Islam and Democracy

Protestors in Cairo, February 2011 Photo: AFP

Tomorrow (Thursday, March 15) at 3 pm Central Time, radio host Jean Feraca will speak with scholars Reza Aslan and Marc Lynch about Islam and Democracy. As part of our build-up to the Islam and Democracy Conference to be held April 13-14 in Madison, WI (see conference schedule), Aslan and Lynch will touch on a variety of topics related to the Arab Spring.

Tariq Ramadan recently offered his perspective on the Muslim Brotherhood and their ascendance within the new Egyptian political climate. Building on Ramadan’s perspectives, Aslan and Lynch will focus on the political transformation of the Middle East and the role of democratic principles inherent within Islamic philosophy.

You can learn more about Lynch’s recent work on the Middle East on his blog and website. And you can listen to past Inside Islam shows with Reza Azlan on such varied topics as Whitewashing Tales from the Arabian Nights, 100 Years of Literature from the Middle East, Losing the War on Terror, and Young Muslims and New Media.

How to Listen and Participate

Knowing the Divine: The Names of God

99 Names of God

Allah is often (mis)understood as the Muslim God. However, “allah” is simply the Arabic word for “god”; thus, Arabic speakers from other faith traditions will also use that word. In Islam, Allah is not only known by this name, but is also known by attributes that are found in the Qur’an and the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad. Commonly, Muslims say there are 99 terms that are considered to be both names as they refer to God and attributes because they describe different aspects of God. These attributes all refer to the singular being of God, but are representative of various traits. A metaphor for these attributes given by Hamza Yusuf, a well-known scholar, is the numerous colors that appear when light is refracted. Continue reading

Green Faith Raises Provocative Questions

Last Tuesday night’s panel discussion, Green Faith, drew over 100 people to discuss religiously inspired eco-consciousness and interfaith activism around environmental issues. A number of provocative questions were raised by both panelists and audience members throughout the two-hour event. Local media coverage provided a good summary of the themes covered for those unable to attend.

Panelists from Baha'i, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions spoke with Inside Islam Radio Show Host Jean Feraca at the Green Faith Conference this past Tuesday. Photo: Nayantara Mukherj.

The evening started out with a short video clip and discussion by UW-Madison Associate Professor Anna M. Gade on the tradition of Muslims conserving natural resources in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation. Gade highlighted models for embracing inter-religious cooperation that draw on the Qur’an (e.g. 49:13), values that are highly influential in Indonesia’s religiously pluralistic society today. She also spoke of faith-inspired environmental practices that emphasize loving-kindness and compassion, and reminded the audience that both Muslim and non-Muslims across Southeast Asia have transmitted these philosophies since long before the advent of the “environmental movement” in North America. Continue reading

Important Sites: The University of Timbuktu

Timbuktu, the historic city in the West African country of Mali, housed an ancient university that became known around the Islamic world. Founded in 1100 C.E., Timbuktu eventually became a center for the expansion of Islam in Africa and an intellectual and spiritual capital. The University of Timbuktu is the focus of this post, part of a series on important sites in Islam. Continue reading

The Afghan Women’s Writing Project

Aired March 6, 2012 | Visit the WPR Page | Download the Show

In a country where women have been told their stories do not matter, and have been threatened for telling them, women still muster the courage to write about themselves, even at the risk of severe punishment. The Afghan Women Writers Project is a US based organization dedicated to bringing their stories to light.

TONIGHT: An Interfaith Conversation on Faith and Environmentalism

This is the last in our Green Faith series before tonight’s panel discussion in Madison, WI. Panelists will address the following the questions: What aspects of scripture and  practice support or challenge  environmentalism? With such a strong focus on the afterlife, why do Abrahamic faith traditions care about protecting the earth in this life? How can faith-based and non-faith-based organizations work together more effectively on environmental issues?

Earlier posts in this series covered Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Baha’i perspectives as well as an Inside Islam radio show on interfaith dialogue around environmental issues.

Anna M. Gade is an Associate Professor at UW-Madison in the Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Religious Studies. She teaches courses on global Islam, Southeast Asia, and approaches to the study of religion.


K.H. Ahmad Yani is the “kiai,” spiritual and academic leader, of Darul Ulum Lido, an Islamic boarding school near Bogor, an hour’s drive from Jakarta, the capital of  Indonesia. Traditional and modern residential religious schools like Darul Ulum are known in Indonesia as “pondok pesantren,” and there are thousands of them across the vast archipelago of this Muslim-majority nation.

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Green Faith: A Baha’i Perspective

This is the latest in our Green Faith series leading up to a panel discussion tomorrow, March 6th, in Madison, WI. Earlier posts in this series covered Muslim, Christian, and Jewish perspectives as well as an Inside Islam radio show on interfaith dialogue around environmental issues.


Don Quintenz Photo: Canoecats

A practicing Baha’i, Don Quintenz has been involved in environmental education for over four decades. Quintenz has worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Humane Society, the Milwaukee Public Schools, and is currently the Director of Education and Land Management at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Milwaukee.

In 1967 I came to recognize two goals that would ultimately dominate the rest of my life. My first realization was that I wanted somehow to inspire people to continually develop their spirituality. I didn’t feel that people could simply believe a particular doctrine and therefore realize all the potential benefits it could bestow. The second awareness I received was I wanted more than anything else to try to instill in people a love for the natural world. I feel these two goals are more related than you might suspect. Part of the reason for this is my belief in a Creator; and a necessary consequence of that belief is nature must be an expression of God’s will.

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Green Faith: A Jewish Perspective

This is the latest in our Green Faith series leading up to a panel discussion on March 6th in Madison, WI. Earlier posts in this series covered Muslim and Christian perspectives as well as the Inside Islam radio show on interfaith dialogue around environmental issues.


Laurie Zimmerman is the Rabbi of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim in Madison, Wisconsin. She is an avid lover of the outdoors and sees environmental conservation as an important component of a broader social justice movement.

The year after I graduated from college I set off on my own to hike the Appalachian Trail. During the day I slugged through the rain or sweltered in the scorching sun. At night I shivered in my sleeping bag or fought off mosquitoes. Never before had I experienced Mother Nature so intimately. It was both extraordinary and challenging. I had hoped that I would settle into a rhythm and achieve a meditative state as I gritted my way up each mountain. On most days, however, I struggled with boredom, loneliness, and exhaustion.

Nevertheless, I grew to love the rough, raw beauty of the wilderness. I felt at home on the trail. I was in awe of God’s glorious earth each day I climbed a mountain. Every morning I would begin my hike with prayers of gratitude for being alive, for the gift of walking through God’s majestic world. I developed a deep appreciation for the infinite wonder of the earth. This awe carried me through three months of intense hiking and comforted me when I felt depleted.

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