Islamic History Meets Hollywood


by Joseph Braude – Americans need to learn more about Islamic history — but like any historical tradition from a faraway time and place, it can be a little inaccessible. As a student of the subject, I’ve given some thought to how to bridge this gap.

The saga of Islamic civilization is in many ways a universal story of good versus evil, the cycle of life, and the foibles of human nature. And so it isn’t too big a stretch to connect that saga to some of the great stories and best-loved movies Americans know and love. That’s the premise of this week’s episode of Eye on Arabia. It’s a two-episode documentary, co-produced with Public Radio International’s Afropop Worldwide. With the help of Don Vito Corleone, R2D2, and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, it tells the story of two slave rebellions that transformed the history of the Middle East and North Africa and crystallized the Sunni-Shi’ite divide in Islam. Co-narrating the documentary with me is Georges Collinet, the great broadcaster from Cameroon whose voice is ubiquitous on the airwaves of Africa.

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