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Understanding The Muslim World University of Texas College of Liberal Arts Aga Khan Development Network Islam in World Cultures Project November 18-21, 2004 Think About It!

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Understanding The Muslim World

University of Texas College of Liberal Arts

Aga Khan Development Network

Islam in World Cultures Project

November 18-21, 2004

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Think About It!

By recognizing the stereotypes we hold about others – and others hold about us – we can begin to understand each other better.

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Think About It!

What stereotypes of the Muslim World do Westerners have?

What stereotypes of Westerners do people in the Muslim World have?

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Religious Fanaticism

Oppression of Women

Deserts, Turbans, Terrorists

Advocates of Violence

Arabs = Muslims

Hatred of Non-Muslims

Fundamentally Different Religion

Stereotypes About Muslims

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Abundance & Wealth

Lack of Family Values

Hypocritical, Democratic Ideals

Absence of Morals

Exploitation of Women

Stereotypes About Westerners

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United States

7 Million Muslims

53% Indo-Pakistani

47% African-Americans

Middle East

400 Million Muslims

Arab World

270 Million Muslims

Where is the Muslim World?


Middle East

130 Million


Arab World

Middle East

Muslim World

Muslim World

1.3 Billion Muslims

India Indonesia

Pakistan Bangladesh

Great Britain Canada

Audrey Shabbas, Middle East Policy Council

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Area and Geographic Influences


Intellectual and Arts Influences





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Political Influences

  • European Imperialism All the great powers of Europe – Britain, France, Germany, and Russia – sought to control natural resources, create markets for their industries, and establish colonies around the globe.

    • Egypt and North Africa

    • South Africa

    • India and South Asian Subcontinent

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Political Influences

  • Ethnic Minorities

    • Kurds – Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria

    • Berbers – North Africa

    • Albanians and Armenians – Eastern Europe

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Political Influences

  • Political Structures Today

    • Royal families – Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Morocco

    • Strong leaders – Syria, formerly in Iraq

    • Democratic governments – Turkey, Iran

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Political Influences

  • Should The West attempt to “democratize” the Middle East and other Islamic areas?

  • Is democracy compatible with Islam?

  • What role does religion play in politics in the Muslim world?

  • What are the pressures for and against democracy in the Muslim world?

  • Does the United States have the right to remove a government and impose democracy?

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Political Influences

“Islam is a complete way of life; it covers the entire spectrum of human activities. Islam means total commitment and subordination of all aspects of life – individual, social, economic, political, international – to God. Hence, Islam is both religion and politics, church and state, joined in a single goal of serving God and implementing His commandments.”

Dr. Mumtaz Ahmad

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Speech by President Bush, November 7, 2003


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Political Influences

  • YES, the United States SHOULD impose democracy.

    • Human rights records among the worst in the world

    • Connections to terrorism

    • Model democracy might lead other Arab governments to follow

    • Could remove our troops

    • Oil prices might dramatically drop

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Political Influences

  • NO, the United States SHOULD NOT impose democracy.

    • Anti-Western sentiment could grow in the region – environment of distrust

    • Islam is not fundamentally compatible with democracy

    • Clash of modernity vs. traditionalism

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Political Influences

Take a stand! Where do you fall on the spectrum? Do you agree or disagree with the following statement…..

The United States should impose democracy on undemocratic regimes in the Middle East and the Muslim world.

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Economic Influences

  • Water is important for its scarcity rather than its abundance

  • Disputes over water rights threaten political relationships in the area

  • Egypt, Iran, and Turkey are the only countries in the region with abundant fresh water sources

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Economic Influences

  • Turkey plans to build a series of 24 hydroelectric dams on the Euphrates River for its growing population and industries that would drastically reduce water to Syria and Iraq

  • Syria dammed part of the Euphrates River choking off the supply of water to Iraq

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Economic Influences

  • Oil has created opportunities and problems for the Middle East

  • Nations have learned to manipulate their production of oil as an international strategy

  • Uneven distribution of oil deposits has created a large gap between rich and poor

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Economic Influences

  • By 2050 Central Asia will provide more than 80% of oil distributed to the US making Afghanistan and Turkey of strategic importance

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Religious Influences

  • Five Pillars of Islam

  • Sunni and Shi’a

  • Spread of Islam

  • Crusades

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Religious Influences

  • Five Pillars of Islam

    • Profession of faith

    • Prayer five times per day

    • Almsgiving – charity

    • Fasting from sunrise to sundown during Ramadan

    • Hajj – pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime

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  • Sunnis-

  • Believe Muslim leadership passes to caliphs elected from Muslim families

  • Support rule of Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman

  • Believe every individual has a direct relationship with Allah

  • Shi’as:

