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Sociology 419, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Spring 2024

Class Meetings: 2024 Peabody Hall, Tuesday-Thursday, 3:30-4:45 p.m.


Professor: Charles Kurzman. Telephone: 962-1007. E-mail: Office hours: 2024 Peabody Hall, Tuesdays, 4:45-5:45 p.m.; and by appointment.

Teaching assistant: Imad Alatas. E-mail: Office hours: 162 Pauli Murray Hall (formerly known as Hamilton Hall), Mondays, 2:00-3:00 p.m. and Thursdays, 2:00-3:00 p.m.; and by appointment.

Course Goals:

This course is intended to:

(1) Prepare you to answer seven commonly-asked questions about Islam and Muslims:

  1. What is Islam?
  2. Why does Islam seem to be so violent?
  3. How can we help Muslim women?
  4. Do Muslims believe in nation-states?
  5. Do Muslims believe in democracy?
  6. How has oil affected Muslim life?
  7. Can you recommend some sociologically-interesting Islamic music?

(2) Inculcate a respectful and critical approach towards your own and other belief systems.
(3) Expose you to cutting-edge analyses of the importance, diversity, and recent transformations of Islamic societies.
(4) Introduce you to a variety of sociological fields, such as the sociology of religion, international development, the sociology of gender, and political sociology.
(5) Teach how to develop and test sociological research questions.

The course is not intended to:

(1) Evangelize for or against any religion.
(2) Suggest that one religion or religious culture is better or worse than any other.
(3) Evaluate the Islamic world against divine standards. For a sociology of Islam that does attempt to do this, you may wish to examine Ali Shari’ati, On the Sociology of Islam, translated by Hamid Algar (Berkeley, California: Mizan Press, 1979); or other works by Shari’ati.

Faculty Commitments:

The goals of the course are ambitious. Accomplishing them will require a joint effort on the part of the instructors and the students. On the instructors’ side, we pledge to:

(1) Foster an inclusive space for students from all backgrounds and perspectives.
(2) Be as respectful, helpful, and clear as possible in communications with students.
(3) Hand out reading questions and lists of major concepts in advance of each reading assignment, to assist in close reading of the text.
(4) Lay out the ontological, epistemological, and theoretical starting points for each paradigm.
(5) Give background information, definitions of concepts, and the structure of the argument for each theorist covered, relating these where possible to the readings.
(6) Lead discussion of comparisons among theorists, empirical applications, and hypothesis testing for each theorist covered.
(7) Return submitted material in one week or less with constructive comments and fair grades.

At the end of the course, you will be asked to grade the professor with a student-evaluation form. In addition, we welcome feedback, especially constructive feedback, throughout the semester, in whatever form (office hours, e-mail, anonymous notes, etc.) that you feel comfortable with.

Student Commitments:

Students’ responsibilities in this course are directly related both to the course goals and to the grading system. We ask of you:

(1) Attendance. Attend all class sessions. Please bring to each class the course reading material and a notebook or laptop containing this syllabus, your class notes from the entire semester, and your reading notes (described in the next section) — you will need to refer to these during class. For each unapproved absence, you will lose 1 point from a total of 24 points for the semester. If you are unable to attend because of illness, an emergency, or a University Approved Absence, please inform the professor and teaching assistant by e-mail prior to the class, or as soon as possible, and attendance credit will be arranged on a case-by-case basis. Students are responsible for class material that they miss.

(2) Honor. All students are expected to follow the guidelines of the UNC Honor Code. In particular, students are expected to refrain from “lying, cheating, or stealing” in the academic context. If you are unsure about which actions violate the Honor Code, please see the instructors or consult

(3) Reading, Reflection, and Reading Notes. Read and think about all assigned material in advance of class. In preparation for each reading, please listen to the recorded introductory lecture (available on the course’s Canvas page) and note the reading questions that will orient you to the main points we will be drawing out of each text. For each reading assignment, please take notes in a word processing program, following the format listed in the Assignment Guidelines document on Canvas. These reading notes will encourage you to read actively, rather than passively, and will serve you well as an index to the reading when you wish to review the course material. Reading notes should be submitted via Canvas prior to the beginning of class on the assigned date, and will receive one point for each class’s readings, for a maximum total of 27 points during the semester. Partial notes and late notes will receive partial credit, and you will be notified by e-mail prior to the following class session if you have not received full credit. Reading notes that receive full credit will not be notified by e-mail, but the credit will be posted on the Canvas grade sheet prior to the following class session.

(4) Class Participation. Participate actively in class, in particular through attentive listening, accurate note-taking, appropriate questions and comments, and helpful collaboration in small-group discussions. Take care to act respectfully, including toward people and comments you disagree with. This will not be graded.

