DENISE A. SPELLBERG | Islam and the Founders
2016-2017 Penn Humanities Forum on Translation
University of Pennsylvania
Conference Keynote Address for American and Muslim Worlds, c. 1500–1900
How did Islam shape the thinking of the founding Fathers and the birth of American religious freedom? How did Muslims, the ultimate eighteenth-century outsiders, become pivotal to a robust notion of religious pluralism and civil rights? In addressing these questions, Professor Spellberg prompts this conference to consider whether the terms “American” and “Muslim” need always be placed in binary opposition, or whether historians may, instead, consider evidence documenting shared spaces in past worlds. Positioning Islam in America's founding history sets an example for such an inquiry, and highlights issues that, once theoretical, are now tested daily.
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