The West and the Muslim world stand on the brink of what seems to be an impenetrable divide. The war in Iraq, American Muslims' fear of racial profiling, and desecration of the Qur’an at Guantanamohave alienated many Muslims. Yet many other Americans and Muslims believe they can still build a strong relationship.
With this in mind, Islamic scholar Akbar Ahmed, who wrote the forward to “The Beliefnet Guide to Islam,” is traveling for two months throughout the Muslim world with two of his students--Hailey Woldt and Frankie Martin and research assistant Hadia Mubarak--to learn what Muslims think, and how they really view America.
Below is an edited travelogue, based on interviews with Beliefnet's Islam editor Dilshad D. Ali.
The Rise of "Arab Islam"
Bali, Indonesia, April 7, 2006
We're in the third phase of our journey--in East Asia, where Islam came not through warriors, not through conquerors, but through Sufis and traders and scholars. So traditionally, it's a much more gentle form of Islam. Islam here is more about Sufi-influences and tolerance and moderation, about balancing between faith and worldly aspirations. And the Muslims here are interactive with the other world civilizations, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, and Confucian philosophy.