(5) Survey Research and Research Paper. We will work together this semester to design and conduct survey-based research projects on the subject of Americans’ views of Islam and Muslims’ views of America. To prepare for the research, each student will take the CITI Online Course titled “Group 2 Social and Behavioral Research” (this will take several hours to complete) and complete four short preliminary assignments. Each student will conduct 10 interviews over Spring Break and submit the results in a shared spreadsheet before class on March 19, which is worth 10 points. Students will analyze this survey, or other surveys that we will make available to you, using the open-source R software package and RStudio interface. Based on this data, students will write a survey-analysis article, approximately 1,500 words in length, worth 20 points and due before the final class session on April 30. This paper should be submitted in a Word or RTF file via the course’s Canvas page. More details on the paper are available in the Assignment Guidelines document on the course’s Canvas page.

(6) Final Examination. The final exam is scheduled for Thursday, May 9, 2024, at 4:00-7:00 p.m., and will count 12 points. It will allow you to demonstrate the information and abilities you have learned over the course of the semester. The format is open-book, open-note essays.


Attendance: 23 points maximum, minus 1 point for each unexcused absence
Reading notes: 27 reading questions x 1 point each = 27 points
Project assignments 1 through 4: 2 points each = 8 points
Survey data: 10 points
Survey-analysis research paper: 20 points
Final exam: 12 points
Total: 100 points.

I anticipate that a grade of 93 1/3 and above will qualify for an A, 90 and above A-, 86 2/3 and above B+, 83 1/3 and above B, 80 and above B-, and so on. However, I reserve the right to maintain some flexibility in this scale, in case the course turns out to be “too easy” or “too hard.”

Extra credit (1 point each, up to 3 points) is also available for attending the following events and submitting a 300-word summary of the event, including how the researchers’ presentations supported or contradicted readings we’ve done in our course:

  • Jeff Spinner-Halev and Navin Bapat, professors of political science, UNC-Chapel Hill, conversation about the Politics of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Student Union Auditorium, February 21, 2024, 5:30-7:00 p.m. Tickets must be reserved in advance.
  • Community Photovoice: Student Reflections on Campus Climate and the Middle East, March 6-April 3, 2024. Sign-up by February 27, 2024.
  • More events to be listed as information is publicized.

Course Schedule:

January 11: Introductions
No readings.
Discussion question: Why are we in this course?

January 16: Islam in America
Reading 1: Mucahit Bilici, Finding Mecca in America (Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 2012), pp. 37-63.
Reading question: What analogies does Bilici make between the qibla (the direction of Mecca) and Muslim community life in the Detroit area?
In-class: Omar ibn Sayyid and Muslim communities in the United States.


January 18: Approaching Islam
Reading 2: Carl W. Ernst, Following Muhammad (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), Chaps. 1-3.
Reading question: What is Islam, according to Ernst?
In-class: Definitions of Islam.

January 23: Approaching Islam (continued)
Reading 3: Carl W. Ernst, Following Muhammad (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2003), Chaps. 4-6.
Reading question: How do sacred sources relate to Muslims’ contemporary practices, according to Ernst?
In-class: Spiritual practices.
In-class: Introduction to R (please bring your computer).

January 25: Research: American attitudes toward Islam and Muslims
Reading 4: Christopher Bail, Terrified: How Anti-Muslim Fringe Organizations Became Mainstream (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2015), pp. 67-86.
Reading question: What does Figure 3 on page 71 mean? Identify at least one shift from the top to the bottom that is illustrated somewhere else in the chapter.
In-class: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and “hate”


January 30: Veiling
Assignment 1 due: Complete CITI Online Course (Group 2. Social and Behavioral Research) and submit certificate.
Reading 5: Sahar Amer, What Is Veiling? (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2014), pp. 1-18, 148-175.
Reading question: What do Muslim women think about veiling, according to Amer?
In-class: Street scenes.

February 1: Women’s rights
Reading 6: Lila Abu-Lughod, Do Muslim Women Need Saving? (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2013), pp. 143-172.
Reading question: What does Abu-Lughod mean by the “social life of Muslim women’s rights”?
In-class: Surveys on attitudes toward gender equality.

February 6: “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests in Iran
Reading 7: Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet, “A Nation in Turmoil, A Field in Crisis: The Upshots of Woman, Life, Freedom” and Maryam Alemzadeh, “Revolutionary Politics of the Normal,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, online pre-print, 2024.
Reading question: How are we to understand this protest movement in light of Abu-Lughod’s admonitions?
In-class: Gender attitudes in Iran

February 8: Fertility rates
Assignment 2 due: Select a theme you would like to explore in your survey research paper.
Reading 8: Paul Puschmann and Koen Matthijs, “The Demographic Transition in the Arab World,” in Koen Matthijs et al., editors, Beyond the Demographic Divide: Population Change in Europe, the Middle-East and North Africa (Farnham, United Kingdom: Ashgate, 2015), pp. 119-165.
Reading question: Why are women in the Arab region having fewer children than a generation ago?
In-class: Fertility and gender dynamics

February 13: No class, well-being day.

