Monday, October 15, 2007

Understanding Islam and the West

"Do you know anything about Islam?" someone asked me yesterday.

That's a hard question to answer. I know something about Islam: the five pillars, the Koran, the basic history of its conquests and losses, some sources of tensions between the East and the West. But when asked to explain it, I feel distinctly uncomfortable.

Perhaps I have been studying in the intolerant academy for too long; I have imbibed that reluctance--expected of Christians--to comment on a religion not my own.

Nevertheless, Islam (or, rather, the problem of Islam-Christian-Jewish relations) fascinates me. I've tried to pick up some resources for y'all to browse over should you, too, harbor such a fascination. These books/articles/websites have helped me formulate some responses to questions folks raise about Islam and the West. I'll profligate some of those opinions later, but thought the experts should do the talking first:

Islam's Teachings and History

"The Pillars of Islamic Faith," by David B. Burrell--a great article on the 5 pillars that also points out some key differences between Christian and Islamic theology.

Knowing the Enemy, by Mary Habeck--This book is a not-difficult explanation of the various interpretations of jihad in Islamic history; a great way to understand the rise of what the media calls "Islamic fundamentalism."

For a fascinating discussion--between several Muslim and Christian women--of the wearing of the veil (hijab) see the Feminine Genius.

Islam and the West
Pope Benedict XVI's address to the faculty at Regensburg, Germany, on September 12, 2006; the address sparked worldwide attentions and riots in Islamic countries, but its central theme is actually on the role of faith and reason in Islam.

"Islam and Us," by George Cardinal Pell--this article is the best short explanation I've read on the possibilities for Muslims and Christians to dialogue and come to some sort of peaceful co-existence; also some good points on secularism.

"The Regensburg Moment," by Richard John Neuhaus--a great summary and analysis of Pope Benedict's address at Regensburg in 2006.

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