803 - 001

The Influence Of Islam

On Medieval Europe

The last several centuries of the near millennium of interaction between Islam and Christendom saw a number of events that served as a kind of transition from the Middle Ages to a new era of international engagement.  Two events in particular, the fall of Constantinople in the middle of the fifteenth century and the final expulsion of Muslims from Andalusia at the end of that century, illustrate this transition.


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The Influence Of Islam On

 Medieval Europe

Crusaders and other travelers to the Holy Land often brought back luxury objects and souvenirs, which became treasured in ecclesiastical and princely collections.  Silk textile, made for a Samanid commander in eastern Iran in the mid-tenth century, was used in 1134 to wrap relics in the abbey of St. Josse-sur-Mer in northern France.  The cloth was probably brought back by Étienne de Blois, patron of the abbey and a commander of the First Crusade.


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The Early Muslim

Kingdoms Of Aceh

Aceh was the first region of modern-day Indonesia in which Muslim kingdoms were founded.  Marco Polo observed a Muslim king on the north coast of Sumatra in 1292, more than a half century before the oceanic voyage of Ibn Battutah landed him further to the south on the same island.  The Portuguese voyager Tome Pires, writing on the cusp of sixteenth century, provided the earliest ethnographic record of Acheh.  


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The Emergence Of Islam

In Southeast Asia

The emergence of Islam in Southeast Asia is both an extension of Muslim history in the Asian subcontinent and an independent expression of Islamic civilization unrelated to any history except its own.  The major feature of Southeast Asia is topographical: it provides access to major trading routes, allowing it to connect two main land masses, India and China, by sea.  The strait of Malacca (Melaka) was the strategic link in the trade between India and China.  It connected the Bay of Bengal with the South China Sea.  


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The Great Indo-Muslim

Rulers  In South Asia

Four Indo-Muslim rulers stand out as embodiments of this new Turko-Persian Islamicate culture that prevailed in South Asia from the eleventh century.

Because the reign of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna (what is now Ghazni in eastern Afghanistan) set the tone for much of what followed, his legacy has been marked by controversy.  Mahmud was a dogged campaigner who conducted no less than seventeen military forays into India, and he delighted in chronicling his own military feats.  Like other Persian and Turko-Persian rulers, Mahmud commissioned the official histories that he wanted to stand as the record of his reign for posterity. 


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The Eastward Journey Of

Muslim Kingship

Islam is above all a pan-Asian religion.  It shapes the beliefs and practices of millions of Asians, from Central to South to Southeast Asia.  There are other pan-Asian religions — Hinduism to the far south, Buddhism to the Far East — but none that spans the southern rim of the Asian continent to the extent that Islam does.

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

803 - 007

Crisis and Change in the

Ottoman System:

The Seventeenth and

Eighteenth Centuries

For centuries the Ottoman ruling system was built up on the basis of the systematic rationalization of regional political, cultural, and historical precedents.  Ottoman state power was grounded in a refinement of the Byzantine, Muslim, Seljuk, and Mongol precedents for regional power.  By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the era of construction was over and the Ottoman society was evolving in ways that were detrimental to the continuation of a dominant centralized state.

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

803 - 008

The Economy Of

The Ottoman Empire:

 Land, Urban Markets,

 And International Trade

The Ottoman empire was unusual among Middle Eastern empires in the degree to which it was able to bring the subject population under state control.  Critical to this control was the regulation of the economy.  The Ottomans operated on the principle that the subjects should serve the interests of the state, and the economy was organized to ensure the flow of tax revenues, goods in kind, and services needed by the government and the elites.  

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

803 - 009

Ottoman Culture And

The Concept Of Empire:

Rulers and Subjects

The authority of the Ottoman sultans was derived from several layers of Middle Eastern cultural tradition.  The Ottomans primarily derived their legitimacy from Turko-Mongol concepts of royal family supremacy, warrior sovereignty, and what they considered to be a divinely given mission to conquer the world.  This patrimonial conception, which based the right to rule on aristocratic noble lineage combined with victories in battle, had its origin in the Ottoman Turkish and Central Asian past.