February 15: Masculinity
Assignment 3 due: Which of the past Sociology 419 survey questions (available on the course’s Canvas page) do you think are most useful for this year’s survey, and why?
Reading 9: Pascal Menoret, Joyriding in Riyadh (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 133-173.
Reading question: Are drifters gay, according to Menoret?
In-class: Gender


February 20: The colonial state
Reading 10: Roger Owen, State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East, 3rd edition (London, England: Routledge, 2003), pp. 5-22.
Reading question: In what ways has colonialism shaped the politics of the Middle East?
In-class: Stateness

February 22: Nationalism
Assignment 4 due: Draft three questions to propose for inclusion on our survey.
Reading 11: Charles Kurzman, “Weaving Iran into the Tree of Nations,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, Volume 37, Number 2, May 2005, pp. 137-165.
Reading question: What are some of the external and internal sources of the idea of the nation-state in Iran?
In-class: Nationalism

February 27: Duplicate nationalisms?
Reading 12: James L. Gelvin, The Israel-Palestine Conflict, 4th edition (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2021), pp. 49-80, 99-124, and 154-174.
Reading question: We all know who the real victim is here, don’t we? Discuss.
In-class: Discussion

February 29: Triplicate nationalisms?
Reading 13: Johan Franzén, “The Problem of Iraqi Nationalism,” National Identities, Volume 13, Number 3, September 2011, pp. 217-234.
Optional reading: Tony Blair’s Institute for Global Change, “ISIS’ Rejection of the Nation State,” March 31, 2015.
Reading question: What factors have helped to create and to undermine Iraqi nationalism, according to these authors?
In-class: Iraqiness


March 5: Fundamentalism
Reading 14: Bruce B. Lawrence, Defenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt Against the Modern Age, 2nd edition (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1995), pp. 40-42, 100-119.
Optional reading: Hasan al-Banna, “Between Yesterday and Today” (1940s).
Reading question: To what extent are fundamentalisms revolutionary?
In-class: Scriptures

March 7: Islamic revolution
Reading 15: Charles Kurzman, The Missing Martyrs: Why Are There So Few Muslim Terrorists?, revised edition (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), pp. 1-27.
Optional reading: Usama Bin Ladin, “Bin Laden’s Declaration of Jihad Against Americans” (1996).
Reading question: What did Bin Ladin want?
In-class: How popular is Islamic revolution?

March 12 and 14: No class, spring break.

March 19: Resource conflict
Assignment 5 due: Survey results.
Reading 16: Clemens Hoffmann, “Environmental Determinism as Orientalism: The Geo‐political Ecology of Crisis in the Middle East,” Journal of Historical Sociology, Volume 31, 2018, pp. 94-104.
Reading question: Does resource scarcity cause conflict in the Middle East, according to Hoffmann?
In-class: Resource data and conflict data


March 21: Liberal Islam
Reading 17: Charles Kurzman, “Liberal Islam in its Islamic Context,” in Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 3-26
Reading 18: Abdulkarim Soroush, “Text in Context” (1995).
Reading question: What are three ways to justify liberal Islamic positions?

March 26: The “Arab Spring”
Reading 19: Asef Bayat, “Half Revolution, No Revolution,” in Revolution without Revolutionaries (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2017), pp. 153-178.
Reading question: What does Bayat mean by “refolution”?
In-class: Traces of the “Arab Spring.”

March 28: No class, well-being day.

April 2: Nightmare of the “Arab Spring” in Syria
Reading 20: Yassin Al-Haj Saleh, “The Destiny of the Syrian Revolution: Raqqa, 2013,” in Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy (London, England: C. Hurst, 2017), pp. 175-211.
Reading question: Which of Saleh’s paths did Syria take?
In-class: Syria today.

April 4: The erosion of democracy in Turkey
Reading 21: Ihsan Yilmaz and Galib Bashirov, “The AKP after 15 Years: Emergence of Erdoganism in Turkey,” Third World Quarterly, Volume 39, Number 9, 2018, pp. 1812-1830.
Reading question: Did Turkey vote out democracy?
In-class: Turkey today


April 9: Oil
Reading 22: Jahangir Amuzegar, “Oil Wealth: A Very Mixed Blessing,” Foreign Affairs, Volume 60, Number 4, Spring 1982, pp. 814-835.
Reading question: What’s the downside of massive oil wealth?
In-class: Current oil production.

