TALIM hosted Dr. Anouar Majid of the University of New England, back in his native Tangier to move forward his plan to establish a UNE center in the city.
For the very respectable Friday evening crowd of academics, students, and bookworms, Dr. Majid provided a summary of his latest book: Islam and America: Building a Future without Prejudice (2012, Rowman & Littlefield).
Though in his preface Anouar Majid modestly states that the book "is not meant to be a scholarly contribution to the fields of Islamic and American studies," he has packed in a mighty amount of historical information in a thoroughly researched 170 pages (he even used TALIMblog.org as a source!).
The director of UNE's Center for Global Humanities, Majid is a longtime scholar of Muslim-Western relations since 1492, and the author of several books (We Are All Moors: Ending Centuries of Crusades Against Muslims and Other Minorities; A Call for Heresy: Why Dissent Is Vital to Islam and America) which delve into the long history of problematic relations between his original homeland and his adopted America.
Readers seeking diatribes against America should look elsewhere. Majid's approach is singular, and he is likely to seem heretical to fundamentalists of all stripes.
His inspiration is Thomas Jefferson:
An enlightened nation stands when it is divided in opinion and faith–however misguided these faiths might be–not when it is united by unproven certitudes. We could all stand to learn from the man who charted the history of modern freedom.
Majid appears to be less concerned about the lot of Muslims in America – he deflected a question about "normalization" of Islam as a religion in the US, where building a mosque is still problematic, and where in 2010 hate crimes against Muslims increased by 50% – and focused on how the American experience can positively influence Muslim nations. And vice versa: Chapter 3, "How Islam Shaped America," recounts some little-known influences dating back to our earliest days.
Majid's struggle against "unproven certitudes" is tricky territory, both in the United States of 2012 and in the shifting sands of the post-Arab Spring Muslim world. But engagement in lively debate with this man of letters is very fulfilling, and we look forward to further sessions with him at TALIM.