Saturday, 12 November 2016

International Islamic scholar to speak at Centenary College - Louisiana - USA

Press Release

November 7, 2016

SHREVEPORT, LA — Dr. Amanullah De Sondy, Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Islam at University College Cork in Ireland, will visit Centenary on Wednesday, November 16. His presentation, “Islam between Text and Lived Realities: a Conversation,” highlights some of the tensions that Muslims face living in the modern world as they uphold ancient texts and traditions.

Dr. Spencer Dew, Chair of Religious Studies at Centenary, will serve as Dr. De Sondy’s conversation partner. The 7:00 p.m. event in the Whited Room in Bynum Commons is free and open to the public.

“Centenary is indeed privileged to welcome Dr. De Sondy to our campus and to Shreveport,” says Jenifer K. Ward, Provost and Dean of the College. “It is fitting that we should deepen our understanding of one of the great world religions as part of our ‘Religion Matters’ series, and the form of the event—a conversation—signals Centenary’s commitment to open inquiry and exchange. As a college related to the United Methodist Church, we welcome the opportunity to find points of connection in the beliefs and values of our different traditions.”

De Sondy joined the faculty at University College Cork in 2015. He previously taught Islamic Studies at Ithaca College and the University of Miami in the United States and at several Scottish universities, including the University of Glasgow where he earned his Ph.D. in 2009.
De Sondy’s first book, The Crisis of Islamic Masculinities, was published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2014 and is the first monograph on the construction of manhood in the Qur’an and South Asian history.

His research connects the study of Islam to key themes of gender, ethnicity, race, and pluralism, and he has written on gender and sexuality in classical and contemporary Islam in relation to Islamic practice and the Qur’an. Additionally, De Sondy specializes in Muslims in Celtic lands (Scotland and Ireland)/Europe/Pakistan and Religious Education (RE) in high schools in these global locations.

Centenary’s “Religion Matters” series is a set of lectures designed to generate wide-ranging conversations about the intersection of religion and other cultural issues across the larger Shreveport-Bossier community. De Sondy’s visit to Centenary is generously underwritten by the Attaway Professorships in Civic Culture Program.

The Beauty of Islam Brought Me Out of the Closet - By Drew Harper November 3, 2016

Published in 'Vice' - All Rights Reserved, Copyright

I grew up in suburban St. Louis, where my father was the pastor of our small evangelical church. My mother is a pastor's daughter; my uncle is a pastor; my grandfather taught Sunday School for decades. When researchers finally confirm the link between a highly churched background and growing up to be a major homo, I will be both case in point and the least surprised.

As a teenager, my devotion to American Christianity through youth group, gospel choir, and summer jobs at Christian camps gave me joy. It also kept me plugging away in "ex-gay" conversion therapy from sixth grade through most of high school. It was the summer between my junior and senior year that altered the straight-to-heaven course on which my life was set: In 2006, I went to Egypt and fell in love with Islam.

In Egypt, the Gothic spires and stained glass windows I idolized in America were rendered gauche next to the domes of Fatimid Cairo, the glazed tiles of her mosques. The songs and dances of Sufism, Islam's mystical cult, awoke within me the same religious passion I'd felt at my most charismatically evangelical moments. And on the final night of my summer-long trip, atop a pony perched on the moonlit sands beneath the pyramids, the 4 AM call to prayer from 10,000 minarets took me on a mystical night journey of revelation like the Prophet's (Peace Be Upon Him). I was one confused little Jesus fag.
I fought this sudden Halal romance as fiercely as I could. I remember befriending one ultra conservative hijabi girl in Cairo who loved to debate religion. The arrogance of my American Christianity, swollen by 17 years of immersion in theology, history, and biblical hermeneutics, got her hot to trot. As a man, she wouldn't shake my hand, but she'd waltz all night through arguments on the evidence for God's existence or how the Council of Nicaea changed the early church. The fearless apologetics she espoused for her Islamic faith left me unnerved. I ended up respecting the hell out of her, which scared the shit out of me.

Added to these aesthetic and intellectual encounters with Islamic religion was the way maleness in Egypt's Muslim society gave the finger to American gender norms. Male beauty—indeed, prettiness—was ubiquitous and celebrated. Boys in skintight pink polos with long lashes and expertly twisted curls blew kisses at one another across the street, or promenaded down the lane arm-in-arm. They held hands and whispered giggling confidences. Nobody was gay, of course, but to my American eyes, everyone seemed pretty damn gay-ish. The visual paradox of these highly un-American homosocial interactions planted seeds of doubt in my mind: If the sureness of my religious superiority could be undermined, what about my sexuality?

