Critical Introduction

The purpose of this miscellany is to explore the fact that despite the advent of globalization, instant access to knowledge, and the transportation revolution, distance between “us and them” still holds its own as a powerful force that provides grounds for provocative and dangerous rhetoric. Though these developments have progressed at enormous rates since the Industrial Revolution, these aspects were very much a part of medieval society as well and the texts we have chosen from that time period indicate how their presence impacts representation of religious “others”. What we have found, and tried to illustrate, is that there are striking similarities between the interaction of and thoughts about religious “others” in the medieval time period and today, despite the vast differences between the texts’ contemporary periods of production. As the “Congregating to Talk Conflict” piece points out, even with the shortening of physical distance both then and now, there still exists the realms of ideological and psychological distance that need to be overcome. Sometimes the shortening of physical distance can even increase the ideological and psychological distance between religious “others”. The texts show that there is a link between scholarly debate and approaching some kind of humanitarian solution to the negative complications that a religiously diverse world creates. Only through the proper utilization of the advancements in technology and communication in this global age can there be a resolution to the stigma that has surrounded the religious “other” since the dawn of mankind.

The miscellany was created in the form of a blog. This was appropriate to the content of our project for several reasons. Our miscellany focuses on the role that globalization, increased communication, and technology play in representing and thinking about religious “others”. For this reason, we wanted our miscellany to be constructed in a format that would utilize all of these elements. The blog format allowed us, the scribes, to organize and edit our selected texts, and add scribal glossing in the form of commentaries, all in an accessible and flexible medium which exemplifies the IT advancements of globalization. Publishing the miscellany as a blog allows us to gain feedback and commentary from not only our classmates, but also from the entire world (granted our blog is not lost among the influx of new blogs, mirroring the problematic disappearances of so many medieval manuscripts over time). Our understanding of the importance of debate in determining representations of religious “others” led us to have our work exist in one of the most advanced and readily available forms of debate there is. Using the blog format allowed us to present our selected texts and videos as online content available for everyone to access. This availability of primary sources, just a click away, makes the miscellany a lot less academic, and more accessible to a general audience, which we hope will generate more dialogue and interaction. The relationship of the texts, ultimately, is one of responses and rebuttals and their interaction with one another is just as significant as their content, which is what our miscellany is meant to accomplish.

The order of the texts and videos is crucial to the argument we are presenting. We began the miscellany with the “Congregating to Talk of Conflict” because it introduces the three concepts of distance that we tried to focus on. It also introduced the concept of scholarly debate and demonstrates how academia can bring religious “others” together. Continuing with the theme of debate we introduce the Muslim and the Monk piece as well as the interview between Dawkins and Khattab. Not only are all three of these pieces religious debates, but they involve people of different cultures traveling far distances in order to have personal interaction.

We move from debate to instances of aggression which are represented in Urban II’s speech, Cortes’ letter, and the Arabs, Franks, Tours account. While the debates could have been confrontational in some instances, the pieces about aggression against the religious “other” take this confrontation a step further and demonstrate what happens when physical space and distance are shortened not for the purposes of dialogue, but conquest and other gains under a veil of a domineering ideology. Khattab’s response serves as a transition to the next section of the miscellany by demonstrating that the perception of aggression is not always presented fairly, or in a more basic sense, that there are multiple points of view, as well as bias, to any event or idea.

The next section deals with the representation of religious “others” from the point of view of those on whom the aggression is being committed. All three deal with globalization and communication as well as how religious difference can be exploited or upheld. The Ramadan piece serves as a transition from the point of view of those subjected to domineering ideology back to the idea of scholarship and wisdom being used in order to create positive and progressive interaction and representation of religious “others”. If Ramadan has been stopped from doing so, the Rabbi represented a brief moment of hope in terms of the scholarship, globalization, and the religious “other”, and the Awakening the World speech represents a possible solution to the problems involved with the representation of the religious “other” in this era of globalization. The speech is what we would like to believe will ultimately be accomplished through the shortening of distance between religious “others” and increased interaction between them. The end of our miscellany reverts back to our opening piece, which served as an example of how it is possible for there to be an “awakening” of the world by religious wisdom.

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