Is “Muslim” a Dirty Word Nowadays?

This is the kind of news that can make one lose all faith in humanity:

 A western Pennsylvania school district has decided not to stage a Tony Award-winning musical about a Muslim street poet after members of the community complained about the play on the heels of the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

The Tribune Democrat of Johnstown reports Richland School District had planned to stage “Kismet” in February but Superintendent Thomas Fleming says it was scrapped to avoid controversy.

Fleming tells the newspaper that sensitivity is understandable in part because one of the hijacked planes crashed in nearby Shanksville.

I’m all for sensitivity but what, in the name of all that’s holy, does a musical about a Muslim street poet have to do with the tragedy of 9/11?

On Thursday, I will be giving a talk at the local community center about the significance of the Muslim presence on the Iberian Peninsula starting from the year 711. The following words will open the talk: “At the beginning of the 8th century, Europe was truly a place of intellectual and spiritual darkness. Its ancient knowledge, art and philosophy had been lost. Only a distant memory of the former glory persisted in the minds of Europe’s very few remaining intellectuals. And then, in 711, an event of truly earth-shattering proportions took place. I am talking, of course, about the arrival of the Muslim people who conquered the Iberian Peninsula and restored the culture, the civilization, the science, the arts, in short, everything that makes life worth living, to the Europeans.”

Does this text sound sensitive enough to everybody? Because I don’t really even know any more.

11 thoughts on “Is “Muslim” a Dirty Word Nowadays?”

  1. The only controversy in this is that apparently a bunch of people managed to live 21+ years into adulthood without ever seeing the light of day.

    Like

  2. Would you post the text of the whole talk? It would be very nice. Quite instructive for some, even.

    And I dislike continuing juvenile feuds, but as someone who is familiar with the cultural history of Europe and the Muslim preservation of the classics, I don’t think this is laying it on thick at all. Ignorance, of course, would think otherwise. But should you care about prejudiced, untutored apologists, who see exaggeration in every narrative of non-European/non-Christian achievement?

    Like

    1. I am actually planning to post one of my lectures recorded in YouTube in the future. I will be recording all of them in YouTube for my new online course.

      “But should you care about prejudiced, untutored apologists, who see exaggeration in every narrative of non-European/non-Christian achievement?”

      -The lecture is part of my trademark course on Hispanic Civilization and I make a point never to say anything obvious and expected. 🙂 We’ll see how it goes over tomorrow. 🙂

      Like

  3. “…And then, in 711, an event of truly earth-shattering proportions took place. I am talking, of course, about the arrival of the Muslim people who conquered the Iberian Peninsula and restored the culture, the civilization, the science, the arts, in short, everything that makes life worth living, to the Europeans.”

    Does this text sound sensitive enough to everybody? Because I don’t really even know any more.

    Over my shoulder, the ghost of Henri Pirenne is muttering something about oversimplification, but it all sounds good to me. Good luck with the lecture.

    (I am confused: if the lecture is part of the course, why is it taking place in the community center?)

    Like

    1. I teach this as part of my course but I also offered to give this lecture at the community center. Of course, it has to be as simple, engaging and accessible as possible. This is not a scholarly conference. This is a talk for regular folks, some of whom might have no education at all.

      Like

  4. Kismet won the Tony award in …… 1954. Yes, 1954. The MUNY has played it in 4 seasons, most recently in 1977, according to the MUNY web site. I haven’t noticed any dire consequences, and certainly some of those 30,000 to 60,000 people seeing Kismet in 1977 are still around St. Louis. This is the show that cribbed Alexander Borodin’s music.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.