Islam & the West: The Roots of the Conflict — and What Next?”
This page contains an abbreviated outline of the material I generally cover and the variety of ways it can be approached, from a single presentation (the most common) to a multi-session seminar.
My goal is to present solid historical and contemporary information, but in as informal a style as possible: I invite questions/comments and encourage discussion. The more time available, the more I am able to illustrate the points below with helpful or humorous anecdotes from my personal experience living in Muslim societies.
I. “Generalist presentation:” content overview
II. Different presentation topics and handouts
III. Technical requirements
I. “Generalist presentation:” content overview – call and discuss by phone
— Introduction: Definitions; difficulty of generalizing about “all Muslims;” American political and media simplification of historical factors and sensationalizing; why should we be interested?
— Overview of the life and times of Islam’s founder, Mohammed The Prophet and the religion he founded. I summarize general Muslim beliefs and practices and –after his death — the new Muslim community’s division over who should succeed Mohammed (the different groups gradually becoming Sunnis and Shias). I explain the “scriptural” bases of Islam: the Qur’an,(record of Mohammed’s visions), the sunnah and the hadith which became the basis of Islamic belief, tradition and law (sharia). All continue to be interpreted and applied differently by the various groups of scholars and political rulers in the centuries since Mohammed’s death.
— “What went wrong?” from the Muslim point of view: The legacies of the medieval Crusades, the Mongol invasions and the slow retreat of Islamic political dominance as the West expanded from the late 15th century onward; the more recent (and usually negative) Muslim memories of late 19th, 20th, and 21st century Western colonialism; Zionism, creation of the state of Israel and subsequent western support of Israel; the perceived gap between American/European rhetorical commitment to democracy; perceptions in traditional Muslim societies of the West as decadent/degenerate and its corrosive effects on traditional cultures; and modern “jihadists” are motivated less by poverty or ignorance, but by a lethal mix of nationalism, zealotry and sense of humiliation.