Global Islam

Islam, the fastest-growing religion in the world, has a long and rich history, and it influences economic, political, social, and cultural arrangements across the world.

The Global Islam Initiative reflects an effort to understand fundamental tenets in Islam through an interdisciplinary lens even as we trace the global spread and evolution of faith practices and politics, attending to the incredible diversity of Muslim peoples, politics, cultures, and practices.

On this page you can explore:

K-14 Teaching Materials

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Lesson Planning


Background information, lesson plans, teaching guides, films and videos, and books to teach about diversity within Islam

The Religious Studies Project

Exploring contemporary issues in the academic study of religion through podcasts

Curriculum: Teaching about MENA

Curriculum: Challenging Perceptions: Persepolis Beyond the American Lens

Featured Articles

Academic Papers

Prihatini, Ella. Islam, Parties, and Women’s Political Nomination in Indonesia, 2019.

El Nossery, Nevine. Arab Women and the Poetics of Revolution, Forthcoming 2021.

El Nossery, Nevine. Egypt in Focus: Creativity in Adversarial Contexts, Journal of the African Literature Association, 2021 (forthcoming, co-editor with Dr. Shereen Abouelnnaga).

El Nossery, Nevine. Témoignages fictionnels au féminin. Une réécriture des blancs de la guerre civile algérienne. Amsterdam & New York, Rodopi, 2013.

El Nossery, Nevine. The Unspeakable: Representations of Trauma in Francophone Literature and Art, 2013 (co-editor with Dr. Amy Hubbell).

El Nossery, Nevine. Frictions et devenirs dans les écritures migrantes au féminin, Éditions Universitaires Européennes, 2011 (co-editor with Dr. Anna Rocca).

Gade, Anne. Muslim Environmentalisms: Religious and Social Foundations. Columbia University Press, 2019.

Rock-Singer, Aaron. Practicing Islam in Egypt: Print Media and Islamic Revival. Cambridge, 2019. 

Rock-Singer, Aaron. In the Shade of the Sunna: Salafi Piety in the Twentieth-Century Middle East (under contract with the University of California Press).

Shalaby, Marwa. “Women’s Political Representation and Authoritarian Politics in the Arab World.” Book manuscript.

Shalaby, Marwa, ed. Empowering Women after the Arab Spring, co-edited with Valentine Moghadam. Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Pruitt, Jennifer. Building the Caliphate: Construction, Destruction, and Sectarian Identity in Early Fatimid Architecture. Yale, 2020.

Additional Materials

Muslims on the Margins: Creating Queer Religious Community in North America: A new book, to be released April 2023, written by our very own Dr. Katrina Daly Thompson! Thompson tells the story of the twenty-first century wave of progressive Muslim’s radical descendants: nonconformists. These nonconformists have reinterpreted their religion and created space for queer, trans, and nonbinary identities within Islam.

Gender Diversity in Islam and Judaism. Interview with Dr. Katrina Daly Thompson by Brett Krutzsch. The Revealer Podcast, episode 29. 29 September 2022

Rethinking Islamophobia by Alison Kysia: A Muslim educator and curriculum developer questions whether religious literacy is an effective antidote to combat bigotries rooted in American history.

Racial Capitalism, Islamophobia, and Austerity, by Nadya Ali and Ben Whitham.

Op Ed on Nawal Al Saadawi passing, by Nevine El Nossery. See English translation here.

Audio interview with Aaron-Rock Singer, about his book Practicing Islam in Egypt: Print Media and Islamic Revival.

Interview with Aaron Rock-Singer about his book.

Interview with Daniel Stolz about his book, The Lighthouse and the Observatory: Islam, Science, and Empire in Late Ottoman Egypt.

Audio interview with Daniel Stolz about his book.

On continuity and rupture: A reply to Elshakry and Quadri, by Daniel Stolz.

Winning Hearts and Votes: A Conversation with Steven Brooke.

Prof. Steven Brooke on Teaching Comparative Politics, Political Islam, and the Arab Spring, by 1050 Bascom, a podcast produced by UW-Madison Political Science department.


Escaping Wars and Waves: Encounters with Syrian Refugees (April 2021)

Oliver Kugler, the German-British artist and illustrator on his award-winning graphic reportage (2018) on refugee camps Escaping Wars and Waves: Encounters with Syrian Refugees.

Islamophobia and the South Asian Community in Britain: Locating the Student Suspect (March 2021)

Dr. Tania Saeed, an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Pakistan. Her research focuses on Comparative and International Education, exploring questions around education in relation to securitization, citizenship and social justice

Arab Music, a Glimpse into the Soul of a Culture (July 2021)

Karim Nagi is a native Egyptian and American citizen. For the past 30 years he had been touring the globe to teach and perform Arab music & folk dance. He has authored dozens of instructional videos, conducted workshops and given lectures. His TEDx Talk “The Tambourine, My Partner in Diplomacy & Disruption” (above) illustrates how he uses music to advocate for his culture and counter xenophobia.

