Almost daily in popular media the Muslim World is pinpointed as a homogeneous entity that stands separate and parallel to the similarly imagined West....

Almost daily in popular media the Muslim World is pinpointed as a homogeneous entity that stands separate and parallel to the similarly imagined West. But even scratching the surface of the idea of a Muslim World reveals the geographic, social, linguistic, and religious diversity of Muslims throughout the world. So what work is performed through the employment and use of this phrase? And in what context did the idea of the Muslim World emerge?

Cemil Aydin, Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, tackles these questions in his wonderful new book The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History (Harvard University Press, 2017). It in he weaves distant and interconnecting social, intellectual, and political histories of modern Muslims societies with clarity and detail. Altogether, he reveals the complex story of how the concept is constructed as a device intended to point to a geopolitical, religious, and civilizational unity among Muslims. The term is defined and employed by Muslim and non-Muslim actors alike across imperial and national contexts over the past nearly 150 years. In our conversation we discussed the justifications for imperial conflicts, the effects of Christian nationalistic liberation and the colonization of Muslims, orientalism, social Darwinism, the racialization of Muslims, the global role of the Ottomans, European and Russian imperialism, Muslim modernists thinkers, the effects of the World Wars, and the changing political landscape of the late 20th century.


Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. His research and teaching interests include Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religion, Islamic Studies, Chinese Religions, Human Rights, and Media Studies. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at kjpetersen@unomaha.edu.

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