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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The Ottoman State Apparatus

 And Religion


The Ottoman state was built on the very same institutional base as its Middle Eastern predecessors.  At the center was the court or palace apparatus, the household of the ruler, comprising his family, his harem, his boon companions, and his highest ranking officers, administrators, and religious functionaries.  The court served as an extended family and the government’s nerve center, a training institute for Ottoman cadres, and a theater of cultural display.  Centered at the Topkapi Serai, overlooking the Golden Horn of Istanbul, the court was divided into two sections.  The inner section was made up of the residences of the sultan and his harem, the treasury, and the school for pages and officers.

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

803 - 011

The Ottoman Empire:

Its Origins And

World Conquests

The Ottoman empire also had its origins in the two great trends of earlier centuries: the Turkish migrations and the post-Abbasid reconstruction of state and society, which provided the institutional and cultural precedents for later Ottoman society.  The legacy of Persian monarchical, Byzantine and Roman, Seljuk Anatolian, and Mongol and Timurid precedents interacting with Turkish cultures and transformed by the Ottoman synthesis led to the Ottoman version of high imperial, late Middle Eastern civilization.

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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Shi’ism In Early Iran

The most astonishing chapter in the Safavid consolidation of power was the decision to promote Shi’ism as Iran’s official religion.  Until the Safavid era, Iran was largely Sunni, although there was a minority Shi’ite presence in Qum and Isfahan.  Although the Safavid shaykhs claimed descent from the seventh imam and integrated Shi’ism into their religious identity and authority, the original Shi’ism of the Safavids was a minority orientation. 

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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The Safavid Empire

The Safavid empire was strongly shaped by the political and religious institutions and the cultural accomplishments of the previous era.  The Turkish and Mongol migrations had profoundly changed the character of northern Iran.  A large Turkish population had settled in eastern Iran, in the region of the Oxus River, and in northwestern Iran and eastern Anatolia.  Turkish peoples constituted about 25 percent of the total population, and the Turkish presence radically changed both the economy and the society. 

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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The State And Religion

The emergence of new political and religious bodies raised again the problem of the division of authority between the state and religious institutions.  In Middle Eastern societies this issue goes back to the ancient temple communities of Mesopotamia and the emergence of the first empires.  Ever after, the boundaries of authority and functions between rulers and priests would be an open question.  The Islamic era began with its own position on this issue.  For Muslims the Prophet himself embodied both religious and political authority.  He revealed God’s will and God’s law for his people; he was the ruler of the community, who also collected taxes, waged wars, and arbitrated disputes.  The early caliphs also claimed religious authority to make pronouncements on religious law and beliefs as well as the prerogatives of emperors.  In the evolution of the caliphate, however, the tendency to separate political and religious authority seemed unavoidable.  


DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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The New Political


Social Order

The basic political facts make it hard to grasp that beneath the surface of events, this was also a period of reconstruction and the creation of new governmental and societal institutions.  Everywhere the legacy of the Islamic caliphate and the heritage of Persian concepts of imperial monarchy were blended with Turkish concepts of political chieftaincy, law, and world conquest.  While regimes came and went, while conquerors succeeded each other, the system of governing came to be fixed in similar modes.

DATE LAST EDITED:   04-2020 

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The Sultanate Era, 950–1500:

Between The Abbasid Caliphate

And The Gunpowder Empires

The collapse of the Abbasid empire in the tenth century opened the way for the further transformation of Middle Eastern regimes, societies, and cultures and for a new and creative, albeit tumultuous era in the history of the region.  On the surface the political changes were anarchic.  With the breakup of the Abbasid empire, provinces and even small districts came under the rule of new military elites. Nomadic peoples broke through the frontier defenses, invaded, and migrated en masse into the Middle East.  

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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Sultanates And Gunpowder


The era of gunpowder empires represents a new phase in the development of Middle Eastern and Islamic societies.  The term gunpowder empires imputes a great importance to the innovative military technology of infantry armed with muskets, operating in conjunction with siege and battlefield artillery, that allowed the new empires to sweep away their rivals and to establish a dominion that would last until the eve of the modern era. 

