Category: Islam


Eileen Kane on the Russian Hajj

As industrialization progressed in the 19th century and railroads became more commonplace, the costs of making the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) became more affordable for the large number of Muslims who lived in Russian territory. Prof. Eileen Kane, a historian at Connecticut College, discusses how the Russians tsars and the Soviets managed the pilgrimage routes to facilitate their geo-political and economic goals, and how Muslims in turn reacted. This story has heretofore gone untold but reveals a great deal about religion and politics, not only in centuries gone by, but for our contemporary world as well.

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Rodney Stark on The Triumph of Faith

The decline of religion around the world may be greatly exaggerated. Returning for his sixth appearance on our podcast, Prof. Rodney Stark, co-founder of Baylor’s ISR, discusses his new book “The Triumph of Faith” and reviews how the religious landscapes in various countries and regions of the world has been greatly transformed in the past half century. We look at “nones” from the United States, the rise of indigenous Christianity in Africa, and how even the Japanese still rely upon Shinto priests for blessings.

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Claire Adida on Discrimination Towards Muslims in France

France has a sizable and growing Muslim population, but how well are they integrated into national life? Prof. Claire Adida discusses a multi-pronged study conducted with David Laitin and Marie-Anne Valfort assessing the extent of discrimination on religious grounds and why it occurs. We discuss “rational” and “non-rational” Islamophobia (listen to the podcast for full definition of these terms) and the self-reinforcing “discriminatory equilibrium” that has resulted in the country. She also discusses the field experiments conducted as part of this research.

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Darío Fernández-Morera on Andalusian Spain

From approximately 711 A.D. to the end of the 13th century, the majority of Spain was ruled by Muslims, with Christian rule finally unifying the country in the late 15th century . Prof. Darío Fernandez-Morera examines the history of al-Andalus and argues that this historical epoch was not necessarily a time of religious harmony and “convivencia” that many contemporary scholars claim. We examine the political, economic, and social status of Christians and Jews, as well as women, during this time period.

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Ann Wainscott on Morocco’s Religious Foreign Policy

During the past two years, the Moroccan government has begun exporting various religious education programs as part of its foreign policy strategy in the North and West African region. Prof. Ann Wainscott explains how this new development is both an outgrowth if its domestic religious strategy, and a response by other nations to adopt some of the policies implemented in Morocco. The success of this foreign policy, as witnessed by its embrace by nations such as Mali and Senegal, is in part a function of Morocco’s cultural-historical legitimacy in the region, the existence of pre-existing educational institutions, and the ability to link religious education to great economic integration. Prof. Wainscott also explains the unique flavor of Moroccan and West African Islam.

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Murat Iyigun on Monotheism, Conflict, Europe, the Ottomans, and the Blues

Did the Ottoman Caliphate have any impact on Europe’s socio-political and economic development? While we often examine Europe’s late medieval history in isolation from other world events, Prof. Murat Iyigun (University of Colorado) argues that the Ottoman Empire’s advances into southeast Europe affected the religious, political, and economic history of Europe in very interesting ways. We also look at the ability of monotheism to guarantee longer and more expansive sociopolitical control, and the influence of mothers on the military policy of Ottoman sultans. At the end of the podcast, we have a special treat — an original “arabesque blues” song, Muqarnas, written and performed by Murat!

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Paul Kubicek on Islam, Political Islam, and Democracy

Can democratic governance on a national scale coincide with Islam? Prof. Paul Kubicek (Oakland University) takes us on a comparative journey to show where predominately Islamic populations have existed successfully with democracy. While much of media and scholarly attention on the topic of Islam and democracy has focused on the Middle East, Paul discusses the interesting cases of Turkey, Senegal, Mali, and Tunisia, while also noting some of the difficulties in democratic transitions in places such as Bangladesh. He also shares his reflections on the Arab Spring.

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John Owen IV on Confronting Political Islam, Historical Lessons

As ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other radical forms of political Islam take center stage in the news and policy circles, can we learn anything about the broad-based movement known as Islamism from the history of Europe? Prof. John Owen IV discusses how the West has dealt with its own radical ideological struggles and the parallels we can draw to the present situation in the Middle East and North Africa. Does a Scottish rebellion in the 1560s have anything worth informing us about the Taliban? Find out!

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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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