IIA Conference – Construction of the Other Panel

Here are my notes from the Construction of the Other Panel. Please keep in mind that this is a stream of consciousness capture of my interpretation of what they had to say. (sorry for the terrible formatting – no time to fix it right now)

Harvey Cox

  • facilitator
  • Harvard Prof
  • understanding a tradition through another tradition
  • emphasis on texts by Rueven
    • is it exclusive of religious traditions without a text?
    • what about the elements of these religions that are not textual

  • is there a concern in the monotheistic bloc?

Rueven Firestone

  • Jewish Construction of Islam
  • confused the instruction
  • addressing “othering”, not just Islam
  • Jewish view of Islam
  • most Jewish writings on Islam were not published
  • Jews and Christian were fighting and when things were on equal
    footing, there was a lot said
  • when the Jews were being dominated, they did not express their
    views openly
  • Silsila
    • Professor Peters was his dissertation advisor
    • Mahmoud Ayoub was his mentor

  • don’t trust anyone without the text
  • don’t trust the person telling you how to read the text
  • the reader can construct a religious other however they want
  • limited accountability with the text
  • could select only the parts you want and construct whatever you
  • Deuteronomy 7
    • genocide
    • destroy them
    • then don’t intermarry with them

  • Micah 4
    • no more war

    • multitude of paths

  • a reader whether consciously or not, constructs meaning
    • assimilates certain messages while ignoring others

  • israel means people, not land
    • state of israel

      • nation state of the people israel

      • medinat israel

  • notion of election is part of the the human social psychology
  • ancient israel on record as being the first community
    monotheistic on record
    • surrounded by interesting non-monotheists

    • tempations of others was around them

  • Exodus 20
    • no worship of others

    • that’s what was going on

    • very detailed

  • Deut 4
    • don’t worship nature

  • Num23 9
    • a people that lives apart

      • sometimes expressed as

  • Deut 14
    • chosen people

  • safe haven from idolotry could not be achieved without genocide
    • fortunately that didn’t happen

    • there was always polytheism on the fringes

  • election
    • illusive

    • elitist

    • discriminatory

  • election was meant to protect monotheism
    • might have died out with other monotheistic
      traditions coming around

      • but it didn’t

  • competing election (chosenness)
    • Romans 9:6-7

    • Hebrews 9:11

    • Luke 9:34-35

      • Christians appropriated
        the elected status

      • superceded jewish

      • only christians saved

    • Qur’an 3:110

      • Islam became “more”

      • best, most perfect

      • only muslims not

  • election
    • transcendent moments

      • our team is better than

    • constant construction of groups

    • when the groups are variable, the elitism
      might draw people together

    • sometimes we are the other within our own

    • if we’re not in a variety of groups, this
      elitism is dangerous

    • when we go back and forth, it can be

  • religion
    • people get stuck

    • don’t believe in another religion

    • but look at the other and think of yourself
      an other

  • rabbinic judaism
    • emerged in parallel with christianity

    • new religion

  • problem with election
    • those outside the election are denied

    • judaism didn’t really understand salvation

  • jewish salvation
    • Sanhedrin 90a

    • Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:2

  • Quran 2
    • salvation for for jews and christians as well

  • why the 3 religious systems came out with their positions
    • election emerged with community monotheism

    • first case was biblical

    • they claimed election

    • salvation not an issue

    • christianity emerged in a competitive,
      polemical environment

    • declaration of exclusive election was

    • islam emerged amongst monotheism

    • ummah was elitist, but monotheists were a
      larger group

    • there are counter texts, but the repeated
      assertion that God, last day, and good works in the Qur’an is the best
      thing to work with

Francis Peters

  • full disclosure
  • received degree in oriental studies
  • genuine orientalist
  • jews don’t have identity problems
  • God pointed out to them who they were (treasured possession)
    • and not the goyan or egyptians or caananites

    • clear delineation between israelites and non

    • torah is the wall between jews and non-jews

    • the wall was heightened with the law

      • purpose of wall was to
        keep people in, not out

      • wall was undermined
        from the outside


          •   messianists (christiani)

            •  shared a
              vision of the end time and the scenario included the ingathering of the

