Three of the major religions of the world, the monotheistic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all began in the Middle East. The three faiths are inextricably intertwined: Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the same God, their prophetic traditions are linked, and much of the religious law, doctrines, and views of morality and the afterlife are similar.

The histories of the three monotheistic traditions are also closely connected. Judaism arose first, almost two thousand years BCE, and Christianity was born from within the Jewish community and tradition. Hundreds of years later, Islam developed in the same region, drawing from both Christianity and Judaism as well as from local Arabian tradition.

All three faiths give particular importance to the patriarch Abraham. For Jews, Abraham is not only he who first expounded the faith, but also the forefather of the Jewish people, through his son by Sarah, Isaac. For Christians, Abraham’s importance is more theological than genealogical, for he embodies the characteristic of faith, believing in God and his promise to Abraham without certain proof and against the beliefs of his society. For Muslims, Abraham is both an important prophet carrying God’s message and the builder of the Ka’ba, the sacred structure in Mecca that is the geographical center of Islam on earth.

While there are certainly differences among these religions, and there have been conflicts amongst their adherents at some times, there has also been rich cultural interchange between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Middle East, Islamic Spain, Sicily and other places over the centuries of their shared histories.

Much of the material on this website focuses on the religion and the practioners of Islam, not only because it is the majority religion now in the Middle East, but also because it is the tradition that is least well known to Americans.

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Report Documents the Effects of Islamophobia and Negative Stereotypes on Muslims

Rowaida Abdelaziz, Huffington Post May 2018 Unprecedented levels of Islamophobia and heightened anti-Muslim rhetoric are so rampant that some Muslims are internalizing and accepting problematic stereotypes about themselves, according to a newly released report by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. The study found that Muslims are more likely than members of other faiths to […]

Who Thinks Muslim Leaders Should Condemn Terrorism? (Guest Column)

Following a terror attack bearing the hallmarks of ISIS or other such groups, it is now customary for Muslim leaders to issue public condemnations. Should that be the case? On the one hand, immediately condemning such acts preempts (and, ideally, prevents) any accusations of terrorist sympathies on the part of individual leaders and communities. On […]

All the Single Ladies: American Muslims & Marriage (partner content)

What are the marriage trends among American Muslims? Marriage is a constant topic in American Muslim circles. Islamic texts encourage marriage. But, given that a majority of American Muslims are first-, second-, or third-generation immigrants, the concept of marriage can take on heightened significance as the community continues to establish itself in the US while […]

FAQ on the Islamic Veil and Women’s Dress

A general lack of knowledge about how some Muslim girls and women dress sometimes leads to instances of anti-Islam rhetoric, harmful stereotypes and social barriers. This is not a black-and-white issue as women's attire everywhere is influenced by family, culture and national norms, religious beliefs, personal preference, fashion trends, political views and so much more. [...]

What’s Missing in the Teaching of Islam

There has been much misinformation about Islam. Reports in Western media tend to perpetuate stereotypes that Islam is a violent religion and Muslim women are oppressed. Popular films like “American Sniper” reduce places like Iraq to dusty war zones, devoid of any culture or history. Fears and anxiety manifest themselves in Islamophobic actions such as […]

A Closer Look: The Origins and Evolution of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwayn al-Muslimun) is the oldest and most influential Islamist organization in Egypt, most recently in the news when party member, Mohammed Morsi, became Egypt’s first democratically elected president. The Brotherhood’s legacy reaches back to 1928 when it was founded by Hasan al-Banna. Banna, an imam, (Muslim religious officiant or leader) formed the […]

A History of Islamist Movements in Algeria

Algeria’s history and identity is rooted in Islam. Cultural practices, even under French rule, were strongly Islamic. In fact, though Algeria established a secular state following its independence, much of its resistance was couched in Islamic rhetoric and ideals. Revolutionaries would often refer to their struggle against the French as a “jihad,” and those fallen […]

From BBC Magazine: Why does China have Women-Only Mosques?

The Islamic world is wide and various, its points of view almost as numerous as its people. And Islam in China, with its long tradition of women-only mosques, provides a good illustration of the unique traditions that are practiced in the world's 2nd most practiced religion. In the middle of the plain of the Yellow [...]

President Obama’s First Visit to an American Mosque

On February 3rd, President Obama visited the Islamic Society of Baltimore. Following a meeting with Muslim community leaders, the president talked about the contributions of Muslim Americans in the United States.?He also spoke about the history of the religion in the U.S. and how groups such as the Islamic State* distort the Muslim faith.?His remarks at […]

Muslim-Derived Sectarian Communitites

This is a continuation of original article Communal Identities and Ethnic Groups Daniel G. Bates, Amal Rassam From Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East © 2000 Pearson Education Electronically reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. In this chapter Daniel Bates of Istanbul Bilgi University and Amal Rassam of [...]

The Armenians in the Middle East

This is a continuation of original article Communal Identities and Ethnic Groups Daniel G. Bates, Amal Rassam From Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East © 2000 Pearson Education Electronically reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. In this chapter Daniel Bates of Istanbul Bilgi University and Amal Rassam of [...]

Christians in the Middle East

This is a continuation of the original article Communal Identities and Ethnic Groups Daniel G. Bates, Amal Rassam From Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East © 2000 Pearson Education Electronically reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. In this chapter Daniel Bates of Istanbul Bilgi University and Amal Rassam of [...]

Jewish Communities of the Middle East

This is a continuation of the original article Communal Identities and Ethnic Groups Daniel G. Bates, Amal Rassam From Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East © 2000 Pearson Education Electronically reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. In this chapter Daniel Bates of Istanbul Bilgi University and Amal Rassam of [...]

Non-Muslim Confessional Communities: Christians and Jews

This is a continuation of original article Communal Identities and Ethnic Groups Daniel G. Bates, Amal Rassam From Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East © 2000 Pearson Education Electronically reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. In this chapter Daniel Bates of Istanbul Bilgi University and Amal Rassam of Queens [...]

The Hajj

Completion of the pilgrimage to Mecca during the prescribed month (Dhu'l Hijjah, or Hajj Month) is an obligation for all Muslims around the world at least once in their lifetime, if they are physically able and can afford to go. Since the Muslim calendar is lunar and the lunar year of twelve months has 354 [...]

Soundscapes of Islam

Soundscapes of Islam: The Call to Prayer and Qur'an Recitation Sound is an intrinsic part of all our lives, an important component of what we consider home. Our "audio" lives are comprised of the noises that surround us in our home and social environments, as well as an array of musical sounds created by many [...]

Resources on Religion

General Background Information on Islam 10 Things everyone should know about Islam – John Esposito. Katie Couric discusses the difference between Sunni & Shia Muslims in this instructive video clip Muslim top ten populations Websites Access Islam: Funded by the United States Dept. of Education, this site gives students and teachers access to Internet-based videos, lesson [...]

10 Things to Know About Islam

John Esposito delivers 10 essential "things" to know about Islam that can give any reader a basic understanding and history of a complex religion that is often misunderstood. Esposito looks at many parts of Islam such as, core beliefs, differences between Sunni and Shii, and  gender roles, amongst other topics. These are fundamental concepts that [...]