Samer Ali, Ph.D., Middle Eastern Studies, UT Austin
Islam is a religion of 1.6 billion people, with a history that spans nearly a millennium and a half. But what do we really know about Islam, its people and their history? Unfortunately, for most of Europe's history, virtually nothing. In Europe, church policy promoted hostility toward Muslims (as well as Jews) through pogroms, the Crusades, the Spanish Reconquista, and disparaging edicts. In an effort to promote understanding, this course provides the audience with a foundation to think about the origin and development of Islam. How does Islam compare and contrast with Judaism and Christianity? How does Sunni or Shi'i Islam compare and contrast with Protestantism and Catholicism? Does Islam have a central organization comparable to that of the Roman Catholic Church?
The weekly topics will follow a chronological order from the advent of Islam, when it was a minority religion surrounded by paganism, to the cultural debates of today:
In the end, attendees will have gained knowledge that will help them figure out the diversity of Muslim views and policies in response to the West, as well as more subtle shifts and developments that have happened within the Muslim community itself. Bring your questions!
Samer Ali is Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. He completed his Ph.D. at Indiana University, Bloomington, and has received awards from the Fulbright and Fulbright-Hays programs to support archival research in Morocco and Egypt, as well as in Spain and Germany. His work on literary culture in medieval Iraq culminated in a recent book, Arabic Literary Salons in the Islamic Middle Ages. His forthcoming book, The Medieval Islamic Public Sphere, examines the ways that literature promoted civil society in the medieval Middle East. Professor Ali has served as a language and culture consultant for Language Testing International and Newsweek magazine.
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