Videos for Teaching the Middle East in the Precollegiate Classroom
Notes by Michael Fahy, CMENAS, U. of Michigan (Click here for PDF version for printing.)
Introduction to the Arab World: Islam
There are a number of videos available on the
subject of Islam but, unfortunately, they are of uneven quality. There
are an egregious few, for example, that either equate Islam with "fundamentalism"
or otherwise present it almost entirely through the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. Other, older versions simply have production values that are
either poor or no longer compel the interest of younger people, or focus
on one or another aspect of Islam (e.g., Sufism) to provide an adequate
overview of Islam.
One of the outstanding virtues of this video is that, twelve years after it was produced, it remains an example of balanced, highly informative, general survey of Islam suitable for use in the classroom. The stated goals of the film, as indicated in the accompanying guidebook (p. 52) are worth citing here:
What is most remarkable about this video is
that this is achieved in all of fifteen minutes! For teachers wanting
to incorporate a unit on Islam in more general world civilization survey
courses who have limited time to do so, Islam is an excellent complement
to the lesson plan.
"God is great. I witness there is but one God. I witness that Mohammed is the Messenger of God. Come to prayer. Come to salvation."
For the average student in the American classroom,
having been exposed to the predictable range of representations of Muslim
societies afforded by the popular culture, the muezzin's call to prayer
will have served as a kind of soundtrack marking an inscrutable "exotic
world." Here, in what may well be for him or her a first and singular
experience, the muezzin's words are presented as a simple and sincere
profession of faith. In the context of contemporary American society,
where Islam is paradoxically the fastest growing religion and still portrayed
as something that is alien and "other," the narrator's translation
of the shahadah open this segment from the perspective of the center of
an experience, rather than at a distanced remove from it.
The historical survey is quite thorough, given the brevity of the segment, and teachers wanting to elaborate on any of a number of themes-such as a comparison of Islam with Judaism and Christianity, the early history of Islam, the split between Sunni and Shi'a in Islam, or even Islam in colonial and post-colonial societies-will find this video useful as a springboard for class discussion. For teachers concerned with standards and benchmarks for geography and history for a number of grade levels, Islam will prove to be of interest as well.
Notes by Michael Fahy, CMENAS, U. of Michigan
This video is available for loan to Northern
California teachers from the Schools Program/BAGEP, WORLD AFFAIRS COUNCIL,
312 Sutter St., Suite 200, San Francisco, CA 94108, tel 415-982-3263.
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