It was in Egypt that I encountered, for the first time, male interactions outside the ironclad Western binary of gay/straight. I had been equipped through years of ex-gay ideological brainwashing to dismiss American gay male identity, with its vapid materialism, its promiscuity, and its idolization of youth, wealth, and sex appeal. But tender touches between married men that were neither wholly sexual nor un-erotic was not covered in my American ex-gay boot camp.

And yet, it was the beauty of a religious expression outside American Christianity that opened me up to doubt, and to change. To live in Cairo was to feel Islam in my daily rhythms and physical surroundings, and I, thank God, was an impressionable teenager. Equipped to dismiss heresies of theology, I was unprepared for heresies of the human variety: Sweet-voiced Qur'anic recitations floating like cigarette smoke through the taxi radio; the fierce self-confidence of a veiled girl who loved her own religion as deeply as she knew the tenets of mine; the beauty of a million people putting their day on hold to wash themselves and pray together. It was heresies of the senses and of the soul that got me.

In Cairo, both America's religion and her gender norms were revealed to be fallible, though the former had to be unmasked to permit the latter. My prior shame-filled experiments with gay sex and gay love were not nearly enough to liquidate, as the old hymn calls it, my "firm foundation." But if Christian superiority could be questioned, so could everything else. The dehumanization of Muslims in my American Christian experience wasn't something I'd even been aware of until I got to Egypt. If Muslims were human beings with full human dignity and equal access to the Divine, maybe gay people were, too.

Thankfully, my experience in Egypt arrived in time. I quit conversion therapy upon my return to the States and told my evangelical parents to fuck off. Islam, and the unshakable implications of that pluralistic awakening, became the yeast that gave rise to my embrace of queerness. Without it, I can't imagine my course ever being so altered. Rather, had I never gone to Cairo, I could see myself instead ending up at a hipster-approved NYC megachurch—one where the worship leaders wear queer-derived fashion while they wring their hands over their choir members' "sinful" gay relationships

By the time I was 17, I had seen a pride parade, but never a communal Friday prayer. One didn't change me, but the other somehow did. After spending years arming myself against the insidious gay agenda, whaddya know—Islam brought me out of the closet. I could have never seen it coming.
Today, watching the blood-soaked popular conception of Islam and Muslims get pitted against Western ideas of gay identity and gay people feels strange. And sad. And infuriating. It's not like I don't understand the homophobia within Orthodox Islam, but then again, I know all too well the homophobia of Orthodox Christianity.

My young experience of Islam and Muslims had been the very thing that liberated me from that. And what's more, I know enough about the interactions of classical Muslim society and Europe to know that we were the ones who brought homophobia as a practice to the Arab world in the first place. It's a complex history, but the long and the short of it is that nobody really gave a shit about men sucking one another's dicks before colonialism got there in the first place. Ironic.

I do feel lucky, though. Because when a nightclub gets shot up, or a bomb explodes in one of New York's gayborhoods, I don't share in the desire to go fuck up some dudes in beards and caftans. I would rather put on some Qur'anic chanting, light a Marlboro, drool over my hot neighbor who left his blinds up, and thank Baby Jesus that he sent me to Egypt while I was still young enough to be turned gay by it.

Drew Harper is the author, with his father Brad, of Space at the Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical Theologian and His Gay Son.

The Secret History of Elizabeth I's Alliance With Islam Catholic Europe shunned England so the Protestant queen traded with its enemies—and changed her country's culture forever.

In 1570, Elizabeth I was in a bind. She had been excommunicated by the Pope, and her country was shunned by the rest of Europe. To avoid ruin, England needed allies. The queen sought help from a surprising source: the Islamic world.

The Tudor period has supplied endless popular entertainments—from Cate Blanchett’s Elizabeth movies to the television series The Tudorsbut this story has rarely been told. Jerry Brotton explores the forgotten history of English-Muslim alliances in his new book The Sultan and the Queen. Speaking from his home in Oxford, England, Brotton explains why Elizabeth believed Islam and Protestantism had more in common with each other than with Catholicism and how this cultural exchange may have inspired Shakespeare’s plays and turned the queen’s teeth black.

