Asma Barlas

Professor Emerita, Politics
School: School of Humanities and Sciences
The Ithaca College Politics Department Presents

An Alumni Symposium and a Lecture by Asma Barlas, Professor Emerita, held on March 26, 2021 (Zoom) to mark her retirement from IC last year.

Symposium Panelists


Anissa Ash
Jordana Jarrett
Cedrick Michael-Simmons
Alexzandria Sanchez
Alana Herlands


Dubian Ade
Matt Connolly
Chris Kim
Noah Sarucia
Aisha Mughal

Panel 3: ISLAM

David Johnson
Liz Alexander
Rachel Bondra

David Kaminsky

Poster for Talk

Asma Barlas, "The 'West,' Islam and the Mirror of Difference," 6.00-6.30 p.m. (excerpts)

Of course, claiming a history doesn’t necessarily mean knowing it or wanting to recall it. As Paul Ricoeur (2006) argues, there’s always "an excess of remembering some things and an excess of forgetting others" and he ascribes this imbalance not only to what nations choose to commemorate but also to "the citizens’ desire not to know."  Where Muslims are concerned, this desire dates from Europe’s middle ages and, Robert Southern (1962) claims, is rooted in the fact that the early Christians who lived in the "middle of Islam" (Muslim-ruled Spain), didn’t want to learn about it for fear of contamination. It was this fear—he says—that "made Islam the most far reaching problem in medieval Christendom."

So perhaps perversely... I [will speak] to this fear and this desire by tracing the genealogy of some current tropes of Islam/Muslims, the Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an from a modern secular Western present to a medieval biblical European past. ...In a nutshell, I ascribe this longevity to the ideological framework, the mirror of difference, as I’m calling it, within which the West has made sense of Islam and Muslims historically. [In short] this template anathematizes difference; represents the West’s anti-Muslim violence as discrete and episodic thereby masking its continuities, and defuses culpability by painting Westerners as blameless victims of a congenital "Islamic rage" and hatred.