Why the Prophet Muhammad Matters

On the next Inside Islam radio show, Wednesday, May 12th, Jean will be talking with Professor Omid Safi, the author of Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters about the Prophet Muhammad, his image in Western discourse, his place in the Muslim worldview, and his relevance in the world today.

According to Safi, the image of the Prophet has changed throughout time in both Muslim and non-Muslim circles. Safi asserts that some negative images have continued through time even as knowledge of Islam and exposure to Muslims by non-Muslims have increased. For example, offensive and negative imagery of the Prophet Muhammad can be seen in work as old as Dante’s Inferno where the Prophet is described as  residing in Hell and in contemporary situations as when Evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell call the Prophet was a “terrorist.” Continue reading

Islam is not getting a pass

Tomorrow, May 6th, National Day of Prayer events will take place at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. This year’s events are receiving media attention because of the Pentagon’s decision to rescind their invitation to Franklin Graham, the son of Evangelist Billy Graham. According to Col. Thomas Collins, this decision stemmed from Graham’s controversial statements on Islam that include calling it an “evil and wicked religion” and saying that “[true] Islam cannot be practiced in this country. You can’t beat your wife. You cannot murder your children if you think they’ve committed adultery or something like that, which they do in these other countries.” Collins said, “We’re an all-inclusive military. We honor all faiths…Our message to our service and civilian work force is about the need for diversity and appreciation of all faiths.”

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The Times Square Suspect

In light of the news today of the arrest of Faisal Shahzad, a recently naturalized US citizen of Pakistani descent, who is charged with attempting to detonate a car bomb in New York’s Times Square, the last Inside Islam radio show on Jihad becomes even more timely.  Jean spoke with Michael Bonner and Faisal Devji on the meanings of jihad and how many who claim to be jihadists are actually operating outside of Islamic law. Devji, in particular, emphasized that those involved in violent operations are acting as individuals, unlike in the tradition where jihad is a collective activity ordered by a leader like a caliph. Moreover, these individuals are not necessarily acting out of religious motivations, although they use religious discourse as the framework, but out of ethical reasons, like problems with US foreign policy.

After hearing the news last night about the arrest of Shahzad, I was immediately reminded of Devji’s argument and like many others extremely frustrated by the damage these acts do to the image of Islam and to the vast majority of other Muslims who do not condone these acts. In the media, not enough is done to highlight that these acts do not represent Islam or the loyalty of Muslim Americans just as the Hutaree militia does not represent Christianity. It is very frustrating to me the conspicuous difference in coverage between this story and the Hutaree militia plot. For example, it is disconcerting that there so much focus on his US citizenship when there did not seem to be the same on focus on the citizenship of the 9 Hutaree militia members. Moreover, since he is a Muslim, it becomes acceptable to call it terrorism while with the Hutaree, Christians, it is extremism. Continue reading

Islam in South Asia: Interview with Joe Elder

This is a guest post by Michael Kruse, a staff member of Center for South Asia at UW-Madison.

Since the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, the American public has learned much about the division between Sunni and Shia Muslims. In the context of South Asia, however, the situation is much more complicated than one might expect. Just ask Joseph Elder, Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prof. Elder has studied South Asian society and religion for over 50 years, and has produced a series of almost 40 documentary films on all aspects of South Asia.

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