RLGS 2108 Islam in the United States - course overview
This course offers a historical introduction to the presence of Islam and Muslims in the United States. Starting with an overview of the early history and basic theology of Islam, it traces the experiences of the first Muslims in North America, Africans enslaved and transported across the Atlantic Ocean. It turns to consider the role played by Islam and Muslims in early American political thought, including 18th century debates on whether a Muslim could be elected President and how (and why) Thomas Jefferson might have used his copy of the Qur’an.
Advancing to the 19th century, it considers the relatively minimal role played by Arab Muslims and the much more substantive influence of the minority Indian evangelical Ahmadiyya movement. It continues tracing the history of Islam in African-American communities, focusing on the formation of the Nation of Islam but also considering the Moorish Temple movement and the Five Percenters.
Moving into the 20th century, this class considers the increasing role of immigrant Muslims, first from Ottoman lands and then, after 1960s immigration reform, from other parts of the Muslim world. It ends by examining contemporary Muslim communities in the US and how ritual and faith have been developing with “American” accents.
By completing the reading and writing assignments, and listening and participating during class sessions, students will achieve the following goals:
- Understand the basic principles and early history of Islam
- Understand Islam’s long and multi-faceted history in colonial North America
- Connect this history to the minority and evangelical Islamic movements of the late 19th through mid 20th centuries
- Understand the continuities and discontinuities between these histories and today’s American Muslim communities
- Develop an understanding of American Muslim communities’ diverse approaches to Islam, majoritarian and minoritarian
- Understand and be able to discuss some of the critical issues that American Muslim communities face today, in Denver and/or students’ home towns as well as nationally
- Think critically about how the United States as a cultural and political space influences understandings of what ‘being Muslim’ entails in terms of language, ritual practice, etc.
By completing the reading and writing assignments, and listening and participating during class sessions, students will improve in the following skill areas:
- Develop skills for critically reading and assessing scholarly works across multiple disciplines
- Develop an understanding of the diverse opinions within scholarship on Islam in the United States
- Understand what constitutes a primary source, and develop skills for carefully approaching and assessing primary sources of various kinds
- Be able to approach sources in various media, including film and the Internet, as subjects of serious scholarly inquiry
- Connect assigned readings/films and classroom lectures with personal experience in order to integrate education and “real life”
- Be increasingly comfortable with complexity, whether of multiple scholarly views or multiple American ways of ‘being Muslim’
- Further develop writing skills, including technical skills like paragraphing and expression skills like making an argument, through a mixture of low-stake, less formal, and higher-stake, more formal assignments