Queen Elizabeth I of England reached out to Islamic leaders "for hard-nosed political and commercial reasons," says author Jerry Brotton.

From Donald Trump to Brexit supporters, many Westerners view Muslims as a threat and want to close the borders. But 500 years ago, Queen Elizabeth I made alliances with the Shah of Iran and the Ottoman Sultan. What can Elizabeth I’s relations with the Islamic world teach us?

A lot. They can teach us that there’s a form of pragmatic exchange and toleration and accommodation, which trumps ideology. One of the key stories in the book is the issue of trade and the way trade collides with religions. The reason Queen Elizabeth develops this relationship with the Islamic world is theology initially. She’s establishing a Protestant state and England has become a pariah in Catholic Europe. So she reaches out for alliances with the Islamic world.
What flows from that is an exchange of trade and goods, regardless of sectarian and theological differences. Elizabeth is not reaching out to Sultan Murad III because she’s a nice person and wants religious accord. She is doing it for hard-nosed political and commercial reasons.

Elizabeth’s alliance with Murad III was essential to her self-preservation, yet this story has largely been left out of Tudor history. Why do you think that is?

In the last few years, there’s been a parochial identification of the Tudors, reflected in the way they have featured in recent TV shows, like The Tudors. It has become an index of Englishness, connected to whiteness and Christianity. But it never tells the wider story of what’s going on internationally. I started working on 16th-century maps and what the maps were telling me was that there was an exchange between the Islamic and Christian worlds, which wasn’t being told in the official histories.

Look at Tudor portraits. It’s all Orient pearls, silk from Iran, or cotton from the Ottoman territories. The English language changes, too. Words suddenly enter, like sugar, candy, crimson, turban, and tulip, which have Arabic or Persian roots. They all come in with the trade with the Islamic world.

These paper animations will take you on a journey through the city's history—from the Stone Age to the present day.

Elizabeth did her best to convince Sultan Murad that Protestantism and Islam were two sides of the same coin and that the true heresy was Catholicism. I’m confused …

What she does very shrewdly, when she starts to write to the Sultan in 1579, is say: Look, you and I have many similarities in terms of our theology. We do not believe in idolatry or that you should have intercession, i.e., a saint or a priest will get you closer to God. Protestantism says you should read the Bible and then you will be in direct contact with God. Sunni Islam says the same: You have the Koran, the word of the Prophet, you do not need saints or icons.
Elizabeth is doing this politically. What she’s saying is, you’re fighting Spanish Catholicism; I’m fighting Spanish Catholicism. What nobody mentions, of course, is Christ. [Laughs] Islam believes Jesus is a prophet, but not the son of God. So in all the correspondence, they step around this issue. They always talk about the fact that they both believe in Jesus but not how they believe in Jesus.

The first recorded Muslim woman to enter Britain was called Aura Soltana. She has an amazing story, doesn’t she?

She does. Another extraordinary figure, Anthony Jenkins, one of the earliest Englishmen to establish diplomatic and commercial connections with Persia, is on his way back to England, traveling up the Volga River, in what we now call Greater Russia. In Astrakhan, he buys this woman, Aura Soltana. It’s not clear whether this is a slave name or the name of the place she’s come from, but he takes her back to England.

At around this time, a similar figure is established as a lady-in-waiting in Elizabeth’s court. If it’s the same person—and I believe it is—she becomes a kind of fashion adviser to the queen, telling Elizabeth how to wear certain kinds of shoes or materials. Her exotic background made her exactly the kind of person to whom Elizabeth could say, “Oh, you’ve just come back from Moscow, what are the latest catwalk fashions?”

The subject of this painting by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger may have been the first Muslim woman known to enter England. (right)

There’s a tantalizing painting of an anonymous woman by Marcus Gheeraerts, called The Persian Lady, which some people speculate is of this woman. She’s dressed in a very opulent, oriental fashion. It could be our lady Aura Soltana, a slave who ends up in Elizabeth’s bedroom, dressing her. It’s an amazing story.

Among other goods, English merchants imported over 250 tons of Moroccan sugar into London every year. Is it true Elizabeth’s love of sugar turned her teeth black?