  • Believe that leadership is limited to descendants of Muhammad

  • Reject rule of first three caliphs

  • Feel that imam provides a spiritual link to Allah

  • Accept Muhammad as God’s final prophet

  • Believe that the Qur’an contains the word of Allah

  • Use the 5 Pillars of Faith as a guide for proper behavior

Religious Influences

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Religious Influences

  • Spread of Islam

    • Fatimids and Mamluks in Northern Africa - Cairo (656-661)

    • Umayyads - Damascus (680 to 750)

    • Abbasids - Baghdad (750 to 1258)

    • Muslim Spain - Cordova (711 to1492)

    • Seljuq Turks and Sultans of Rum - Constantinople(1055 to 1243)

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Religious Influences

  • Crusades

    • Seljuq Turks took control of Jerusalem in 1070

    • By 1095, the Muslim World included the land where Jesus Christ had lived

    • Christians believed that Christians, not Muslims, should control the holy lands of the Middle East.

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Social Influences

  • The sacred book of Islam is the Qur’an

  • A compilation of practices, traditions and sayings of Muhammad is the Hadith

  • Pork and pork products are forbidden and considered unhealthy

  • Ablution before prayer – washing hands, face and feet

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Social Influences

  • Muslims must abstain from alcohol or drugs

  • Muslims seek forgiveness from Allah and no one else – asked for through daily prayer

  • Women’s dress - The outline of a woman’s body should not be revealed

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Social Influences

  • Some women choose to wear the hijab (scarf or veil) to cover their hair

  • Muslims should always respect their parents, even if they disagree

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Women and The Veil


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Social Influences

  • Conflict in Context – Palestinians and Israelis

    • Partition after World War II in 1947

    • One of the most enduring, explosive conflicts in world history

    • Root in the historic claim to the land which lies between the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River

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Social Influences

  • Conflict in Context – Palestinians and Israelis

    • Jews want to return to the land of their forefathers after persecution around the world

    • For Palestinians, the last 100 years has brought a long search for a homeland after colonization, expulsion, and occupation.

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  • Jews declared the state of Israel in 1948

  • Between 1949 and 1967, Israel controlled western Jerusalem and Jordan controlled eastern Jerusalem including the old walled city containing important Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious sites

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  • Israel captured all of Jerusalem in 1967

  • Israel is determined that Jerusalem be undivided and controlled by Israel

  • Palestinians are seeking to establish their capital in East Jerusalem

  • Israel is able to monitor and control travel in much of the West Bank

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Social Influences

  • Conflict in Context – India and Pakistan

    • Partition after World War II in 1947

    • An estimated ½ million people died in violence

    • Territories of Jammu and Kashmir remain in dispute – majority Muslim

    • Both India and Pakistan have weapons of mass destruction

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Intellectual and Arts Influences

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Intellectual and Arts Influences

  • Religious Art and Architecture

  • Secular Art and Architecture

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Intellectual and Arts Influences

  • Religious Art and Architecture –

    • The Mosque is at the heart of Islamic art

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Intellectual and Arts Influences

  • Religious Art and Architecture –

    • Arabesque

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Intellectual and Arts Influences

  • Secular Art and Architecture

    • Princely cycle

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Intellectual and Arts Influences

  • Secular Art and Architecture

    • Ceramics

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Area and Geographic Influences

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Area/Geographic Influences

  • Adapting to Land and Climate

  • Vast Geographic Differences

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Area/Geographic Influences

  • Adapting to Land and Climate

    • The rich fertile soil of the Middle East led early civilizations to settle, domesticate plants and animals, and thrive

    • The hills of Lebanon were forested in ancient times for their fragrant and structurally reliable wood

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Area/Geographic Influences

  • Adapting to Land and Climate

    • Mountains have provided refuge for oppressed minorities, such as the Ismaili’s in Afghanistan and the Kurds in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

    • The Indian Ocean has served as a commercial link for thousands of years providing spices, silks, coffee, and tea to countries in The West.

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Area/Geographic Influences

  • Vast Geographic Differences

    • Desert Climate is Extreme

    • Fertile Oases Provide Vegetation

    • Agriculture in Coastal Plains

    • Mountains Make Survival Difficult

    • Oceanic Cultures Provide Trade and Commerce

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Area/Geographic Influences

  • Geographic Features Bring Political Power –

    • Irrigation

    • Oil

    • New, high-yield varieties of products

    • Nutrition and public health are improving

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Think About It!

How do these important aspects of The Muslim World influence current events?

What difference does this make to me in today’s world?