Youssou N’Dour and “I Bring What I Love”: An Elegaic Meditation on Faith, Islam and Music

President Obama’s speech in Cairo last week as well as the candid and heated debates in Iran during its contentious presidential election provide yet another opportunity to revisit the sterile images of Islam that dominate the discussion both in the West and throughout the Muslim world as well. That discussion is framed by Muslim terrorists or extremists on the one hand squaring off against secular but resentful populations on the other. That is one facet of a kaleidoscope, a potent one but in no way the only one.

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Enough Already with “The Trouble with Islam”

In a recent Wall Street Journal editorial titled “The Trouble with Islam,” the author regurgitated all of the familiar canards about the inherent backwardness of Islam: that the religion at core promotes violence toward unbelievers and toward women, that the Quran calls for death to the Jews, that all attempts of interfaith dialogue in the West are based on a hopeless naivete and that the violence in Iraq proves that Muslims are prone to violence.

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Peace Be Upon You

Zachary Karabell talked about his book Peace Be upon You: The Story of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Coexistence, published by Knopf. Mr. Karabell traces the historical instances of peaceful coexistence between Muslim, Christian, and Jewish people. The author contended that throughout the past fourteen centuries the different faiths have found common ground; from peaceful debate amongst scholars in the courts of the caliphs in Baghdad to medieval Spain where Jewish sages, Muslim philosophers, and Christian monks translated the meaning of God together. The author argued that the current state of religious tensions are solvable if one studies the past. Mr. Karabell responded to questions from the audience.

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Beyond the Riots

As hard as it is to divert attention from the Cheney train-wreck this week, compared to his misuse of buckshot, the worldwide riots over the now-infmamous Danish cartoons is surely the more important story. Forget for a moment that much like the uproar over “The Satanic Verses” more than fifteen years ago, many of those protesting did not actually see the cartoons. Their publication was astutely used by extremists and by the governments of Syria and Iran to fan anti-Western flames and distract attention from their own manifold failings.

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Misunderstanding Islam

In the wake of September 11, the reading interests of the American public have changed. To a lesser extent, so have the interests of readers throughout the Western world. This may not rank as one of the more significant consequences of the attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, but it does reflect a new awareness on the part of millions of people--an awareness of just how ignorant they have been about Muslims.

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