Juan Cole on Engaging the Muslim World

A past program in the Inside Islam radio series “Reaching Out to the Muslim World” covered President Obama’s promise to alter the course of the Bush administration’s war on terror in his inaugural address. Informed Comment blogger and Middle East historian Juan Cole joins host Jean Feraca Wednesday at 3 pm on Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders for a live show about ways of “Engaging the Muslim World” with diplomacy and dialogue.

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Poetry Festivals and TV Shows

The Dubai International Poetry Festival was held the first week of March as a way to open the eyes of the world to poetry and increase global interconnectedness. The festival is significant in a larger religious struggle against fundamentalism and cultural repression in the region as well. Poetry is part of a debate of whether the arts are permissible expressions of worship in Islam.

Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam, has in fact a long and vibrant tradition of poetry, music, and dance. The sufi poet Rumi may sound familiar to foreign ears, for instance. For this reason, sufi tombs are often important cultural epicenters of Muslim communities and have become symbolic of a centuries-long conflict with fundamentalists who have literal understandings of the Koran and want to repress mystical traditions, sometimes violently.

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What is your image of Pakistan?

Author Daniyal Mueenuddin

Author Daniyal Mueenuddin

What’s your image of Pakistan? A nuclear-armed, Taliban-infested, desperately poor nation of 170 million people on the edge of anarchy? A barbaric backwater where women get buried alive for refusing to be forced into marriage, or are condemned, like Mukhtar Mai, to be gang-raped for an offense allegedly committed by a younger brother? These are images that come to us from trustworthy journalists and reputable sources. Share your own impressions about Pakistan below.

So, how are we to square them with the Pakistani author Daniyal Mueennaddin who delivers in his hip debut collection of linked stories, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders: a Pakistan where Islam is hardly mentioned except in passing; where sophisticated urbanites routinely indulge in sex and drugs with impunity; and where everybody from the maid to the manager to the local judge cheats as a modus operadum.

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Inside Pakistan: Real Lives, Real People

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (Cover via Powell's Books)

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (Cover via Powell's Books)

It’s no wonder that Danyal Mueenuddin’s extraordinary collection of linked stories, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, is creating a buzz all the way from People Magazine to The Economist. The truth is that I can’t wait to go home and read another chapter, and it’s not often that I get to say that. In the first chapter we meet Nawab, the crafty electrician, who uses the challenge of having sired twelve daughters for whom he must provide dowries as a goad to stretch his resilience, resourcefulness, and sleight of hand. In the second chapter we meet Saleema, a maid who resolutely sleeps her way up until she falls for a fatal form of true love in the arms of an aging valet.

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A Listener Responds to ‘Women and Sharia’

Dave Wood, a listener of the Inside Islam radio series on Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders, writes:

I wish I was writing with typical accolades but unfortunately I’m sending a note about my disappointment in your Inside Islam series. I think it not only lacks objective reporting but, even worse, it whitewashes Islam leaving your listener less prepared to identify radical Islam’s threat to our freedom and culture. Perhaps most important, your program does not challenge Muslims to face the profound human rights issues their religion faces.

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Islamophonic Podcast

Host of the award-winning podcast Islamophonic and journalist for the Guardian UK Riazat Butt takes a critical and witty look at the Muslim community beginning at home in her native Great Britain. Each month, the program deals with complex cultural and political issues in the news by tackling topics like marriage, extremism, secular democracy, and others.

Riazat refrains from making overarching conclusions about Islam without buffering them with humor. Also, the programs rarely deal with spiritual matters. Instead, Islamophonic tackles the difficult task of reporting the individual stories of living in Muslim world.

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Women’s Rights Under Islamic Law

Many advocates of Sharia cite Islam’s “fundamental respect for women” as one of their religion’s greatest benefits. The prophet Mohammad is known for ascribing women a right to own property, receive education, and hold a job. When asked by an adherent whom he should give his greatest respect to, Mohammad said, “your mother,” then “your mother,” then “your mother,” only then followed by “your father” (here in the Compendium of Muslim Texts).

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