Yes! [Laughs] We have accounts by European travelers, who describe Elizabeth as a small woman with blackened teeth from eating so many sweet meats and candies. The predominant importation of sugar at that time was from what we would now call Morocco, as a result of Elizabeth’s Anglo-Islamic alliance with the Saadian Dynasties. It’s quite ironic. The Moroccans are fighting the Spanish while Moroccan sugar is destroying Elizabeth’s teeth, and English armaments are helping the Moroccans kill other Christians. [Laughs] Elizabeth liked anything sweet. Candied fruit was a big thing. Everything is just steeped in sugar!

Today, ISIS forcibly converts non-believers. Elizabethan merchant Samson Rowlie experienced a similar fate, didn’t he?

He did. The issue of conversion with somebody like him is fascinating. He’s a merchant from Great Yarmouth, in Norfolk, who travels on an English commercial venture in 1577 to the eastern Mediterranean. Turkish pirates capture him. He is castrated, turned into a eunuch, and taken to Algiers. He converts, takes the name Hasan Agar, and becomes the chief eunuch and treasurer of the head of the Ottoman controlled city of Algiers! The English write to him about ten years later, about issues of trade. They say, “We believe you are probably still a Protestant. Would you like to come back?” Rowlie replies, “No way! I have a palace in Algeria. It’s nice weather here. Why would I want to go back to Great Yarmouth?” [Laughs]

You have many similar stories of people converting to Islam or, in the language of the time, “turning Turk.” It’s relevant to the current situation in the Middle East because, invariably, it’s Christians and Protestants who are embracing Islam, not the other way around. There are accounts of people who willingly embrace Islam because, in contrast to the way in which we see that culture today, the Muslim world is seen as tolerant and embracing difference.

Murad III, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, wrote letters to Elizabeth that were dusted in gold. (right)
Photograph by Heritage Image Partnership Ltd, Alamy
You write that, “London’s playhouses were in the grip of a fascination for staging scenes and characters from Islamic history.” How was this reflected in Shakespeare’s plays?

Shakespeare is fascinated by Moors, particularly. He’s also using the language of Turks and Persians throughout his plays. One of the earliest plays he writes, which we usually date around 1592, is Titus Andronicus. The main agent of evil, the baddie, in that play is called Aaron. He is described as a blackamore, which means he’s from northwest Africa, from the Barbary States. He causes all the chaos: bloody rape, pillage, mutilation, absolutely awful! People say, “Oh, that’s the predominant view of the Muslim in this period.”

Four or five years later, Shakespeare writes The Merchant of Venice. Another Moor pops up there called the Prince of Morocco. He’s a rather benign, elegant figure who’s a suitor to Portia, the heroine of the play. So Shakespeare is playing with different versions of these Muslim, Moorish characters. You get the evil Aaron and the rather noble Prince of Morocco.

Around 1601 Shakespeare then writes Othello, which draws on both versions. He is the irrational, violent, racist figure of the black man. He’s also this very elegant, powerful military commander: The Moor of Venice. Shakespeare is not moralizing. He’s drawing on this history of Anglo-Islamic relations to say, who is this man? Do we trust him? He might save us but he might also kill us all in our beds.

Post 9/11, it is one of the most frequently performed tragedies because of the complexity of its relationship with religion and ethnicity, which we are now seeing in North Africa and the Middle East. It’s become about much more than simply a black man destroyed by a white man.

Prince Charles laughs with Muslim students in Bradford, the city in northern England where author Jerry Brotton grew up. (right)
Photograph by Phil Noble, Reuters

You grew up in one of England’s most multicultural cities, Bradford, in Yorkshire. Talk about your early life—and how it inspired your interest in this subject.

For me it is profoundly personal because I am not from an elite background. My father was a deep-sea fisherman; my mum was a barmaid. I went to a state school just outside Bradford, where I was born. There was a multiculturalism we embraced, which was my version of Englishness. I played cricket with Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims; we were in the same religious studies classes. Post 9/11 and 7/7, when London was attacked, it was a real shock for me. What had gone wrong? Growing up at that point, those issues of sectarian differences were never in play.

What was the biggest surprise for you in researching this story, Jerry?

Following characters traveling through a world that is now in meltdown. They’re moving through places currently under control of the so-called Islamic state. What they’re doing at that point is encountering an Islamic world that is powerful, sophisticated, and superior to the culture that produced them: Protestant English culture. There’s an attempt to understand and accommodate, and to get on with each other.

That was the real shock and surprise for me, in a good way. There are Elizabethan Englishmen talking about the distinction between Sunni and Shia in the 1560s, when many people today don’t understand the distinction. So, hopefully the book is one little attempt to offer another kind of story of toleration and accommodation.
This interview was edited for length and clarity. 