Description of non-recorded presentation: Folk dancer and teaching artist Karim Nagi will demonstrate various musical instruments from around the Arab world. Through each instrument, and explanation of its creation & function, audiences observe a different aspect of Arab culture. This interactive performance includes language & geographical background, that helps illuminate the commonalities & shared culture, along with the variety & diversity found around the Arab world.

Gender and Islam in Indonesia: Reflections on Party Nomination in Legislative Elections (October 2021)

In this Global Islam Guest Lecture, Dr. Ella S. Prihatini (Lecturer, Department of International Relations, Binus University, Jakarta, Indonesia) will elaborate on the topic Gender and Islam in Indonesia: Reflection on Party Nomination in Legislative Elections. She will also unpack how women’s political status in contemporary Indonesia is progressing and will include insights from the pre-transition era. Elaborating on before and after Reformasi in 1998, Dr. Prihatini will discuss how gender and authoritarianism have shaped contemporary Indonesian politics.

Mosques and Islamist Activism: Spatial Evidence from Interwar Cairo (April 2021)

Steven Brooke, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and a Faculty Fellow at the Association for Analytic Learning about Islam and Muslim Societies (AALIMS). He is also a non-resident fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Middle East Initiative.

Problems of Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment in Muslim-Majority Countries (July 2021)

Dr. Ahmet T. Kuru is Porteous Professor of Political Science at San Diego State University. Ahmet T. Kuru will talk about his new book “Islam, Authoritarianism, and Underdevelopment: A Global and Historical Comparison” (Cambridge University Press, 2019). Why do Muslim-majority countries have high levels of authoritarianism and low levels of socio-economic development in comparison to world averages?

Kuru elaborates an argument about the ulema-state alliance as the cause of these problems in the Muslim world from the eleventh century to the present. Criticizing essentialist, post-colonialist, and new institutionalist explanations, Kuru focuses on the relations between intellectual, economic, religious, and political classes in his own explanation.

Resources: Video on the book, Article summary of the book

Pedagogical (Re)Encounters: Enacting a Decolonial Praxis in Teacher Professional Development in Pakistan, with Dr. Khoja-Moolji (September 2021)

Dr. Shenila Khoja-Moolji is Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Bowdoin College. She is an interdisciplinary scholar working at the intersections of feminist theory, cultural studies, and Islamic studies. Her research interests include, Muslim girlhood(s),masculinities and sovereignty, and Ismaili Muslim women’s history. She investigates these topics empirically in relation to Muslims in Pakistan, the United States, and Canada. Dr. Khoja-Moolji is the author of award-winning book, Forging the Ideal Educated Girl: The Production of Desirable Subjects in Muslim South Asia (2018) and her latest book, Sovereign Attachments: Masculinity, Muslimness, and Affective Politics in Pakistan, was published in June 2021.

Description of nonrecorded presentation: In this talk, Professor Khoja-Moolji reflects on the complexities as well as the promises of enacting a decolonial praxis in the context of teacher professional development. Focusing on a specific case of teacher professional development workshops in Pakistan, and drawing on the methodology of narrative inquiry, she will outline some of the pedagogical (re)encounters that she created to reclaim local knowledge ecologies. It entailed examining the current moment of coloniality; an active reengagement with local landscapes, intellectual productions, and teacher selves; and becoming hunarmand (skillful) in taking up, twisting, and molding dominant pedagogical models toward anti- and decolonial ends.

Introduction to Islam (October 2021)

The Center for Religion and Global Citizenry’s Interfaith Fellows and UW-Madison students met in person for an introductory lecture on Islam by Rohany Nayan Ph.D. This 45 minute presentation was followed by a 30 minute Q&A session.

Rohany Nayan, Ph.D. is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the Chicago Muslims Green Team (CMGT). Dr. Nayan is focusing on nurturing and growing the vision of CMGT especially in raising awareness of, and planting the seeds for a mindful, eco-friendly lifestyle based on Islamic guidance in the Muslim community and the community at large.

Here On Earth Audio Files

Travel as a Political Act (June 11, 2009)

They say the world is shrinking, so what can we do to feel more comfortable with our neighbors? Travel! Acclaimed travel writer Rick Steves’ new book argues that we can’t understand our world without experiencing it. Travel as a Political Act will teach us all what it means to travel with our place in the world in mind.

