Religion and Politics in Islam: Realities and Stereotypes

On April 26th, 2007, from 5:00-7:00 PM, the Penn Association of Senior and Emeritus Faculty (PASEF) and the Penn Middle East Center sponsored a round table discussion on Islam with emphasis on Iraq and Iran. This event took place in the Wu-Chen Auditorium of Levine Hall.

The round table brought together four distinguished specialists:

Dr. Phebe Marr, the author of "The Modern History Of Iraq", and most recently "Iraq's New Political Map" (United States Institute of Peace, Jan. 2007). Dr. Marr was a consultant to The Iraq Study Group co-chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton.

Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub, a Penn graduate and Professor of Islamic Studies and Comparative Religion at Temple University, the author of "The Crisis of Muslim History: Religion and Politics in Early Islam" and the continuing series, "The Qur'an and Its Interpreters".

Dr. Hamid Dabashi, a Penn graduate and Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Among his best-known books are "Authority in Islam" and "Staging a Revolution: The Art of Persuasion in the Islamic Republic of Iran". His most recently published book (2007) is "Iran: A People Interrupted".

Dr. Thomas Naff, Professor Emeritus, Department of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Pennsylvania will moderate the round table. Dr. Naff is the author of "Can there be Confluence? A Comparative Consideration of Western and Islamic Fresh Water Law" (2000) and "Islamic Law and the Politics of Water" (including "An Historical Evolution of Islamic Law)" (2007).

The program was well attended by about 50 members of the university community and the public, including students from West Philadelphia Catholic High School.

Left to right: Hamid Dabashi, Mahmoud Ayoub, Thomas Naff, Phebe Marr

The roundtable proceeded by means of the moderator asking each panelist a different two-part question on a basic dimension of Islamic religion and politics. When all the panelists had stated their views on the questions, the discussion was opened to the audience in a lively hour-long question and answer period, at the end of which both the audience and panelists were canvassed by means of a show of hands about their assessment of Iraq's chances for achieving a functional level of security and stability within the next three or four years. The speakers and audience were united in their pessimism.

As a aid to those who attended the event with a view to learning about Islam, PASEF arranged to have prepared a series of brief summary introductions to some of the basic themes discussed by the panel. To see these summaries together with a glossary of terms prepared by Dr. Naff, click HERE .

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