            •  thought they
              were facilitating the process

            •  introducing
              salvation without the torah and circumcision

              • many jews did not accept it

          jews, don’t divide the world

          •   aquinas bestiality not divided into species

          •   either jews or goyans

      • christianity is
        attached to judaism

          they read the old testament

      • gentiles to christians
        are everyone else

          the missionary impulse

        •    go
          forth and spread the gospel

          they crossed national boundries, but did not cross the frontier of dar

          •   proselytization did not cross this physical
            geographic barrier back and forth

          •   rivals and competitors

          •   different situation

          •   only fitful proselytizing of muslims by christians

          •   only happened in spain

  • spain
    • when C12 frontier began to weaken

    • fall of toledo

    • marked a change

    • beginning of end of muslim polities in spain

    • for the time, emerged possibility of
      converting muslims to christianity

    • project taken on by peter the venerable

      • hired professional

      • translate quran and
        laughable history of the sarasins (muhammad’s life)

      • first known translation
        of the quran into any other language

          done for missionary purposes

    • next effort following reconquista

    • 1212, 1285 movement

    • dream of christian conversion

    • now had confidence and instruments and means

  • dominicans
  • francis of assissi
    • try to live like jesus

    • franciscans

    • motivated by notion that exposing the gospel
      would be enough

      • worked with christians,
        but not with muslims

    • thirst for martyrdom drove them

      • death for the faith
        will send you to paradise

      • difference in christian

          minor there is a cult around this

          major extends beyond dying, and extends to professing and preaching

  • sufi tariqahs were important in proselytizing in the same way
    • chistiya willing to expect people into the
      covenant without conversion, they believed that conversion would follow

    • conversion through syncretism

  • in canon law, infidel is code word for muslims
    • no sales of weapons to infidels

  • innocent IV
    • muslims have the right to their own
      sovereign right

    • pope has the right to send in missionaries

    • christians may intervene if missionaries are

    • pope is the guardian of natural law

  • 1492
    • new discover of infidels

    • muslims disappear from cannon law

  • he first heard islam
    • alter boy at parish in n. eastern bronx

    • from 10-18

    • remarkeably white neighborhood

    • hanbalite christian parish

    • served mass every sunday

    • heard words read

      • feast of christ the king

      • jesus christ be thou
        king of all those who are involved in the idolotry  . . . islamism
        . . . formerly chosen people . . .

        • Pious 11, 1925

        • last sunday of october

        • prayer disappeared after 2nd vatican council because of the
          to jews

        • quietly dropped when francis peters started teaching islam
          at NYU

  • tolerance is not a natural element of monotheistic faith
    • christians and jews in living under states
      the longest have accepted it over time

    • jews may accept it as politically expedient

    • exclusivism is part of the dna of
      monotheistic faiths

Mahmoud Ayoub

  • no religion arrives complete
  • religions are partly divine and mostly human
  • christianity and judaism are radical interpretations of judaism
  • quran came with completely pluralistic view of religions
    • potential for dialogue

    • no one, including muslims, accepted this

  • God will sort it out in the hereafter
  • 5: humankind we have appointed a way and course to follow, if God
    wanted to, one nation, he made you different in order to try you,
    compete in performance of righteous works, to God you will return, and
    he’ll let you know about difference
  • 2: Oh children of israel
    • confirmation of election of jews

    • then requires more of jews

  • islamic view of election
    • not ethnicity and descent

    • based on faith and works

      • luther would not like

  • verse quoted by Reuven 3:110
    • you’re the best community, and enjon that
      which is good, dissuade unsalutory and wicked and have faith in God

    • this is true if you do these things

    • it’s a major theme in the quran

  • 2:62, earliest medinan sura, 5 penultimate
    • repeated verbatim

  • criterion verses 4:123-124
    • not your desires or desires of the people of
      the book

    • whoever does wicked things will be punished
      and find no helpers

    • those who are righteous will find paradise
      and not be wronged in the least

  • among signs, creation of heavens and earth and diversity of
    colors and languages
    • races and religions

  • these verses
    • subjected to abrogation

    • or selectively applying them

    • accepting what came down to you and down to

      • should be directed to
        christians and jews

  • what obscured the qur’an? historical events
    • background for positive attitude toward

      • islam born in
        environment permeated with christian spirituality and jewish monotheism

      • learn from the people
        that read the scriptures before them

      • christians the quran
        knew were the eastern christians (desert fathers)

        • those who cry when they hear the truth

        • interested in christ as the purificator of the world

        • christianity of holiness

        • home was south arabia

          • prophet said i feel the breadth of _____ from yemen

    • quran was a christian document? muslims
      misunderstood their own scriptures?

