A few political commentators that I really like talk often about “waging the war of ideas.” And this is a fight that I would like to say I support. I’d even say that I hope my classroom is a place where different ideas can be shared, discussed, analyzed, and weighed – all in the effort to respectfully but directly pit ideas against one another. That’s ultimately why I chose our Middle East’s unit’s focus on “Identity and the Battle of Ideologies.” Yes, I believe that ideological battles are hugely important in the Middle East right now, particularly when it comes to the influence of Islam. But I hope that you see, especially after our Tea Day discussions, that the clash of ideologies is something that reaches much further than Islam and religious extremism. Fundamentalism can characterize any worldview, and all of us have different perceptions and opinions on every defining ideological term that people use — conservative/liberal, religious/secular, modern/traditional, fundamentalist/progressive, and so on.
To me, it’s easy to see what is wrong with religious fundamentalism. What I really want from you — which is why I included the reflection section on your research papers — is to think more critically about these ideologies, beyond simply calling them bad. With this in mind, I’d like you to compose a blog post that acts as a final reflection on our unit theme. You could respond to any of the following questions:
- From an ideological standpoint, how should we go about confronting all types of fundamentalism and extremism?
- If we want to criticize what is evil in religious fundamentalism, what should we encourage as the ideal perspective on the world and approach to life?
- In a sea of various ideological influences to “choose from,” what are the most important values/ideals for us to strive towards in the 21st Century? In other words, what ideas should be winning the “war of ideas?”
A few last things – please notice that I’m not exclusively talking about Islamic fundamentalism in these questions, so you may of course expand your answers beyond Islam. And (always!) please be remembering my advice about “how to get a good grade on a blog entry” on that very first sheet of instructions about your blogs – be personal, be genuine, and be creative! Those are the kinds of blogs that I really enjoy reading :).