Religion 300: “ISLAM”
SUMMER 1 2018
Dr. Mehnaz M. Afridi
Consider how many different ways Islam is viewed. Islam is not only attractive mystical poetry, superbly symmetrical architecture and esoteric Sufi thought; Islam is also mobs in the street, young men attacking embassies and images of self-flagellation on the television screen. Islam has become all things to all people. It is not only theology; it is also polemic, debate, media images, conflict and a point of view. ___Akbar Ahmed
Post 9/11, many colleges scrambled to teach Islam and find “liberal” Muslims to speak at various venues to condemn terrorism and radical Islam. The following question looms in America: Where are the moderate Muslims? Perhaps no population of Americans is more feared or misunderstood than Muslim Americans. Debates rage in the media, in politics, and in homes over whether Muslims are friend or foe, peaceful or violent, damned or saved, backward or progressive, feminist or misogynist. After 9/11, arguments about Islam and Muslims have become an essential aspect of the making of American identity and public policy. In order to inform and encourage understanding across the sometimes strident and fixed rhetorical positions that now characterize U.S. national discourse on Islam, this course explores the history and life of Muslims and Islam in the United States. We will examine the origins of Islam in the United States, the ethnic and religious diversity of American Muslims, conflicts about gender relations and women’s issues, contemporary debates about Islam’s role in the public sphere, and the spirituality of American Muslims. In so doing, the class will emphasize the dynamic and diverse nature of Islamic religious practice, political involvement, and social positioning in the United States, scrutinizing not only “Islam” but also how Muslims are seen by “Others” from the point of view of an important but marginalized group.
The class is designed to understand the theological concepts within Islam alongside the social and political dimensions of practice and ritual. The significance of such study will give the students an introduction to Islam as a religion and social practice in the US. The course readings are based mainly on the words of diverse Muslims. In the first half of the course, we will read a book by an American Muslim woman who will introduce us to the theological and religious concepts within Islam. The second half of the course is devoted to analyzing contemporary Muslim American literature and perceptions of Muslims in America and we will finish the class with a novel. We will ask the following questions:
How do we want to see religions? How do we define religious freedom? Why is Islam in America still misunderstood? Why is “moderation” questioned alongside Muslims?
- Teacher: Afridi Mehnaz