Halal Food: What Muslims Eat (January 30, 2009)

You’ve heard of kosher meat, but do you know Halal Meat? This hour on Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders, Jean Feraca talks with a Muslim woman, the creator of “Faith in Place,” a Chicago-based food cooperative that specializes in everything halal.

Jihad (April 29, 2010)

What is the meaning of Jihad in the Qur’an, in Islamic law, and inside Al Quaeda? How is it used in both the West (by Napoleon and Ronald Reagan) and the East? How terrorists use it to justify operating outside the law?

A Love Divine (February 14, 2011)

When Jalaluddin Rumi, the 13th century Sufi Muslim poet, met his teacher, Shams of Tabriz, he was introduced to a deeper kind of love that would inspire him for the rest of his life. On this Valentine’s Day you’ll see Rumi’s poetry books in every bookstore. But what sort of love was Rumi really talking about?

The Green Path (March 24, 2011)

Muhammed declared “The Earth is a Mosque.” Environmental Policy Advisor to the City of New York, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin makes a spiritual case for environmentalism in which humanity is compelled to care for the earth not just in response to scientific data, but because of a sacred duty

Elif Shafak (May 26, 2011)

The most widely read woman writer in Turkey today, Elif Shafak was accused of insulting “Turkishness” for mentioning the Armenian genocide in one of her novels. Throughout her life and career, Elif has tried to unify the wildly different aspects of her identity: woman, Muslim, Turkish, international globetrotter, writer, mother. For her, what holds it all together in the end is the power of fiction to overcome the politics of identity.

Hafez: Persia’s Provocateur (June 20, 2011)

Hafez, the famous 14th century Persian poet, used the most gorgeous language to expose duplicity, irreverence, and corruption in preachers, scholars of religious laws, memorizers and reciters of the Qur’an. Why is he still one of the best read poets of Persian literature?

Songs of Kabir (October 24, 2011)

Almost 500 years after his death, Kabir remains one of the world’s most beloved poets. His poems are full of passion and paradox, of mind-bending riddles and exultant riffs, and a new translation of his poems, by one of India’s most renowned poets, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, brings Kabir’s poetry to life like never before.

Aisha: Muhammad’s Youngest Wife (July 12, 2009)

Kamran Pasha will join us for our next Inside Islam program to talk about his book, Mother of the Believers: A Novel of the Birth of Islam. This novel tells the story of the rise of Islam through the eyes of Aisha, the Prophet Muhammad’s youngest wife and one of the most influential women in Islamic history. As Mother of the Believers shows, Aisha is more than the controversy around her age; she was a teacher, political leader, a warrior, and, with her incredible memory, an invaluable source of information on all aspects of the Prophet Muhammad’s life.

Ramadan: The Fast and the Feast (September 1, 2009)

Why is fasting common to almost all faiths? Why do Muslims the world over look forward with joy to a month of fasting? What are the special challenges that American Muslims face? And what are the Ramadan specials that Arab Muslims are watching on satellite TV?

Art of Qur’anic Recitation (March 11, 2010)

Among Muslims, Qur’anic recitation is a highly advanced art form intended to move, inspire, engage, and transport all those who listen. What is the purpose of Qur’anic recitation? How does it relate to life in the 21st century? What’s your personal experience of hearing the Qur’an recited?

Reza Aslan on 100 Years of Literature from the Middle East (November 17, 2010)

Regular Here on Earth guest and internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, Reza Aslan takes us on a literary journey through the Middle East. He’s the editor of the new Words Without Borders anthology, Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East.

What is the Qur’an? (February 23, 2011)

What kind of a book is the Qur’an? Does it incite Muslims to violence? What are its core messages? What kind of God is Allah? We’ll talk with UW-Madison professor Anna Gade about the Qur’an and why it is so misunderstood.

Whitewashing Tales from the Arabian Nights (June 14, 2011)

In the original telling, Scheherazade’s story was wild and wicked enough to keep the Sultan awake for a 1001 nights. Reza Aslan and Andrei Codrescu uncover the libidinous side of the Arabian Nights as we talk about the seductive power of storytelling.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem (October 18, 2011)

In James Carroll’s Jerusalem, the city embodies the world’s greatest philosophies, and its worst impulses. It is a city of faith, wracked by war, a city constantly engaged in “a contest of life and death.” And yet, it is also a place of hope, resurrection, consolation, and holds the key to understanding world history and reimagining world peace.

A Muslim American Slave: The Life of Omar Ibn Said (November 7, 2011)

In 1807, Omar Ibn Said, a wealthy Muslim scholar was captured and brought to the American south as a slave. Late in life, Omar was persuaded by abolitionists to write down his life story which has been newly edited and translated by a Yale professor.