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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The End Of

The Middle Ages

The last several centuries of the near millennium of interaction between Islam and Christendom saw a number of events that served as a kind of transition from the Middle Ages to a new era of international engagement.  Two events in particular, the fall of Constantinople in the middle of the fifteenth century and the final expulsion of Muslims from Andalusia at the end of that century, illustrate this transition.

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

803 - 019

Medieval Muslim Views

of Europe, 

Christians, And Christianity

The vast majority of Muslims in the eastern part of the empire had little if any knowledge of the western regions of Christendom, as well as little interest in discovering anything about lands they considered bleak and remote, inhabited by
peoples they thought to be little more than barbarians.  They considered the Europeans’ manners and habits to be loathsome, their level of culture exceedingly low, and their religion superseded by Islam.  The fact that Europeans spoke many different languages was regarded as a serious liability, allowing none to understand the other.  

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

803 - 020

The Eastward Spread

Of Sufism

Often emphasized in scholarship, the missionary role of Sufis in the early Islamization of Eastern Turkestan has been overestimated.  In fact, we have only a few traces of Sufi presence already in the thirteenth century in Almaliq, among other places, but Sufi proselytizing activities in the region probably did not start before the mid-fourteenth century.  At that time, the Chaghatay ulus were divided into two khanates, western and eastern, when in 1348 the tribal lords of Semireche and Eastern Turkestan seceded and enthroned Tūghlūq Timūr (d. 1363).  His kingdom became known as Moghūlistān.


803 - 021

The Muslim Reaction To

The Colonial Order

The return of China to the Central Asian scene took place through a series of decisive events following the Manchu conquest of Dzungaria. As early as 1715, the regents of Qomul (Hami in Chinese) pledged allegiance to the Qing emperor Kangxi (r. 1662–1722) and opposed the Dzungars.  Five years later, several regents of Turfan surrendered to general Yongzheng’s army.  Under Qianlong (r. 1736–1795), the Qing troops seized the Ili basin in 1755 and Kashgaria in 1759.  That same year, the Āfāqī leaders Burhān al-Dīn Khwāja and Jahān Khwāja were captured and executed, and the head of the latter was put on display in the streets of Beijing. 


803 - 022

Islam Under And After Mao

The establishment of the Communist order in China had the effect of an earthquake, with periods of lull preceding aftershock, and focused primarily on agrarian and land reforms.  As in the Soviet Union, PRC’s minorities (minzu in Chinese) posed a vexed problem to Mao’s revolutionary line: the religious, cultural and historical specificities of minorities should be respected but they had to ultimately be absorbed into socialism; every ethnic group and religious minority had the right to autonomy but was expected to build up China’s national unity.  Such contradictions in law bred confusion.  Xinjiang officially acquired the status of Autonomous Region in 1955 but remained entirely dependent on Beijing’s decisions.  


803 - 023

Islam In Africa To 1800

Islam moved into Africa from three directions.  It came from North Africa across the Sahara to Bilad al-Sudan (The Lands of the Black People), which is between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Chad.  Despite six centuries of resistance from Nubian Christians, Islam expanded from Egypt southward, up the Nile valley, and west to Darfur and Wadai.  Islam also moved from the Arabian peninsula across the Red Sea to the Horn of Africa, and from there further south to the coast of East Africa.  This chapter will analyze the diverse patterns of the Islamization of Africa and the variety of religious experiences encountered by African Muslims until the beginning of the nineteenth century.  During the eighteenth century, several factors contributed to the change from accommodation with local cultures to Islamic militancy, which brought about the jihad movements of the nineteenth century.

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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Songhay And Timbuktu

In the fourteenth century, Walata — which served as the southern terminus of the Saharan trade — was still more important as a commercial town than was Timbuktu.  The emperor Mansa Musa sought to encourage intellectual life in Timbuktu and Malian scholars to study in Fez.  By the first half of the fifteenth century the level of scholarship in Timbuktu was such that a student who came from the Hejaz realized that the scholars of Timbuktu surpassed him in the knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh).

