“Professor Kassam, are you Muslim?”

The Historian (of Religion)’s Task, by Zayn Kassam, Pomona College

That first day of my first class on Women in Islam, a student raised her hand and asked: “Professor Kassam, are you Muslim?” I replied that I was. “Then how do we know you won’t spend this class defending how Muslims treat their women?”

I have been thinking about that question ever since. It could legitimately be asked in all my classes: Will I be defending how Muslims write, think, act, govern, convert, pray, and now, since 9/11, kill? Without doubt, students sometimes try to push me into a defensive posture.


In the end, my response to that student in my first class is: I’m not going to defend how Muslims treat their women, but at the end of this course, you might. Or you might rethink the question.

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Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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