This course begins by briefly outlining the history and development of Islam. After surveying the economic, racial and cultural landscape of the global Muslim community, it examines the internal diversity of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims: Who are they? What do they really think and do? What are the differences between culture and religion? What does it mean to be Muslim today? This is presented in the context of contemporary encounters between the West and the Muslim world. The course will then take a closer look at the history of indigenous Muslims in North America and at late-20th century Muslim immigration patterns. After surveying the economic, racial and cultural landscape of American Muslims, we will examine current levels of Islamophobia in American political and cultural discourse; then we will consider the effects of such discourse on Muslim communities. The class will conclude with reflections on, “How do Muslims live out their faith?” and “How do we meaningfully engage with each others’ communities?”
Omer Bajwa serves as Director of Muslim Life in the Chaplain’s Office at Yale and has been engaged in religious service, inter-religious engagement and educational outreach since 2000. He earned his Graduate Certificate in Islamic Chaplaincy from Hartford Seminary, has an MA in Near Eastern Studies and an MS in Communication from Cornell University, and a BA from Binghamton University. Omer has also studied several classical Islamic sciences with traditional scholars from Pakistan, Turkey and the United States. His interests include Islam in the United States and the intersections of culture, media, politics and spirituality. He regularly lectures about these and other topics around the country. Additionally, Omer mentors contemporary Muslims on exploring their intellectual and spiritual lives in today’s world. He is a co-editor of the forthcoming book, Mantle of Mercy: Islamic Chaplaincy in North America (Templeton Press). When not working, he and his family can often be found sampling local desserts.