      • muslims distorted a
        christian document

    • first contact with christians

      • christian view of islam
        as christian heresy

    • second contact

      • no real effect

      • mutual respect between
        muslims and byzantines which is lacking between muslims and other

  • ayoub personal background
    • grew up in a missionary school

    • practiced christianity as a matter of course

    • missionary efforts amongst muslims are

    • even those like ayoub, returned to islam

    • why is he a muslim?

      • because islam makes
        good sense to him

      • god is the truth

        • all religions are a way to the truth

        • operating hadith

          • all creatures are God’s family/children, the most
            loved of those is the one most beneficent to his children

  • quranic principle of the absolute dignity of the children of adam
    • honored

    • carried over land and sea

    • provided with good things

    • preferred over much of creation

    • respect human life

    • God breathed his spirit into all of Adam’s

  • challenge to believe in all of scriptures
  • issue of tahrif (distortion, alteration)
    • perhaps quran has rabbinic judaism in mind
      when it says things are added to the book

  • much that we can talk about
    • take these ideas seriously because we are
      determined by our history, cultures, and scriptures

      • even secularists

    • scriptures give us enough to live by if we
      take them seriously and not let our own vested interests stand in the
      way of living in pursuit of God

  • nabi al-ummi
    • either illiterate prophet

    • or prophet of illiterate people

    • christians and jews have scripture, why not

      • arabic scripture

      • other son of abraham,
        ishmael, is rehabilitated into prophetic tradition

Patrice Brodeur

  • catholic
  • silsila
    • harvard grad, acknowledgement of mentors

  • construction of other
  • 1. self/other from co to inter dependence
    • Paul Ricoeur

  • 2. heresiography to religious other
    • 3 others

  • 3. abrahamic constructions
    • generic system of religious self/othering

  • 4. hermeneutical axes
    • time

      • historical periods

      • 14 centuries

    • space

      • geographic

      • local/global

    • horizon

    • construction

    • valuation

      • pluralism

      • inclusivity

      • equity

      • multiple identities
        within self

      • sustainability

  • muslim construction of jews and judaism
    • quran

    • hadith

    • shariah

    • kalam

    • falsafah

    • tasawwuf

    • poetry

      • qasida, ghazal, qitah,
        masnave, roba’i

    • prose

      • maghazi, maqamah

    • more recent literary genres

      • education, etc.

    • oral

  • language?
    • arabic

    • other “islamic” languages

      • persian turkish urdu
        swahili hausa indonesian

    • english

    • western languages

      • french german dutch, etc

    • non-western, non-islamic

      • chinese, hindi

  • arabic
    • early islam

      • quran

        • key words for jews
          • yahudi/yahud (jew/jews)

          • banu isra’il (children of israel)

          • ahl al-kitaab (people of the book)

          • ahl al-dhimmi (protected people)

        • key words for judaism
          • sacred text

            • tawrah, zabur,
              suhuf, kitab

            • umm al-kitaab
              (mother of revelation)

          • prophets

            • abraham,
              isaac, ishmael, joseph, moses, david

          • concepts

            • tawhid, day of
              judgment, study of text, garden, etc.

      • hadith:isra’iliyyat

      • pre-modern versus modern

      • pre modern versus
        modern religious other literature

  • arabic religious other literature (hijri centuries)
    • explosion in modern period vs. pre-modern

    • increase in colonial and post-colonial period

    • egypt and lebanon had the most output

      • egypt population

      • lebanon publishing

    • disproportionately focused on judaism

    • disproportionately in the 70’s and 80’s

  • move from hermeneutical circle to hermeneutical sphere
  • circle
    • perceptions (direct/indirect)

    • experiences and behaviors

    • constructions

    • receptions

    • responses

    • perceptions (back at the beginning)

  • sphere
    • valuation

      • pluralism

        • inclusivity, equity, sustainability

      • responsible individual
        and collective human agency for better self/othering through dialogue
        and cooperation

  • secularism inherited the exclusivist outcome

2 thoughts on “IIA Conference – Construction of the Other Panel

  1. Robert,
    I’m glad that you found it of interest. Actually, it’s just my notes from a panel discussion at the Islam in America Conference that took place at Harvard. Islamicate was a co-sponsor of the event.

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