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The practice of teaching Islam in the American context has a particular intellectual pedigree. At this point, the critique of the Study of Religion as emerging out of a normative Christian framework is well-established in the field. Edward Said’s argument for the ways in which Islam is constructed to meet American political interests, rather than an engagement with Muslims and their religion, is nearly forty years old. These power dynamics mean that students, through popular discourse, understand Wahhabi Islam as Sunni Islam, which they consider the “true Islam” against which other Islams are judged. I propose a model of looking at how Muslims define their religion through contestation and relation which allows students to understand the dynamic nature of their traditions. What I outline as an approach gives a greater sense of covering the breadth of material represented by a global religious community, with over a millennium of history.
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The Wabash Center Journal on Teaching is published pursuant to a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License (CC-BY-NC).