism, I am also a sociologist concerned with broader problems of migration, identity, and politics. So, the goal of this exercise was to present an autoethnographic account of life in Britain from the late 1970s through my personal lens as a British-born Muslim with Kashmiri ancestry.
During the recent epidemic, I had a lot of time to accomplish other writing assignments, and I thought I could spend a little bit of time finalising this book, so that is what I did. As a result, the book is divided into two parts: the first is an autobiographical and personal account, and the second is an analytical and observational account that also focuses on my travels around the world, including places where I stayed for extended periods of time for various study visits, such as New York, Jerusalem, and Istanbul.'

Why did you choose the title 'Ruminations'?

The choice of Ruminations as the book’s title deserves further explanation. Ruminations is an umbrella term for a range of ruminations, and I have had time to reflect on each of them, with an emphasis on identity. The alternative explanation is that the word ruminations is a play on Rumi and nations. Rumi was a renowned philosopher, scholar, and theologian who emphasised the significance of comprehending the vastness of the universe and our insignificance in it. I spent several years in Turkey, where I developed an appreciation for Turkish Sufi culture. Similarly, the concept of nations refers to my time spent living and working in various countries, attempting to understand them firsthand. Ruminations selected is, however, a collection of thoughts and ideas related to Marcus Aurelius’s famous Meditations. I could not entitle my book Meditations; thus, Ruminations was chosen.

What was it like for you to write such a personal book?

'There are very few academics that stray into personal biography; however, I have noted that notable sociologists frequently reflect on parts of their early experiences in some of their writing. People who do write about their lives are usually journalists, politicians, or public intellectuals. I have penned many op-eds, including ones on politics, and some have described me as a bit of a public intellectual. So, I decided to give it a go. What do I have to lose, I thought (apart from status and respect, of course)? However, if I make it enjoyable and interesting as well as educational and insightful, it may appeal to the interested reader who wants content that is both accessible and capable of providing subtleties that would otherwise be absent in other narratives or life history accounts.'

Do you prefer writing an academic or a personal book?

'I much prefer academic writing since maintaining a critical distance between the topic and oneself is vital for ensuring clarity and depth. Authoring a personal book means that you are the topic, and therefore there is less possibility for critical distance and thus greater potential for bias to enter the picture.'

What do you want to achieve with your readers? And why should they read your book?

'I want individuals to pick up this book and exclaim, 'Ha!' We have here an account of an individual's intellectual and personal journey who came from nowhere but is now acknowledged, so what makes this man tick, and how does he establish a footing in a system that is meant to favour those who are already privileged at the outset? I also want people to see that there is always a set of human lessons that we need to learn about ourselves and our role in the world, and I am no exception. The content will also appeal to people who have already read some of my writing, allowing readers to delve into my first-hand experiences and discover more about what makes me tick. And for those who are just interested in the analytical and observational material of the second half of the book, it is full of potentially beneficial insights and information reflecting on the status of social and political relations throughout the world.'

When is your next book finished?

'I am now working on three book projects, all of which are editing projects concentrating on education, global counterterrorism, or ideas and concepts of radicalisation and counter-radicalisation. These publications will be released over the following two or three years. My next monograph will present a global theory of radicalisation, and I want to have it completed by the end of the summer of 2023. I have already begun this, but due to project management responsibilities, teaching duties, supervisory duties, and my restricted time as a whole, I have not been able to make as much progress as I would like. In 2023, I will have much more time to finalise and submit my book to the university press for evaluation. All being well, this will be out in late 2024.'

Book launch & sell

Find more information about the book launch on 15 December here.
You can buy the book here.

Tahir Abbas

Tahir Abbas FRSA FAcSS is Professor of Radicalisation Studies at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs at Leiden University in The Hague. He holds a PhD in Ethnic Relations from the University of Warwick (2001). His current research interests are the intersections of Islamophobia and radicalisation, gender and violence, inter-generational transmission of Islamism, and ethnic relations. He is the author, editor, and co-editor of twenty books and more than one hundred peer-reviewed articles and chapters.

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