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Teaching Islamic studies – post-9/11

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We are living in a world of nearly instantaneous communication. Visual and oral media reports are crossing linguistic and cultural boundaries with a speed and impact that written texts cannot. Our public and political conversations increasingly use a variety of abbreviated and formulaic means of communication that only hint at complex social, economic, and political issues worldwide.

As we veer from one crisis to another with the Muslim world, there are a number of topics one needs familiarity with in order to make sense of events.

To mention just a few, there is the history of the creation of the state of Israel and the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Then there is the history of the rest of the modern Middle East. There is the history of the economic, military, and political agreements between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The list goes on.

How many of us are wellread on European history and the current situation of its immigrant communities? How about the timeline and details of European and American military interventions in the Muslim world? How many of us understand global economics? How many non-Muslims are familiar with the basic texts, practices, and interpretations of Islam and the histories of Muslim cultures?

Faced with the daunting challenge of comprehending the many historical and contemporary factors leading up to current events, it is hardly any wonder that we all gravitate toward the simplicity of images, symbols, and slogans that encapsulate what might otherwise seem too exhausting to even contemplate.

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