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A 46-year-old forward jump.

Reader comment on item: Pope Benedict XVI and the Koran

Submitted by Geoffrey Lewis (United States), Jan 17, 2006 at 11:15

In 1960 I went to Robert College of Istanbul to set up the Bilingual Bicultural Humanities Program. Its purpose was to acquaint the students with both sides of their inheritance, so that while learning about Western civilization they should also know their ancestral background, including not only Turkish history but Islamic history and also the rudiments of Islam. It was a measure of the secularization of the Republic that none of the Turkish members of the Faculty felt qualified to teach the Islamic side. Just as well; while none of them was noticeably devout, they might occasionally have been offended by some of the students' contributions to the discussion that followed each lecture.

An example. I had been talking to the class about Ramadan. One young man wanted to know how a Muslim could go without food or drink for a whole month in summer if he happened to be in the land of the midnight sun. I told him that the local Muslim religious authorities made known the hours during which the Faithful would be expected to fast. He replied, ‘Does that not prove that Islam was intended to be the religion only of Arabs in the seventh century?' I argued learnedly a bit, but the rest of the class applauded the questioner.

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