April 11: Labor migration to the Gulf
Reading 23: Syed Ali, Dubai: Gilded Cage (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2010), pp. vii-xv, 135-163.
Reading question: How does it feel to be born and raised in Dubai, with no hope of citizenship?
In-class: Current migrant populations.

April 16: [Replacement reading: Racialization of Islam] Reading 24: Saher Selod, Forever Suspect: Racialized Surveillance of Muslim-Americans and the War on Terror (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2018), pp. 30-48 and 125-133.
Reading question: In what sense has Islam been “racialized” in the United States?
In-class: Race and religion.

April 18: Labor discipline
Reading 25: Daromir Rudnyckyj, Spiritual Economies: Islam, Globalization, and the Afterlife of Development (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2010), pp. 73-130.
Reading question: What is an Islamic motivational speaker doing at a steel factory?


April 23: Music
Reading 26: Hisham D. Aidi, Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture (New York, Pantheon Books, 2014), pp. ix-xxx, 44-69.
Reading question: How is hip-hop Islamic (or un-Islamic)?

April 25: Self-actualization
Reading 27: Fariba Adelkhah, Being Modern in Iran (New York, New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), pp. 139-174.
Reading question: In what ways does the Islamic Republic of Iran sound familiar to residents of the U.S.?

April 30: Review
Assignment 6 due: Survey-based research paper.

May 9, 4:00-7:00 p.m.: Final Exam.

Acceptable Use Policy

By attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, you agree to abide by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill policies related to the acceptable use of IT systems and services. The Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) sets the expectation that you will use the University’s technology resources responsibly, consistent with the University’s mission. In the context of a class, it’s quite likely you will participate in online activities that could include personal information about you or your peers, and the AUP addresses your obligations to protect the privacy of class participants. In addition, the AUP addresses matters of others’ intellectual property, including copyright. These are only a couple of typical examples, so you should consult the full Information Technology Acceptable Use Policy, which covers topics related to using digital resources, such as privacy, confidentiality, and intellectual property.

Additionally, consult the Safe Computing at UNC website for information about data security policies, updates, and tips on keeping your identity, information, and devices safe.

Accessibility Resources and Service

Accessibility Resources and Service (ARS – receives requests for accommodations, and through the Student and Applicant Accommodations Policy determines eligibility and identifies reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or chronic medical conditions to mitigate or remove the barriers experienced in accessing University courses, programs and activities.

ARS also offers its Testing Center resources to students and instructors to facilitate the implementation of testing accommodations.

Counseling and Psychological Services

UNC-Chapel Hill is strongly committed to addressing the mental health needs of a diverse student body. The Heels Care Network website is a place to access the many mental health resources at Carolina. CAPS is the primary mental health provider for students, offering timely access to consultation and connection to clinically appropriate services. Go to their website or visit their facilities on the third floor of the Campus Health building for an initial evaluation to learn more. Students can also call CAPS 24/7 at 919-966-3658 for immediate assistance.

Title IX Resources

Any student who is impacted by discrimination, harassment, interpersonal (relationship) violence, sexual violence, sexual exploitation, or stalking is encouraged to seek resources on campus or in the community. Reports can be made online to the EOC at, or by contacting the University’s Title IX Coordinator (Elizabeth Hall, or the Report and Response Coordinators in the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office ( Confidential resources include Counseling and Psychological Services and the Gender Violence Services Coordinators ( Additional resources are available at

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Policy

Students are permitted to use artificial intelligence (AI) technologies for their final research papers in this course, but not for their reading notes, exams, or other assignments, with the following caveats:

1. Any paper that makes use of AI technologies in any way must say so, in writing, in a dedicated section at the end of the assignment, with the subheading “AI Assistance.”
2. This section must specify exactly what use was made of AI technologies for the assignment, in a detailed account of your interaction with AI technologies, in your own words (not using assistance from AI technologies), along with a transcript of all interactions with AI technologies from the beginning of your project to the end.
3. You are required to review any ideas or text suggested by AI technologies for your assignment.
4. You are responsible for any errors in your assignment, including plagiarism, regardless of whether these errors were introduced by AI technologies.
5. Failure to acknowledge the use of AI technologies, or an incomplete or vague account of the use of AI technologies, will result in a grade of zero for the assignment, and will be referred to the Honor System as a potential violation of the university’s Honor Code.

Syllabus Changes

The professor reserves the right to make changes to the syllabus, including project due dates and test dates. These changes will be announced as early as possible.

This file was last updated on April 4, 2024.