Simon Worrall curates Book Talk. Follow him on Twitter or at

‘The Art of the Qur’an,’ a Rare Peek at Islam’s Holy Text

Visitors studying a folio from a large Quran dating to about 1400 in the exhibition “The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures From the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts,” at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington. Credit Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — “The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures From the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts,” at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery here, is the first major United States display of handwritten copies of Islam’s holy text. It’s a glorious show, utterly, and like nothing I’ve ever seen, with more than 60 burnished and gilded books and folios, some as small as smartphones, others the size of carpets.

Flying carpets, I should say. This is art of a beauty that takes us straight to heaven. And it reminds us of how much we don’t know — but, given a chance like this, will love to learn — about a religion and a culture lived by, and treasured by, a quarter of the world’s population.

A binding of a Quran made from wood and leather dating to the ninth century. It was transferred from the Great Mosque in Damascus to Topkapi Palace in 1911, and to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in 1913. Credit Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

The manuscripts, most on first-time loan from a venerable museum in Istanbul, date from the seventh to 17th centuries, and come from various points: Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey. Some volumes are intact; others survive as only single pages, though so great is the Quran’s spiritual charisma that, traditionally, every scrap is deemed worthy of preserving. And the Sackler curators, Massumeh Farhad and Simon Rettig, give the material all the glamour it deserves, with a duskily lighted installation in which everything seems to glow and float, gravity-free.

The word Quran (or Koran) is derived from an Arabic verb for speaking from memory or reading aloud. And the book originated with the sound of a voice heard by a man named Muhammad ibn Abdullah near Mecca, the city in what is now Saudi Arabia. A trader by profession, he was in the habit of spending periods of reflection in a cave outside of town. On one visit, in A.D. 610, when he was 40, he heard a command, seemingly coming from nowhere, in Arabic:
Recite! In the name of thy Lord,
Who taught by the pen,
Taught man what he knew not.
Fearing for his sanity, he fled the cave. But he returned, and the voice, which belonged to the Angel Gabriel, spoke again, bringing a message from God. The message named Muhammad prophet of a new monotheistic religion and explained its tenets and beliefs to him. He began to share what he’d heard, but encountered violent resistance, and had to move to another city, Medina. The voice followed him there and would continue to speak until Muhammad’s death in 632.

By that point, the new religion, called Islam — “submission, surrender” — had found its footing and attracted followers, though the words Muhammad heard had been only partly written down. With the prophet himself gone, and his closest companions aging, there was fear that the revelations would be lost. So a great effort of copying, collecting and collating began, and by the end of the seventh century, the Quran acquired something like a final shape.

A museum visitor studying one of the holy books at the exhibition. Over the centuries, the Quran became increasingly treated as an aesthetic object and a ritual instrument. Credit Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

A curious shape it is. About the length of the New Testament, the book has 114 chapters, or suras, all but one beginning with the same invocation: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.” Some chapters run several pages; others are just a few lines. Many of the shortest are urgent and rousing: They seem to record what Muhammad heard in those first hair-raising sessions in the cave. Yet they tend to come toward the back of the book, while longer, later passages — about communal practicalities and social justice — are placed up front.

There are many theories addressing this ordering, but no final explanation. The Quran, like all foundational religious texts, is a tangle of ambiguities and mysteries, to which endless annotations can be, and are being, written.

And the pen, along with the voice, became the book’s primary medium. The physical act of copying the text was thought to bring blessings — baraka — to the writer, though the earliest example in the show looks like a quick-and-dirty job. Dating from the late seventh or early eighth century, and found in the archives of the Great Mosque in Damascus, it’s a time-stained parchment folio covered almost edge to edge with Quranic passages. Written in an informal script, with chapter divisions barely acknowledged, it looks more like a personal letter than like a religious text.

The first of a two-part volume of the Quran, dating to 1028. This volume was copied by al-Husayn ibn Abdallah, most likely in Cairo. Credit Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

Over time, though, highly refined penmanship styles, visual equivalents to the cadences of the spoken word, were designed specifically for the Quran, and masters of those styles were revered as cultural stars. So wide was the fame of the 11th-century Baghdad artist Ibn al-Bawwab (“son of the doorman”) that his signature was routinely forged, as is the case with a Quran in the show that bears his name but was copied by someone else.

