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Engaging the Other: Public Policy and Western-Muslim Intersections

  • Book Title:
 Engaging The Other
  • Book Author:
Karim H. Karim, Mahmoud Eid
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This book examines Western-Muslim engagement in policy contexts. We invited major scholars to write about the specific topics of civil society, educational curriculum, government policy, inter-communal relations, legal reform, media production, political participation, public discourse, public opinion, and responses to public policy.

The volume deals with various ways in which the Self has engaged with the Other in Western-Muslim intersections, and explores ways of enhancing such interaction in domestic and trans- national contexts. It provides empirical information that demonstrates the possibilities for productive interactions domestically and internationally.

Engaging the Other: Public Policy and Western-Muslim Intersections is simultaneously published with its companion volume Re-Imagining the Other: Culture, Media, and Western-Muslim Intersections. The main aims of the these books are to study in an original manner (1) the role of mutual cultural ignorance as a cause of conflict between Western and Muslim societies and

(2) the possibilities of engaging constructively with each other. This set of publications examines the complex relationships between the two civilizations by drawing on historical and contemporary material. Whereas several books on related topics have been published in the last decade, this project is a unique and innovatively structured multidisciplinary endeavor that builds a new theoretical model and approaches the issue from the perspectives of both Western and Muslim societies.

Whereas each book stands on its own, we believe that Engaging the Other appeals to readers specifically interested in the study of policy issues relating to conflict, culture, diaspora, education, immigration, interfaith dialogue, intercultural and international relations, Islam and the West, law, media, multiculturalism, national security, political participation, public discourse, public policy, and religion.

This set of books appears at a timely juncture that marks the withdrawal of Western military forces from the long war in Afghanistan. Even as the conflicts between Western and Muslim societies proliferate, public support for expensive and bloody wars has declined, and policymakers are more receptive toward alternatives to militarization and securitization.

The intensification of the debates on Muslim immigration to Western countries provides a domes- tic frame for the project’s topicality. Despite their differing values, Western and Muslim civilizations overlap with each other in many ways and have demonstrated the capacity for productive engagement.

 It is unfortunate that, in spite of a mountain of academic research produced on the shared Abrahamic heritage and the long history of collaborative relationships, our time is marked by an escalation of the clash to a global scale. Much of Western- Muslim interaction is characterized by a mutual lack of awareness of the his- tory in which each culture played a vital role in shaping the other.

This project draws from the critique that the concept of clash of ignorance poses. The concept was initially proposed by the late Edward Said in a brief magazine article. A growing number of academics, policymakers, religious leaders, and media commentators are making references to this idea;

 however, it has not yet been fully developed as a theory. We published a well-received article exploring the basic ideas of the clash of ignorance thesis in 2012 in the Global Media Journal—Canadian Edition. The present project provides theoretical and empirical substance to this thesis in a multidisciplinary and internationally authored set of volumes. Contributors are from the academic fields of architecture, communication and media, conflict resolution, education, international relations, Islamic studies, law, literature, Middle-Eastern studies, political psychology, politics, social anthropology, theology, and translation.

This timely and innovative project that takes the lead in the elaboration of the undertheorized and underresearched clash of ignorance paradigm coincides with the twentieth anniversary of Huntington’s introduction of the clash of civilizations thesis, which has run its course.

As Western and Muslim societies are experiencing exhaustion from the “war on terror,” students, policymakers, and publics are well disposed to alternatives to the conflict model. The project makes a compelling argument for shedding the old and tired modes of understanding intercivilizational relations, and offers fresh and thought-provoking possibilities for productive interactions between cultural and religious groups in the twenty-first century. Karim H. Karim and Mahmoud Eid

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