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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Songhay And Timbuktu In

The Seventeenth


Eighteenth Centuries

Following the Moroccan conquest in 1591, under the qadis’ leadership the people of Timbuktu adopted a policy of passive submission and noncooperation with the conquering army.  Timbuktu, which had been autonomous under the Songhay rule, became the seat of a military government.  The presence of an occupying force disturbed life in this city of commerce and scholarship and led to a conflict between the military and the civilian populations.  The pasha (highest-ranking official) and his troops resorted to harsh disciplinary measures when all conventions were broken.  The pasha ordered the arrest of the leading fuqaha, and their houses were pillaged.  Seventy prominent fuqaha were deported in chains to Marrakesh, among them the qadi Umar ibn Mahmud Aqit and Ahmad Baba.  The fuqaha were under arrest in Marrakesh for two years, and Umar died in prison.  Even after their release they were not allowed to return to Timbuktu.  Only Ahmad Baba returned, after almost twenty years in exile.

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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Kanem And Bornu

An early trans-Saharan route connected Tripoli on the Mediterranean with Lake Chad. Kanem (now part of Chad) emerged as one of the earliest African kingdoms on the northeastern corner of Lake Chad.

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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Hausaland Before The Jihad

In the entire corpus of Arabic sources for West African history there is no reference to the Hausa states, with one exception.  When in Takedda in the Aïr (the mountainous region in north-central Niger), Ibn Battutah referred to Gobir as one of the destinations for the export of Takedda copper.  Because the information of the Arab geographers came through commercial routes,  Hausaland was not directly connected to North Africa by trade routes across the Sahara.

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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Eastern Sudan

The defeat of the Arabs in 652 before the walls of the Nubian capital was the worst that they suffered during their conquests.  The Nubians were able to resist the Muslim expansion to the south for almost six centuries.  Arab and Muslim penetration into the country south of Egypt was not by means of military conquest but through gradual infiltration.  Slave raiding and gold mining brought Arabs to the land of Béja, between the Nile and the Red Sea.  Immigrant Arabs who became absorbed among the northern Béja developed bilingual communities of mixed descent, which during the tenth century were the first Béja Muslims.

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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The Horn Of Africa

In the seventh century, when Islam began its expansion into Africa, Christianity was the dominant religion in the lands that extended along the Mediterranean, from Morocco to Egypt, in the hinterland of Egypt and of the Red Sea, in Nubia and Ethiopia.  By the twelfth century the last indigenous Christians disappeared from North Africa west of Egypt.  In Egypt the Christians, who still formed about half of the population in the tenth century, were later reduced to a minority of no more than fifteen percent.  In eastern Sudan Christianity began to loose ground in the twelfth century and was eliminated by the fourteenth century.  

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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The East African Coast

Islam came to East Africa primarily from Yemen and the Hadramawt on the south coast of Arabia. Muslim sailors crossed the Indian Ocean in special lateen-rigged ships called dhows, similar to the ones still seen in the harbor of Lamu on the Kenyan coast.

DATE LAST EDITED:   10-2019 

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The Islamization Of Africa

The process of Islamization began when Muslims’ prayers and amulets succeeded where the local priests failed.  Rulers were the early recipients of Islamic influence, and the royal courts mediated Islamic influence to the common people.  Pre-Islamic customs persisted even at the courts of rulers who were fully committed to Islam, however.  In about 1500 the rulers of Songhay, Kano, and Bornu attempted to reform Islam, with limited results.  Most scholars collaborated with the rulers, but the more radical scholars withdrew from the centers of political power and established autonomous religious communities, enclaves of rural scholarship based on slave farming, where the spirit of Islamic militancy was cultivated.  Pre-Islamic customs that had persisted for centuries and been accepted as part of the accommodation of Islam became unforgivable in the view of militant Muslims.  Rulers who had previously been considered Muslims were declared infidels, and became the target for jihad.


