The description is submitted to:


Session R4899 (Apology Accepted? Combatting Islamophobia without Sacrificing Critical Perspective in the Academy), 2017
As a scholar of literature in Islamic societies, I have had to contend with the minefield of teaching and writing about Islam in the current politicized climate. One of the most damaging similarities between islamophobic as well as apologetic arguments is their oversimplification of Islam and the drastic limits set on the materials deemed Islamic. So what materials can we count as Islamic? When I teach and write about Islam, I make a concerted effort to write about literary and artistic texts that are explorative in nature and thus open possibilities for multiple experiences and manifestations of Islam. I believe that broadening the source material we use and presenting a capacious understanding of Islam is beneficial as a scholarly exercise as well as for society at large. I include poetry, short stories, and novels in my presentations of of Islamic literature. When disturbing material comes up (for example slavery or misogyny), how should we react? I would advocate for putting the text in its historical context without justifying it. One productive analogy I ask myself is how I would discuss a similar topic if the author happened to be European. What should we do when asked about contemporary terror attacks or fundamentalist ideologies? In an era of increasing islamophobia, the concerns of increasing fear or hatred of Islam are understandable. Yet I believe that expressing the complexity of Islamic civilizations is ultimately the best solution to ignorance and hatred.