VIDEO: 5,000 years of religious history in two minutes.
Global news with a spatial perspective: Interesting, current supplemental materials for geography teachers and students.
Curated by Seth Dixon
VIDEO: 5,000 years of religious history in two minutes.
Short, sweet and to the point--this video is a great way to show the historical geographies of major world religions. What are the cultural barriers to the diffusion of one of these particular religions? What geographic factors helped to facilitate the expansion of one of these world religions?
During summer, the sun never sets in Sweden's northernmost town, posing challenges for Muslims observing the holy month.
Like many early religious traditions, Ramadan is observed based on measurements from the moon and sun. The start of Ramadan is determined by the sighting of the new moon, which moves about 11 days back in the Gregorian calendar each year. During Ramadan the consumption of food and water is prohibited between dawn and dusk, how do Muslims observing the fast manage in the far north of Scandinavia, where the sun never sets in the summertime (in 2015, Ramadan is from June 17 to July 17)? Some Muslims in the West (and north) argue that ancient customs from the Arabian desert need updating now that the religion has diffused beyond the Middle East.
Abraj Kudai, a complex in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is set to become the world's largest hotel by room count when it opens in 2017.
Las Vegas currently has the four of the five largest hotels in the world; people flock to the Nevada desert in droves for the gambling and nightlife. Mecca has a very distinct draw that pulls tourists in from all over the world. As a sacred pilgrimage site, the tourism industry thrives and needs an immense infrastructure to handle the high volume of visitors that come for the Hajj.
The government of the People’s Republic of China calls the country’s westernmost region Xinjiang, but the people who have lived there for centuries refer to their home as Eastern Turkistan. Many times when two groups do not refer to a place by the same name, it points to a cultural or political conflict, as is the case here.
Multiple names on the map can hint at bigger cultural and political fault lines. Is it Londonderry or just Derry? The Sea of Japan or the East Sea? This article I wrote for the National Geographic Education Blog is on the always simmering tensions in the China's westernmost province.
Clarissa Ward breaks down the history of differences between opposing sects of Islam
The geography of the Sunni-Shiite division is incredibly important for a good understanding of world regional geography as well as modern geopolitics. This 5 minute video (as well as this NPR podcast) examine the historical and religious aspects of this split to then analyze the political and cultural implications in the Middle East today. Additionally this Pew Research article highlights the 5 countries where the the majority of Muslims are Shiite, with some good demographic data to add to the analysis. Take this quiz to test your knowledge.
Most of the world's major religions are made up of multiple sects or denominations, and Islam is no different. Islam's two major sects are the Sunnis and the Shiites, and the division and interplay between the two is a major factor in the geopolitics of the Middle East. How well do you understand Sunni and Shiite Islam? Take our quiz and find out!
The ghosts of religious wars past are rattling in Iraq; The geography of the Sunni-Shiite division is incredibly important for a good understanding of world regional geography as well as modern geopolitics. This NPR podcast examines the historical and religious aspects of this split to then analyze the political and cultural implications in the Middle East today. Additionally this Pew Research article highlights the 5 countries where the the majority of Muslims are Shiite, with some good demographic data to add to the analysis. Take this quiz to test your knowledge.
"I am torn about how to teach these two ideas about cultures and societies all around the world:
These points may seem like a contradiction, but when put into proper context they teach important truths about culture."
I've posted several resources here about some of the intriguing cultural interactions in the Middle East stemming from globalization. I thought there was some excellent public dialog after the Charlie Hebdo shooting, but I was disheartened by some of prejudiced responses that I've heard since then--that inspired me to pull some of them together in this this article I wrote for National Geographic Education.
"China is in the midst of a crackdown on what it describes as 'terrorism driven by religious extremism'. The campaign is focused on the western province of Xinjiang, home to China's Uighur ethnic minority who are predominantly Muslim."
China does not have a good track record of dealing with ethnic and religious minorities and the murals that can be seen in Xinjiang are a testament to that fact. This has led to many Muslims in Western China being attracted to more radical ideas. While I certainly don't condone radicalism nor China's heavy-handed tactics, I am fascinated by the cultural messages that are strategically being placed in the landscape to influence the politics and culture of the region.
"Self-taught Iranian photographer gains rare access to shoot religious buildings as they've never been seen. It's a side of Iran the rest of the world doesn't normally get to see -- the kaleidoscopically brilliant interiors of the country's intricately designed mosques.With beautiful mosaics and stained glass framed by powerful architecture, the buildings are astounding."
A site in the Old City of Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, has been a flash point since the advent of modern Zionism.
There has been turmoil and violence in Jerusalem this month; at it's core, much of the fighting has been around the political control of sacred spaces that are seen as critical to both groups' cultural and religious identity. This particular sacred place is intertwined with both Judaism as well as Islam, and understanding the current round of violence demands that we understand some of the historical geography of religion in Jerusalem. To explore more about sacred sites in general as a spatial concept, visit this link.
The Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali, is a magnet for tourists, but it is increasingly difficult for locals to live a normal life around it.
This New York Times short video is an intriguing glimpse into some of the cultural pressures behind having the designation of being an official world heritage site. The great mosque combined with the traditional mud-brick feel to the whole city draws in tourists and is a source of communal pride, but many homeowners want to modernize and feel locked into traditional architecture by outside organizations that want them to preserve an 'authentic' cultural legacy.
"Naif al-Mutawa, creator of comic book series THE 99, spoke with Al-Monitor about the recent death threat by the Islamic State and how US President Barack Obama's enemies became his."
Seven years after the Kuwaiti psychologist and entrepreneur first launched his comic book series based on the 99 attributes of Allah, he's facing a sudden onslaught of death threats, fatwas and lawsuits (his comic books were highlighted in this TED talk on cultural change in the Islamic World). His US distributor, meanwhile, continues to sit on a TV deal, in part because of pressure from conservative bloggers who object to any positive description of Islam.
"Though it may come as a surprise to outsiders, the journey to Mecca is a manifestation of globally moderate Islam."
The Mecca region of Saudi Arabia has recently been in the midst of Hajj season. The Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, is strongly encouraged of all Muslims who have the means to undertake it. Importantly, by bringing together 2 million to 3 million people from across the globe, the Hajj pilgrimage is a manifestation of the diversity and moderate nature of global Islam. This image of the Muslim world as cosmopolitan and reasonable stands in stark contrast to the militant Islamist fundamentalism we more regularly hear about in media coverage — with the Islamic State and Boko Haram being the most recent manifestation of this.
"Religious scholar Reza Aslan took some serious issue on CNN Monday night with Bill Maher‘s commentary about Islamic violence and oppression. Maher ended his show last Friday by going after liberals for being silent about the violence and oppression that goes on in Muslim nations. Aslan said on CNN that Maher’s arguments are just very unsophisticated. He said these 'facile arguments' might sound good, but not all Muslim nations are the same. Aslan explained that female mutilation is an African problem, not a Muslim one, and there are Muslim-majority nations where women are treated better and there are even female leaders."
There are far too many oversimplifications when people throw around the terms "Muslim-majority countries" and this video shows that a more nuanced understanding is needed. That being said, it would be naive to pretend as though Islam today were without some structural problems. As stated in the linked article, "In 2013, of the top 10 groups that perpetrated terrorist attacks, seven were Muslim. Of the top 10 countries where terrorist attacks took place, seven were Muslim-majority. Of the 24 most restrictive countries (according to Pew Research), 19 are Muslim-majority. Of the 21 countries that have laws against apostasy, all have Muslim majorities."
Question to Ponder: How does the media play a role in shaping the conversations we have in society about different cultures and places? How can 'painting with a broad brush' lead to stereotypes and inaccurate conclusions?
"It's perfectly human to grapple with questions, like 'Where do we come from?' and 'How do I live a life of meaning?' These existential questions are central to the five major world religions -- and that's not all that connects these faiths. John Bellaimey explains the intertwined histories and cultures of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam."
This TED ED Lesson outlines the basics of five major world religions which in turn have profoundly reshaped the cultural geographies we see today. While the narration in the video might be a bit dry, the visuals immerse the viewer into the cultural context from which these religions emerged.
"As a Muslim woman who chooses to wear hijab,I'd like to apologize for this poster, to my non-hijab wearing cohorts. http://pic.twitter.com/IoLfDPEGx7”
The hijab is an incredibly complex cultural artifact full of social meanings all over the political spectrum. This poster shows some of the social pressures exerted on women in Iran to wear the hijab. This poster comes from Iran where the government is using this platform to encourage traditional values and gendered norms using a chocolate bar/candy analogy. This poster struck a nerve on social media throughout the Middle East in part because blends some modern cultural diffusion elements with some older folk traditions. Many hijab-wearing women don't want other women to be shamed into conforming, and many women wear it the hijab in public, but privately subvert the cultural norms on social media. What stereotypes and perspectives are embodied in this poster? Why do you think this poster was seen as inflammatory or culturally insensitive by many? This image would be a great discussion starter for cultural patterns and process as well as the geography of the Middle East.
"A THOUSAND years ago, the great cities of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo took turns to race ahead of the Western world. Islam and innovation were twins. The various Arab caliphates were dynamic superpowers—beacons of learning, tolerance and trade. Yet today the Arabs are in a wretched state. Even as Asia, Latin America and Africa advance, the Middle East is held back by despotism and convulsed by war.
