BACKGROUND ON ISLAM
In this introduction from his book, A Muslim Primer, Ira G. Zepp Jr. offers a
short historical perspective to help readers understand why Westerners have
ignored Islamic culture for so long, why the West has had continuing strife
with Islamic countries, and why Westerners are confused about what are called
the "roots of Muslim rage."
From Karen Armstrong's acclaimed book, Islam: A Short History,
here's an excerpt which offers an overview of the European invasion of the Islamic world, and
its fateful consequences.
The Middle East Institute has published this book on their site for those
seeking an introduction to the basic tenets and history of Islam. It includes
chapters on the legal, social and economic aspects of Islam, as well as a brief
overview of Islamic civilization.
The PBS/FRONTLINE broadcast of "Muslims" is part of The Islam Project, a national outreach
initiative that uses "Muslims" and the upcoming PBS documentary "Muhammad:
Legacy of a Prophet" as springboards for strategic community building, public
awareness campaigns, and educational efforts on the subject of contemporary
Islam. Visit The Islam Project Web site to learn more about this national
effort, to join the email list for project updates, and to read announcements
about the availability of the Educator's Kit for use this fall.
This public radio documentary examines the manifestations of political
Islam around the world, including the history and legacy of the Iranian
Revolution of 1979 and the growing influence of Islamic fundamentalism in
Egypt. The Web site offers the entire report in streaming RealAudio as well as
pictures and a transcript of the show edited for ease of reading.
The companion Web site to the PBS film "Islam: Empire of Faith" contains a timeline of events in Islamic history; explorations of Islamic art, architecture, and literature; and resources for teachers.
"The mainly secular effort to reinterpret the Koran ... is disturbing and
offensive to many Muslims, just as attempts to reinterpret the Bible and the
life of Jesus are disturbing and offensive to many conservative Christians.
Nevertheless, there are scholars, Muslims among them, who feel that such an
effort, which amounts essentially to placing the Koran in history, will provide
fuel for an Islamic revival of sorts -- a reappropriation of tradition, a going
forward by looking back. ... The Koran, after all, is currently the world's
most influential ideological text." (The Atlantic Monthly, January 1999)
This Web site offered by the Muslim Student Association of the University of
Southern California gives three translations of the Quran. It notes that once
the Quran is translated from the Arabic it ceases to be the word of God and
therefore is not comparable to the Quran in its original language.
This Web site maintained by the Brown University Scholarly Technology Group
allows you to search three different translations of the text of the Quran by
sura number and verse.
Emory University's Law and Religion program has embarked on a global study of
Islamic family law. Their objectives include verifying and documenting the
scope and manner of the application of IFL around the world, including Muslim
communities living within predominantly non-Muslim countries, and exploring and
substantiating possibilities of reform within particular communities of Muslims
in their own context. Their Web site includes case studies and thematic studies
of the implementation of IFL in various communities around the globe.
ISLAM AND THE WEST
In this excerpt from his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of
World Order (1996), Samuel P. Huntington looks at Islam's worldwide revival
-- how it is being fueled by culture and cultural identity, and why it's the
latest phase in the adjustment of Islam to the West and modernization. (Note: this excerpt
is published on FRONTLINE's 1999 Web site report on Osama bin Laden.)
In this influential examination of the relationship between Islam and the West,
published in the September 1990 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Bernard
Lewis explores "why so many Muslims deeply resent the West, and why their
bitterness will not easily be mollified." He writes: "It should by now be clear
that we are facing a mood and a movement far transcending the level of issues
and policies and the governments that pursue them. This is no less than a clash
of civilizations -- the perhaps irrational but surely historic reaction of an
ancient rival against our Judeo-Christian heritage, our secular present, and
the worldwide expansion of both. It is crucially important that we on our side
should not be provoked into an equally historic but also equally irrational
reaction against that rival."
Edward W. Said, writing in the Oct. 22, 2001, issue of The Nation,
offers a scathing critique of the "clash of civilizations" thesis in the work
of both Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis. "This is the problem with
unedifying labels like Islam and the West: They mislead and confuse the mind,
which is trying to make sense of a disorderly reality that won't be pigeonholed
or strapped down as easily as all that.... These are tense times, but it is
better to think in terms of powerful and powerless communities, the secular
politics of reason and ignorance, and universal principles of justice and
injustice, than to wander off in search of vast abstractions that may give
momentary satisfaction but little self-knowledge or informed analysis."
ISLAM AND DEMOCRACY
In the November/December 2001 issue of Foreign Policy, Ray Takeyh, a research
fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy outlines how a new
generation of theological thinkers, led by figures such as Iranian President
Mohammad Khatami and Tunisian activist Rached Ghannouchi, is reconsidering the
orthodoxies of Islamic politics. Takeyh maintains the voices of these moderate
Islamists are being heard in their countries and in Islamic curricula across
the region, and that there may be real hope that democratic concepts and order
can take hold through the reinterpretation of Islamic texts and traditions.
Karen Armstrong, author of numerous books on religion including Islam, A
Short History and The Battle for God, discusses conflicts in the
Muslim world between democracy and Islamic fundamentalism. "Democracy is
something that we developed in the modern world as a result of our
modernization -- not because we wanted to suddenly give power to the people.
It's part of the transformation that comes with a capitalist economy. ... The
Muslim world hasn't had time to develop a home-grown democracy. They still
don't have the same kind of capital market economies, and in many countries
democracy got a bad name because it was associated with bad regimes that the
United States supported, despots like the Shahs in Iran." (Salon,
Oct. 22, 2001)
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