A Complete Way of Life

The Five Pillars of Islam

Muhammad and His Heirs

The Rise & Fall of the Caliphate

The Magnificent Heritage

Decay or Rebirth?

Ismail & Isaac

Resurgent Islam Today

Voices of the Resurgence

The Immigrant Experience

Black Muslims

The Other Face of Eve

Whither Islam?


Essay

credits & awards

CD description

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Program 1: A Complete Way of Life    CD   MP3

     We in the West first became aware that something was stirring in the Islamic world back in 1978. Opposition to the Shah of Iran began to shake the foundations of an apparently secure society which had committed itself to modernization along Western lines. The rest is now History. The Shah was overthrown by forces inspired by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who then proceeded to try and rebuild Iran as an Islamic republic. Over the past twenty years, politicians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sudan have tried to introduce Islamic law, political institutions and much more into the fabric of their respective societies.

     In December 1979, radicals seized the Great Mosque in Makkah Saudi Arabia in an effort to overthrow the ruling house of Sa'ud. Two years later, Anwar Sadat of Egypt was assassinated by young Muslims. In both instances, idealistic Muslims claimed to be purifying Islam of corruption and the temptations of Western civilization.

     For ten years, a majority of the Afghan people waged war against Soviet armies in the name of Islam. Then the Taliban tried to use Afghanistan as the base for a new Caliphate that mixed the technologies of the twenty-first century with social and cultural beliefs and behavior of the seventh century.

     In 1990 Saddam Hussein incited the Muslim world to rise up against American armies in defense of Islam. Undoubtedly, then, something has been happening in the Islamic world. And what was long a vague sense of unease that this might be directed against the West and all it stands for became a certainty in September 2001.

     Strangely enough, this sense of apprehension and foreboding is not very different from the feelings that many of our ancestors in Medieval Europe also held about Islam at the time of the Crusades. In fact, the very word ISLAM conjures up threatening images:

           - images of unshaven, fanatical crowds chanting slogans against            the West, and against the 'Great Satan', the United States, in            particular:

         - of Muslims in Britain and elsewhere demanding the death of the            author Salman Rushdie for the alleged blasphemy of the            "Satanic Verses":

         - and of licentious, long-robed Arabs forcing women back into            the seclusion of the harem, the veil and ...ignorance.

     To many of us, Islam seems synonymous with an attempt to turn back the clock of history to the time of Muhammad, over 1400 years ago. "Isn't any society based solely on religious principles bound to be hostile to democracy and individual freedoms? And opposed to the goals of economic growth and progress? Many of these images are obviously stereotypes, the result of ignorance, even fear of the unknown. They are also a convenient way of lumping together a world that most of us will never see or experience. While some aspects of these images may be accurate, they may also completely miss the mark. In this series you'll be able to hear Muslims themselves talk about Islam and what it means to them, and get a chance to make up your own mind. For example: Is Islam really an anachronism? Or can it provide answers to the problems of developing countries in search of their identities?

     Have we in the West perhaps unjustly tarred Islam and Muslims everywhere with the brush of certain events in the Persian Gulf or Iran? What happened inside Khomeini's Iran? And what in fact is an Islamic society? Are women really second-class citizens? And is justice in Islam always meted out by the sword, flogging and stoning to death? Is Islam something we should fear? Or does it perhaps hold answers for us, here in the West, as we search for dignity and progress?

People interviewed in this program: Khalid Malik, Abdullah Mohammad, Eva de Vitrey, Seyed Hossein Nasr, Ismail al-Shatti, Mian Tufayl, Sam Hassam, Albert Hourani, Ruhi Malikjch, Abdullah Mohammad, Muhammad Sakr, Rashid Uddin, Anis Ahmed, Abdullah Omar Naseek, Naguib al-Attas.