Dr. Carl Ernst’s Following Muhammad, a highly apologetic text, has won Egypt’s Shaykh Muhammad Salih Bashrahil Prize for Outstanding Cultural Creativity. And it is indeed a very creative book. Ernst, of course, is the Zachary Smith Distinguished Term Professor at the University of North Carolina, my alma mater. Oh, the pain! From The Outer Banks Sentinel, with thanks to Teri:
Dr. Carl W. Ernst, professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a leading scholar of Islam, received a major new prize from an Arab cultural organization in Cairo on July 4.
The Distinguished Prize in the Humanities, with a $30,000 cash award, was presented this year by the board of trustees of the Shaykh Muhammad Salih Bashrahil Prize for Outstanding Cultural Creativity.
The Bashrahil Prize program comprises several awards: four for literary creativity or humanistic studies, in juried competition; and distinguished prizes for an Arab recognized for accomplishment in Arab culture or “a notable figure, Arab or foreign, whose role has been effective and influential in the fields of social and humanistic activity.”
Ernst, UNC’s Zachary Smith Distinguished Term Professor, won for his recent book “Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World” (University of North Carolina Press, 2003). The book introduces readers to Islam’s ethics, practices, spirituality and culture while clarifying diversity and debate within the tradition. It concludes with an overview of critical debates on important contemporary issues such as gender and veiling, state politics and science and religion.
Ernst was the only American among eight winners this year of the distinguished prizes and juried awards. Other winners included Amre Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League.
The prizes, established this year and just awarded for the first time, are intended to parallel the Pulitzer Prize in the United States or the Booker Prize in the United Kingdom as a recognition of literary and cultural achievement. The prizes honor the late Shaykh Muhammad Salih Bashrahil, a philanthropist in Mecca. Awards will be made every other year — always in the four juried competitions and in the distinguished category when the trustees believe one or more applicants deserve such a prize.