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Monday, April 22, 2024

Unpacking misconceptions: John Esposito on the true nature of Islam

Esposito, a distinguished professor of religion and author of over 50 books on Islam, talks about Islam in recent interview.

John Esposito, a distinguished professor of religion, Islam, and Islamophobia at Georgetown University, is a renowned scholar and author of over 50 books on religion and Islam. Recently, he appeared on the first episode of Centre Stage to discuss Islam’s influence on the United States with Soraya Salam, an international journalist. Esposito shared his insights on a range of topics, including his passionate interest in Islam, Muslim contributions to Western culture, and the global rise of Islamophobia.

Esposito’s Passionate Interest 

Esposito’s attraction to Islam began during his undergraduate studies at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, where he learned about Islam’s rich history and its contributions to various fields such as science, mathematics, philosophy, and medicine. He later pursued graduate studies in Islam and the Middle East at Temple University, where he learned Arabic and travelled to the Middle East to study Islamic culture and traditions.

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He credits his Catholic upbringing for his interest in interfaith dialogue and promoting a better understanding of Islam among non-Muslims. His research on Islam has helped him to develop a nuanced understanding of the religion and challenge stereotypes and misconceptions.

Muslim Origins of Common Traditions 

Esposito and Salam discussed the Muslim origins of some of the most common traditions in Europe and the US. For example, the concept of hygiene, which is an essential part of Islamic culture, influenced the development of public baths and water fountains in Europe. The mediaeval Islamic world also played a crucial role in preserving and translating ancient Greek and Roman texts, which became the basis of the European Renaissance. Esposito also noted that many everyday words and phrases used in English, such as “alcohol,” “coffee,” and “cotton,” have their roots in Arabic. These words are a testament to the enduring influence of Islamic culture on the Western world.

Esposito’s Time Advising Joe Biden

Esposito served as an advisor to Joe Biden when he was a senator. He spoke about Biden’s commitment to interfaith dialogue and promoting a better understanding of Islam. Biden’s efforts included meeting with Muslim leaders and advocating for the rights of Muslim Americans. He also praised Biden’s decision to repeal the Muslim Ban, which was imposed by former President Donald Trump. The Muslim Ban was a discriminatory policy that prevented people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

Globalisation of Islamophobia

Esposito and Salam also discussed the globalisation of Islamophobia. Esposito noted that Islamophobia is not limited to the US but is a global phenomenon. He pointed to the rise of right-wing populist movements in Europe, which have fueled anti-Muslim sentiment and xenophobia. He argued that Islamophobia is often rooted in ignorance and fear, and it is essential to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam. He emphasised the need for interfaith dialogue and collaboration among people of different religions and cultures to promote understanding and mutual respect.

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John Esposito’s discussion on the increasing prevalence of Islamophobia highlights the necessity of breaking down barriers and fostering understanding among diverse communities. His insights provide valuable guidance on how to promote mutual respect and acceptance, and combat the negative stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding Islam..