Saturday, February 26, 2011

Are You A Muslim?

A co-worker passed me in the hall this week and said, "I see you have a new Qur'an book out. Are you a Muslim?" I hesitated, smiled and said, "You wouldn't believe how many times I get asked that question." Not wishing to pursue the matter any further at that point, I quickly moved on.
Looking back over the past several years, the question usually arises when I am teaching courses on Islam or the Qur'an, when I am giving public lectures on these topics, and when I am being interviewed about my books. Both Muslims and non-Muslims have asked. My answer is always the same: "I don't answer that question, because I do not want to introduce any sort of bias into the reception of me or my ideas." I do however wonder at the motivation for asking.
While I'm sure that some people are merely curious, as if to say, "Robert Campbell doesn't sound like a Muslim name," I also suspect that others are looking to determine by what authority I speak about the Qur'an, thereby establishing how much credence they should place in what I have to say and to some extent allowing them to slot me into one of the convenient categories of apologist, detractor, heretic or zealot. After all, if I can be pigeonholed, the individual avoids the work of having to listen/read and think about the views that I am expressing.
One young Muslim woman told me that she and her husband had read through my first book (Reading the Qur'an in English) twice, and had spent a good amount of time discussing its content, all the while looking for clues that would help them determine my religious identity. They concluded that, while I certainly had an impressive understanding of the Qur'an, because I left some questions unanswered and appeared to advocate the questioning of some generally accepted precepts, I was not a Muslim. From my perspective, I was ecstatic. I had managed to get two people to carefully read through what I had to say, discuss it at length and draw some conclusions about their understanding of what it meant to be a Muslim. What more could I want?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Day Late

Well, here I am, only six weeks into this blog, and already I am a day late in posting. I could make all kinds of excuses, such as the fact that I have a new computer and I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to transfer files and get everything set up the way I want it - which is all true - but it is certainly no excuse. I could also say that I wasn't in the mood for writing, but I am almost never in the mood for writing, and that doesn't prevent me from doing it on a regular basis. I could say that I used up all of my energy yesterday shoveling snow - again quite true and very frustrating - but still not really an excuse. I did some reading and I even watched some TV, but I had plenty of time to write a blog entry. I just got lazy and decided it could wait.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tragedy of the Commons

Happy to say that my video is receiving a good number of views, primarily from within Canada, but increasingly from Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
The print copies of "Women, War & Hypocrites" should be arriving this coming week, so that means distributing copies to potential reviewers and local media, as well as getting ready for an official launch event.
However, today's task is teaching my MBA students about the tragedy of the commons. Among the issues to be discussed are: how can we allow unchecked population growth when we live in a finite world where many essential resources are nearly exhausted, and can conscience and rationality trump the basic human tendency toward unbridled self-interest.
In my view, we are on the brink of a population crisis that will see up to one-third of the world's people vanish in the next three to five years. Some of this will be from disease, but I think that most of it will be the consequence of natural disasters such as earthquakes and massive flooding. Of course, a good deal of the extreme weather patterns experienced around the globe are a direct result of the human exploitation of natural resources and the pollution related to the processing and use of these resources.
I am not a pessimist or a doomsayer, I'm a pragmatic realist.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Call to Prayer

Check out this video that I posted a few days ago on YouTube. The audio portion is a recording of me reciting the Islamic call to prayer (adhan), and the video is a slide show of recent and historic photos of Cape Breton Island, where I live. At the end of the video, I provide a shot of the covers of my two books on the Qur'an, as well as the url for my home page, so that you can get more information about me and my work.
My new book Women, War & Hypocrites is now available from (USA), .ca (Canada), (United Kingdom) and .de (Germany). Basically, the book describes how to approach reading the English text of the Qur'an to gain insight into the way in which matters pertaining to women (e.g., marriage, inheritance, hijab and wife beating), war (e.g., killing, battle, jihad and terrorism) and hypocrites (e.g., People of the Book, intoxication and the crucifixion of Jesus) are covered, especially in the fourth surah (chapter) of the Qur'an, known as The Women. Rather than attempt to tell you what the Qur'an says about these matters, I try to help you to develop your own understanding of the text.