Letters from the Goodwill Brothers of Basra : a medieval Islamic message of tolerance and pluralism


Letters from the Goodwill Brothers of Basra : a medieval Islamic message of tolerance and pluralism

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dc.contributor.advisor Ali, Samer M.
dc.creator Fares, Michael James
dc.date.accessioned 2012-07-31T16:38:52Z
dc.date.available 2012-07-31T16:38:52Z
dc.date.created 2012-05
dc.date.issued 2012-07-31
dc.date.submitted May 2012
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/2152/ETD-UT-2012-05-5154
dc.description.abstract “We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There's no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.”Newt Gingrich said the above words in reference to the recent “ground-zero mosque debate”, a heated media controversy which surrounded plans for the Park 51 Islamic Community Center to open in downtown Manhattan on the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Assuming a necessary enmity between America and Islam, Gingrich’s claims seem rooted in the theory of a “Clash of Civilizations”. This theory envisions “the West” and “Islam” as diametrically opposed entities with no common values, and has become widely pervasive in informing much of post-9/11 America’s political and academic discourse. When chalked up against the social, cultural, and literary history of Islam, however, the Clash of Civilizations theory is a poor fit. For medieval Arabo-Islamic culture saw a vast rise of humanistic literature bearing a clear multi-civilizational influence. The Letters of the Goodwill Brothers of Basra constitute one of the most overlooked of these works. Composed by a group of 10th century Abbasid Muslim littérateurs, the 52 Letters draw parallels between the teachings of Islam and those of prior great wisdom traditions, including Indian and Ancient Greek wisdom, Judaism, and Christianity. Focusing on the way the Letters frame Islam in the context of perennial human wisdom, I show how this text is ultimately an irenic text aimed at promoting religious tolerance and cooperation in the tumultuous sectarian atmosphere of 10th century Abbasid Iraq. I argue ultimately that the irenic message of the Letters presents an alternative narrative to the Clash of Civilizations theory, a narrative of tolerance from the Islamic past by which our own society may benefit when it comes to the relationships between American Muslims and non-Muslims.
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf
dc.language.iso eng
dc.subject Ikhwan al-Safa
dc.subject Brethren of Purity
dc.subject Sincere Brethren
dc.subject Islamic
dc.subject Arabic
dc.subject Literature
dc.subject Philosophy
dc.title Letters from the Goodwill Brothers of Basra : a medieval Islamic message of tolerance and pluralism
dc.date.updated 2012-07-31T16:39:00Z
dc.identifier.slug 2152/ETD-UT-2012-05-5154
dc.contributor.committeeMember Spellberg, Denise
dc.description.department Middle Eastern Studies
dc.type.genre thesis
dc.type.material text
thesis.degree.department Middle Eastern Studies
thesis.degree.discipline Arabic Studies
thesis.degree.grantor University of Texas at Austin
thesis.degree.level Masters
thesis.degree.name Master of Arts

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