I have refined a number of the ideas discussed on my site in the classroom, most recently at Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. In the Spring of 2010, I developed and presented a seminar on “The Western Idea of Islam: From the Crusades to the ‘War on Terrorism.’ The course followed the consistent Western narrative of Islam, forged as wartime propaganda on the run-up to the Crusades, through the early modern period, the Enlightenment, the colonial period of High Orientalism, through to the present day.
Earlier, I developed “Covering Islam Today” for the Communication Department at George Mason University in 2008. It is my own response to the underlying institutional failure of the news media and grew out of a series of one-day seminars I developed for Reuters journalists during my tenure as a senior editor in Washington. I then presented these seminars in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Singapore, and Sydney.
Ignorance of the state of the Muslim world today, and of America’s central role in the political and economic lives of Muslims across much of the globe, has allowed the political elites to define the conflict in its own terms and to shape the so-called War on Terrorism toward its own ends. This same ignorance created the impression that the horrific attacks of September 11 had no context, no history, and thus no possible connection to any political, social, or religious developments brewing in the outside world. This same state of innocence on the part of the American public conditioned the nation’s exclusively militarized response, which has only exacerbated the problem.