803 - 032

The Warrior-Defenders

Of The Faith

The Muslim world faced the military powers of European imperial expansion in many different areas.  In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century an important part of the Muslim response took the form of jihads organized by more traditional movements of Islamic renewal.  Many of these early movements had begun as efforts of reform within society and were only later drawn into conflict with European forces.  By midcentury, however, new movements of Islamic revival developed in direct response to European attack, although the older type of evolution from movements of local renewal to jihads defending against imperial expansion continued to be important.  


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European Colonialism And The

Emergence Of Modern

Muslim States

There are today more than fifty Muslim states, extending from the Atlas Mountains in the West to the Malay Archipelago in the East, and from Sub-Saharan Africa to the steppes of Central Asia.  They include some of the most populous countries in the world as well as some of the smallest.  Some are strong states with effective government institutions; others enjoy only a precarious existence.  Some are poor; others,  are endowed with great natural wealth; still others owe their wealth to successful industrialization.  Some Muslim states are ethnically uniform; others include sizable ethnic, linguistic, or religious minorities. Nearly the entire spectrum of social, economic, ideological, institutional, and political expressions are represented in these states. From secular republics to monarchies to democracies.



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Islamic Reform

Muslim voices of reform, scholars (ulama, religious scholars, and lay intellectuals), and tele-preachers represent a diverse collection of Muslim men and women, laity and clergy, professionals, scholars, and popular preachers.  Their audiences extend from North Africa to the Gulf States, South to Central and Southeast Asia, and Europe to America.  These Muslim reformers are significant not only because of their ideas and orientations but also because they are debunking entrenched perceptions that: Islam is medieval, static, and incapable of change; Islam is a violent religion; Islam degrades women; Islam and democracy are incompatible; Muslims do not speak out against religious extremism and terrorism; Muslims reject religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue; and Muslims cannot be loyal citizens in non-Muslim societies.


803 - 035

The Institutional Foundations

Of The Postcolonial State

An important, and yet until recently ignored, legacy of colonialism is the manner in which it has given form to the institutional foundations, and thus the parameter of politics, of the postcolonial state. Independence ended the sovereignty of European powers over their territories; it did not, however, produce states de novo.  The postcolonial state inherited the machinery of the colonial state, and to varying degrees, followed the model of the colonial state.  In such cases as India, the continuity between the two was quite conspicuous. Muhammad Ali Jinnah first became the governor-general of Pakistan, and the India Act of 1935 was the law of the land until the Constitution of 1956 was promulgated some nine years after independence. 


803 - 036

The Globalization Of Islam

Since the early 1970s, western Europeans and North Americans have become increasingly concerned about an apparent change in the nature and patterns of human migration.  For some this change threatens to alter the ethnic and religious composition of their nation-states, their democratic and capitalist traditions, and their liberal social values. 


803 - 037

Muslim Communities

Of The West

Although there are no reliable statistics on the number of Muslims currently living in the West, a 1986 estimate placed about twenty-three million Muslims in Europe.  The majority lived in the Balkans and southeastern Europe; they were Slavic converts and remnants of the Turkish expansion into Albania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Bosnia or of the westward migration of Tatars into Finland and Poland.  More recent Muslim sources speculate that the current estimate of Muslims in western Europe  and the Americas  may be as high as 17.4 million.


803 - 038

Muslims And The Challenge

Of Life In The West

Muslims have emigrated to Western nation-states that have a fully developed myth of national identity, which has been inculcated in the citizens over two centuries through schools and codified through legends and a particular reading of history.  This identity has shaped several generations of Europeans and Americans through the cauldron of two world wars.  It has been celebrated in literature, art, music, and dance.  The nation-states have fashioned distinctive identities based on collective assumptions, promoting a particular worldview that includes a core of values and attitudes that are taken for granted as unique to a superior West.  At the same time, the process of nation building has delineated what is considered alien, strange, and weird.


