Religion & Religious Extremism

Quote: We felt like the Taliban saw us as little dolls to control...if God wanted that He wouldn't have made us all different.

Operating from the assumption that it is impossible to speak of a single, monolithic Islam, yet that there is something about Islam as a religion (belief, practice) and culture (moral guide, way of living) that has the power to unite the majority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims as a community of believers, this course will discuss:

  • the problematics of defining Islam
  • the varied forms that Islam takes in different social and cultural contexts
  • the question of extremism in Islam
  • how Muslim girls and women (and the men who support them) have been transforming Islam into a force for progressive change in the world today

A supplemental feature for high school teachers appears at the end of this theme.

Individual Activities

Students will develop an analytical research paper on a selection from a variety of themes, including the forms that Islam can take in different cultural contexts, and how women and girls are contributing to the transformation of Islam as a force for progressive change.

An individual, narrated PowerPoint presentation is also assigned, which will cover a theme from this lesson, including:

  • similarities and differences in the practice of Islam (“lived Islam”) in various cultural contexts
  • Islam vs. religious extremism
  • Islam and gender activism

Group Activities

Students will participate in a roundtable debate and will also develop a joint PowerPoint presentation.  The presentation similarly touches on one of the themes outlined for the analytical research paper, but in multiple country/cultural contexts (with each panelist taking on a single country).