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University blasts in Pakistan and the future of Islam

The International Islamic University is carving out a much-needed space in Muslim intellectual, and through it, political, life.

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When the Taliban attacked the International Islamic University in Pakistan this week, many were shocked that militants were targeting an Islamic school. In fact, the double suicide bombers were going after a university that is at the forefront of changing the way Islamic and Western knowledge are brought together in the Muslim world.

I also had some misconceptions before I had lectured in the very building where the second bombing took place. But the encounters I had there in 2007 utterly changed my understanding of Pakistan, as well as the future of Islam.

I had only landed in Islamabad just a few hours before I was scheduled to give my first talk at the university, and whether it was the 13-hour time difference with Los Angeles, two nights flying in coach, or walking through an arrivals lounge that had recently been attacked by terrorists, I felt more uneasy about being in Pakistan than Baghdad or Gaza during their own periods of intense violence.

Matters weren't helped when I was introduced to a group of male religious studies students by my host as someone who'd lived in Israel and speaks Hebrew. In fact, my stomach sank a bit – especially as their long beards and traditional dress reminded me a lot more of the Taliban than the graduate students I normally spend time with.

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