803 - 039


 The Creation Of The

Mosque Culture

The majority of Muslim migrant laborers in the West — whose primary focus was the country they left behind, where they hoped to return with enough assets to restart their lives — demonstrated very little interest in establishing Islamic institutions.  Once they decided to settle and raise families in the West, their concern centered on maintaining their children in the faith and creating space for communal activities.  Their initial efforts to build mosques were generally hampered by lack of funds.  In Europe the early mosques were constructed either by or for diplomats or by the Ahmadiyyah movement in Islam, which sought to convert western Christians to Islam by initiating a mosque-planting program in Europe and North America.


803 - 040

The Development Of

Umbrella Organizations

The formation of Islamic umbrella organizations that are independent of the state is a recent phenomenon in the experience of Muslim immigrants.  Such organizations are the norm in the West, as governments and civic institutions expect to deal with a recognized national leadership, a religious hierarchy; simply put, it is the Western way of organizing religion, and Muslims are pressed to reformulate themselves accordingly.  Another factor has been the interest of foreign-based organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and the Jamaat-i Islami of Pakistan.  The students who adhere to the teachings of these organizations formed the Muslim Student Association, which helped to establish several hundred mosques on U.S. and Canadian campuses. 


803 - 041

Islamic Education

The highest priority for most Muslim parents in the West is providing Islamic instruction for their children.  Where that was not available, some of the early immigrants in the United States, eager that their children acquire religious values, sent them to Christian Sunday schools.  Those Muslim parents who were concerned about the values that were thought to be propagated in public schools sent their children to Catholic or Baptist schools.  What parents often object to is the intrusion of school officials into what they perceive to be parental prerogatives.  They are concerned about the school’s inculcation of cultural patterns that are antithetical to the parents’ traditions and the Islamic faith.  


803 - 042

Islamic Law

Many Muslim leaders in the West would like to see Western states recognize Islamic law as a body of public law, which would provide parallel legal status for Muslims with those of other religions.  In a few instances Muslims in the West have been able to negotiate some accommodation of their particular traditional, cultural, and religious needs regarding burial practices.


803 - 043

Muslims And Politics

In The West

Regardless of their growing numbers in Europe and North America, and their increasing wealth in the United States and Canada, Muslims are aware that they have little political power to influence the government, the media, or the elites in the West.  They have very few channels of communication to policy makers in the societies in which they live.  A variety of factors hamper effective participation in the political process, including the lack of experience in participating in political activities, the fear of the consequences of political involvement, and the lack of experience in grassroots organizations or coalition building. 


803 - 044

Muslims In The West

Post 9/11

On the morning of September 11, 2001, the world became witness to the dramatic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, as well as the downing of a plane in Pennsylvania.  Some 3000 people died, as did the perception that the United States was a fortress immune to foreign intervention. 


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In the immediate aftermath of September 11 anti-Muslim hate crimes significantly increased, including physical assaults, verbal abuse, and property damage to mosques and Muslim-owned businesses.  In 2004, a report for the Islamic Human Rights Commission in Britain found that 80 percent of Muslims felt harassed or discriminated against in some way, compared to 45 percent in 2000 and 35 percent in 1999.


803 - 046

The Litmus Test:

Will Muslims Appropriate


Several issues have been highlighted since the beginning of the twenty first century as Westerners have begun to question once again whether Muslims will be able to assimilate into Western societies or whether the religion of Islam will impede their assimilation and adoption of Western values.


803 - 047

Reformation Or Revolution?

While many people speak of “Islam and Muslims” in monolithic terms, throughout history these terms have represented multiple images and realities.  The story of Islam in the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries is one of exponential growth, increasing demographic, geographic and cultural diversity, and also increasing interconnectedness. 


803 - 048

Terrorism In The

Name Of Islam

September 11, 2001 was a watershed moment in the history of political Islam and of the world.  The violence and carnage of that day, orchestrated by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, underscored the real threat posed by religious extremists and global terrorism.  Some characterized the events as evidence that an Islamic threat was now not only a foreign threat, but a domestic one as well.  While America’s wars of the twentieth century had been fought on the soil of other countries, in the twenty-first century war came to its own shores.  The impact of the attacks in the United States and throughout the world raised new questions about the relationship between Islam and terrorism and caused many to be skeptical about the loyalty of Muslims living in the West.