One of his 13th-century Baghdad successors, Yaqut al-Mustasimi, was comparably celebrated. When a Mongol army laid waste to the city in 1258, his life was spared so that he could work for the new rulers, which he did for years. Although very few genuine examples of his work are now known, the show has one.

Largely because of its Quranic association, calligraphy came to be regarded as the greatest of Islamic art forms, sacred or secular. Spilling out of books onto wall tiles, ceramic vessels, glass lamps, textiles, mosque domes and building facades, it was both a sensual and ideological unifier, totalizingly utopian in the way that Mondrian’s environmental Modernism would be.

A volume from before 750, in ink and color on parchment. The binding is wood and leather. Credit Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

Yet calligraphy was not the only elaborating gloss applied to the Quran. After the introduction of paper from China in the eighth century, copying the text on parchment — animal skin — fell into disfavor, and all kinds of experimentation came into play.

Multivolume Qurans — 30 volumes was a typical number, corresponding to the days of Ramadan — became more common as paper made them easier to produce, and compact one-volume versions gained in popularity. Size increased. The show has two pages from one of the largest Qurans on record. Probably made for the Mongol emperor Timur around 1400, they’re the equivalent of six-foot-high billboard advertisements for institutional power: the power of rulers, patrons, artists, religion, the Quran itself.

Over the centuries, the holy book became increasingly treated as an aesthetic object and a ritual instrument. Symbols were introduced to orchestrate the all-important recitation of its contents: indicators of where to pause, where to place emphasis, how to pronounce words. These signs, exquisitely painted, wreathed the text in networks of florets, medallions and arabesques, done in lapis-lazuli blue or light-catching gold.

A single volume of the Quran, dating to around 1580. This volume was copied by Abd al-Qadir ibn Abd al-Wahhab in Shiraz, Iran. Credit Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

Material preciousness became an end in itself, turning Qurans into prestige objects and political currency, valued as diplomatic gifts, as war booty and as pious, grace-earning donations to mosques and mausoleums. Many Qurans in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts’ collection were transferred there from royal tombs at the turn of the 20th century, when Europe was plundering Turkey for art.

The impression of the Washington exhibition is of splendor, not just from book to book and page to page, but within individual pages, with their nested divisions, their lustrous ornaments and their sprouting, rolling, singing Arabic phrases, which form the ethical heart of a faith and a culture. In a short video at the start of the show, we learn how these elements work together: A male voice intones one of the suras; simultaneously, an animated version of the Arabic text appears, spelled out in gold, on the screen, with an English translation below.

Once inside the show, though, we don’t have the voice, and we only occasionally have translations. What we have are the written words, which, for those of us who don’t read Arabic, we must accept as examples of text-as-design. Is that enough?

Visitors at the exhibition, which displays more than 60 burnished and gilded books and folios, some as small as smartphones, others the size of carpets. Credit Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

The day I was at the museum, there were just a few late-day visitors, and of those, several were women wearing hijabs. I watched them as they looked intently at the manuscripts arrayed around us, and I knew they were seeing things I couldn’t see, and feeling things I couldn’t feel, because they could read the words.

I was aware — and this is an easy perception — of the larger barriers of unknowing that stand between art and understanding, and of the barriers that stand between cultures, barriers that have, among other things, led our United States president-elect to propose banning entry to this country for women like these, who cover their heads and read a book that most of us don’t, and can’t.
Soon that president-elect will take up residence mere blocks from the Sackler. This show will still be on then. Will he see it? We can hope. But whether or not he does, some of us did, and stayed a long time, looking at, and lingering over, miraculously beautiful things and sharing, in different but not so different ways, the blessing that beauty brings.

“The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures From the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts” continues through Feb. 20 at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington; 202-633-4880,

Monday, 7 November 2016

'The misrepresentation of Muslims in the Irish media is a problem' Amanullah De Sondy, UCC's Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Islam, joined George on the show today to discuss Islam depiction in the media

UCC's Amanullah De Sondy joined George Hook on High Noon today, unimpressed with how the Irish media continues to depict the Muslim faith and culture.

He said, 'it's a big problem'.  He continued, 'Muslims are depicted as monsters'.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland held a seminar today on the misrepresentation of Muslims in the Irish media.

Despite being one of the largest minority groups in the country, still Muslims, like Dr. De Sondy, feel that there is little visibility of their religion and culture in the mainstream media today.

October 25th 2016