This presentation by Loren D. Lybarger, assistant professor in Ohio University's Department of Classics and World Religions was at the Indiana University School of Education on Monday, Feb. 20., an event co-sponsored by the Literacy, Culture & Language Education Department and the IU Islamic Studies Program. Lybarger teaches a variety of courses on classical and contemporary Islam and administers the Certificate Program in Islamic Studies at Ohio University.

For a decade now Islam has loomed ominously in public debates about democracy, civil rights, immigration, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the discussion has centered on the threat that Islam poses to Western democracies. Is Islam compatible with democracy? Can Muslims be assimilated within secularized Western societies? Can a global Islamic reformation be encouraged to neutralize radical Islamist ideologies? The questions themselves cast Islam as a problem requiring urgent attention. Islam is a threat. It must be managed if not extirpated.

The debate about Islam has not been entirely negative. Arguably, the heightened attention to Islam has resulted in an expanded recognition and understanding of Muslims and their beliefs and practices. Still, regardless of its positive or negative consequences, the emphasis on Islam as such has tended to obscure or cancel out the social, political, and historical complexities of groups in which Islam is but one aspect of collective life.

In this talk Dr. Lybarger explores the turn to Islam among Palestinians living in Chicago, IL. This turn has produced multiple social fissures and has evolved in diverse, often contradictory directions as individuals negotiate the tensions between religious and secularist milieus.

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