Thin Description: Seeking Diversity in Middle East Studies

Sean Joseph Rooney

          With only a cursory look at most of the courses labeled "Islamic" or "Middle Eastern" Studies or the like, one may be shocked to learn that there may be little "Islam" in the syllabi. In most courses, Islamic holy texts are conspicuous by their absence. For scholars who wish to present Islam in the most innocuous terms possible, this makes perfect sense. For all of the Classical Islamic texts agree that perpetual violence towards unbelievers is incumbent upon every healthy Muslim. The motives of some scholars are most likely well-intentioned; they wish to further interreligious dialogue by skirting certain issues that have long been used as a vehicle for attacking Islam. Other scholars' motives may not be as noble. Such obfuscation is fundamentally wrong, in addition to being judgmental to an extent that is, to say the least, open to debate on a basis of available evidence. Moreover, this coddling leads to further confusion among Western students who know little or nothing about Islam to ask, for example, why, if violence is Islam has no validity, is the doctrine of violent jihad so influential in the Muslim world? Why indeed.