Category: Islam


Torrey Olsen on Faith-Based Humanitarianism and World Vision

What is it like to be shot at and abducted while serving as a religiously-based humanitarian aid worker? Torrey Olsen, who spent 15 years in West Africa with World Vision and other organizations details his experiences and what he learned in the field. He also discusses the history and operation of World Vision, a Christian-based relief organization that operations in roughly 100 countries, including some of the most dangerous hot spots around the world. We examine various projects World Vision undertakes including an ecumenical outreach program to Muslims concerning the Ebola pandemic in Africa.

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Philip Jenkins on Religion & World War I

As we solemnly observe the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, historian Philip Jenkins joins us to discuss the religious dimensions of “The Great & Holy War” (which is also the title of his new book). We survey the spiritual, apocalyptic, and even occult language and imagery that was used to understand the war, mobilize troops, and even guide it on occasion. Prof. Jenkins also lays out the consequences that this pivotal historical event had on the global spiritual landscape … consequences that we are still experiencing to this very day.

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Karen Elliott House on Journalism and Saudi Arabia

Pulitzer Prize recipient Karen Elliott House joins us to discuss her career as a diplomatic correspondent in the Middle East for the Wall Street Journal and a number of important changes that are occurring in what many consider to be one of the most stable countries in that turbulent region. After discussing the life of a female reporter covering a male-dominated culture, which has a few surprising benefits, we review Saudi Arabia’s socio-economic landscape and internal tensions that are generating support for reform.

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Ani Sarkissian on Politics and Religious Civil Society in Turkey

With Turkey playing a pivotal role in the Middle East, and a country that is often viewed as a model for democracy in the Islamic world, we take a look at this country’s history, politics, and civil society with Prof. Ani Sarkissian of Michigan State University. Are liberalizing reforms that are designed to make it easier to create civic associations having their intended effect? Or is there something to Turkey’s history and political structure that are creating some unintended consequences?

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Kevan Harris on Iran’s Islamic Revolution and Green Movement

With Iran in the news recently, we consult with Kevan Harris of Princeton’s Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies on the country’s recent history from its 1979 Islamic Revolution to the stalled Green “Revolution” (or movement) in the past half decade. Prof. Harris explains the process of social mobilization in 1979 and how it differed in 2009, as well as how the Islamic regime consolidated its rule over the past quarter century.

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Ron Hassner on Sacred Spaces & Holy Conflict

Why are conflicts over holy shrines and other sacred spaces so often violent and intractable? Prof. Ron Hassner (UC-Berkeley, political science) offers an intringuing answer that revolves around the nature and various characteristics of sacred ground. Our discussion covers the breakdown of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in 2000, the recent controversy over the “Ground Zero mosque” in New York City and several other examples.

This is an encore performance of an interview that aired in the fall of 2010. We will be back with a fresh interview next week.

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Ann Wainscott on the Politics of Islam in Morocco

What explains the emergence of political Islam, particularly a Salafi variant of this movement, in Morocco? Ann Wainscott, a graduate student at the University of Florida, advances a novel explanation relating to educational reform. In an attempt to forestall advancing leftist influence in society during the 1960s and ’70s, the regime of King Hasan II promoted greater Islamic education within the country’s public school system that had the unintended consequence of creating new space for Islamists. While this is not the only reason for the emergence of an Islamist movement in Morocco, it represents an often-overlooked piece of the puzzle.

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Carolyn Warner on Religion & Generosity

Why and how do religious groups motivate generosity? We visit with Prof. Carolyn Warner (ASU) who is involved in a multi-national, cross-faith, and interdisciplinary investigation exploring why religious individuals give money and volunteer time to help others. As part of a larger team of scholars, she has conducted interviews with Catholics and Muslims in France, Ireland, Italy, and Turkey using both person-to-person interviews and an experimental design to see if there are differences across these to faith traditions. She and her team discover that Catholics tend to be motivated by “love of God” whereas Muslims are moved to give out of a “duty to God.” This sheds light on whether organizations need to provide close monitoring and sanctioning of volunteer behavior or whether individuals can be counted to be generous on their own.

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Alessandra González on Islamic Feminism

Does the term “Islamic Feminism” sound counter-intuitive? Dr. Alessandra González explores how women in Kuwait are finding ways to empower themselves and advocate for their interests in an environment where political Islam (or Islamism) is resurgent. She contrasts notions of Islamic feminism with how feminism is perceived in the West and reveals a number of fascinating insights on gender roles in a Muslim society. Changes in educational opportunities and changing perceptions among younger generations play a role in promoting this movement, as well as the surprising impact of Iraq’s invation of Kuwait in 1990. We also talk about the important role of conforming to traditional community norms and how men might actually be helping facilitate the struggle for women’s rights and empowerment.

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Ani Sarkissian on Religious Liberty in the Post-Soviet World

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 heralded what many thought would be a new era of liberty in a region of the world that has known little freedom for most of its history. However, many of the new regimes that emerged from the Soviet rubble have slipped back into autocracy. We review these political developments and what this has meant for religious freedom in the region with Prof. Ani Sarkissian (Michigan State University). Interestingly, we observe a fairly wide variation in how governments react to religious organizations with some governments supressing all faiths whereas as others picking and choosing which religions to allow and which to repress. Albania, of all places, emerges as the most religiously free of the post-Soviet “competitive dictatorships.” Find out why.

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