Pluralism, education, open markets: these were once Arab values and they could be so again. Today, as Sunnis and Shias tear out each others’ throats in Iraq and Syria and a former general settles onto his new throne in Egypt, they are tragically distant prospects. But for a people for whom so much has gone so wrong, such values still make up a vision of a better future."
Is limiting the use of the Arabic word for God a sign of growing intolerance towards minorities?
In Arabic, the word Allah means God. Christian Arabs refer to God as Allah and Arabic versions of the Bible reference Allah. As Arabic and Islam have diffused in interwoven patterns, the linguistic root and the theological meanings have became intertwined to some. BBC World and Al-Jazeera have reported on this issue as the Malaysian government has attempted to ban the use of the word Allah to any non-Muslim religious group. Language and religion just got very political.
The division between Islam's Shiite minority and the Sunni majority is deepening across the Middle East. The split occurred soon after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, nearly 1,400 years ago.
The ghosts of religious wars past are rattling in Iraq; The geography of the Sunni-Shiite division is incredibly important for a good understanding of world regional geography as well as modern geopolitics. This NPR podcast examines the historical and religious aspects of this split to then analyze the political and cultural implications in the Middle East today. Additionally this Pew Research article highlights the 5 countries where the the majority of Muslims are Shiite, with some good demographic data to add to the analysis.
"There have been calls for clearer labelling of halal products in shops, restaurants and takeaways. But what is halal food? And why are campaigners so concerned?"
I know just enough Arabic to read the word Halal (حلال) and know that it means permissible, the opposite of Haram (حَرَام) which means forbidden or illegal. In the context of meat, it means meat that has been prepared in accordance with Islamic traditions and is therefore permissible for an observant Muslim to eat (very similar to Kosher for Jewish people). Today, Halal is becoming an important issue within the European Union for two main reasons: 1) more Muslims are migrating to Europe and 2) Europeans are searching for less artificial food products. Some Europeans, however, feel that the Halal labeling and marketing is a change to the cultural landscape that they are not comfortable with, and don't want to see it become more mainstream. Other meat companies try to present their products as Halal, but don't adhere to all of the customs according to some more strict Muslims. Halal, then is a lightning rod, in either direction right now in Europe. If you want to see the inner workings of a Halal slaughterhouse in New York, this video will show you what it is like.
Thousands of Muslims in the Central African Republic have fled as UN chief warns of 'ethno-religious cleansing'.
Leave or die. It's come down to this for the Muslims of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. Muslims here once lived freely among the Christian majority, running businesses and praying in mosques. Now, many of the city's Muslims have fled, and on Sunday about 1,300 Muslims from Bangui's PK12 neighbourhood were evacuated to safety by peacekeeping forces.
Already one of the world's poorest countries, CAR has seen a wave of upheaval and violence in the past 15 months. The 10-month reign of the Muslim-dominated Seleka rebel group inflamed intercommunal tensions in the country, and spurred the rise of Christian militias called the anti-Balaka. Once the Seleka was forced out of power in January, the anti-Balaka rampaged, targeting Muslims across the country for their perceived support of the Seleka and its bloody excesses.
Also this interactive feature is worth your time...it won't make you feel all sunshine and rainbows, but the hard truth rarely does.
There are about 1.6 billion Muslims, or 23% of the world's population, making Islam the second-largest religion.
Did you think that most of the world's Muslim population lived in the Middle East and North Africa? If so you are not alone, but the Middle East and North Africa account for only 19.8% of the global Muslim population. In fact there are more Muslims in India and Pakistan than the Middle East and North Africa.
"Muslims around the world celebrate the birth of the Islamic Prophet Muhammed, who was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 570 AD. His birthday is marked in way ways is different Muslim countries."
This is a great photo gallery, but I wanted to make a special note of this image. The caption for this picture says, "Egyptians watch as Muslims march on the street to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammed in Cairo, Jan 13, 2014." Is this a representative group of Egyptians? What demographic group would we expect to see in the second story balcony? What does the architecture tell us about the cultural norms of the society?
"CATHOLIC Argentina, Mexico & Phillippines have more babies born per woman than MUSLIM Indonesia, Iran & Turkey."
Gapminder is a tremendous resource that I've shared in the past and total fertility rates is an ideal metric to see in this data visualization tool. As Hans Rosling said in one of his TED talks using Gapminder, religion and total fertility rates are not as connected as previously thought. In this particular mode, you can see how three predominantly Catholic countries (Philippines, Argentina and Mexico) compare in Total Fertility Rates to three predominantly Muslim countries (Indonesia, Turkey and Iran).
Questions to Ponder: Historically many have assumed that Catholic and Muslim populations would have higher birth rates; why is this changing? How important a factor is religion in changing fertility rates? What are other factors impact a society's fertility rate?