Interview with Uli Schamiloglu

A member of the Inside Islam executive committee, Uli Schamiloglu is also a professor in Languages and Cultures of Asia (a department that he helped to create) and the Director of UW-Madison’s Middle East Studies Program, among many other things. I first met him in 2007 when he was a guest on the Here on Earth radio show to talk about Sunni-Shia conflict and lessons from WWI. He was so knowledgeable and articulate about the past and present in the Middle East that the show has invited him back a couple of times to launch our Inside Islam radio series and to comment on Obama’s outreach to Muslims and his speech in Cairo.

Two weeks ago I had a nice conversation with Prof. Schamiloglu in his office, a conversation you can listen to below. Before 9/11, he told me, he didn’t think of himself as a Muslim American but just a Tatar American. “It’s really both funny and sad how after 9/11, 2001, whether we like it or not, Muslim Americans are classified as Muslim Americans.”

Although he wanted to study international relations initially, Prof. Schamiloglu explained how he ended up teaching and researching Muslim culture (:56 in the video clip). Asked how he would respond to people who think Islam is a violent and backward religion, Prof. Schamiloglu pointed out that much of the negative image of Islam is fed by misinformation, and that the same thing had occurred in the past (1:37).

Prof. Schamiloglu recommended two news sources to people who want to have a better understanding of the current events in the Muslim world (4:44):

  1. Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion, a blog by Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
  2. Al Jazeera, a television network launched  in 1996 by the Emir of Qatar, a tiny country in the Persian Gulf. Its English service is available on satellite and their website.

Finally I asked him to describe Islam in just three words (8:42). His answer was a total surprise but brilliant. Find out yourself.

Do you have any comment or follow-up questions for Prof. Schamiloglu? We welcome your feedback.

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