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Sociology 419, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Spring 2022

Class Meetings: 1005 Global Education Center, Tuesday-Thursday, 12:30-1:45 p.m.


Professor: Charles Kurzman. Telephone: 962-1007. E-mail: Office hours: 227 Pauli Murray Hall (formerly known as Hamilton Hall), Tuesday, 1:45-3:00 p.m.; or by appointment.

Teaching assistant: Ian Wallace. E-mail: Office hours: 254 Pauli Murray Hall (formerly known as Hamilton Hall), Monday, 12:00-1:00 p.m. and Thursday, 11:00-12:00 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 instructors pledge to:

(1) Be as respectful, helpful, and clear as possible in our communications with students.
(2) Hand out reading questions in advance of each reading assignment.
(3) Offer brief lectures introducing the themes and readings for the course.
(4) Lead class discussions on the reading questions and class assignments.
(5) Explain course assignments at least two weeks in advance of due dates.
(6) 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) Honor. As a condition of joining the Carolina community, Carolina students pledge “not to lie, cheat, or steal” and to hold themselves, as members of the Carolina community, to a high standard of academic and non-academic conduct while both on and off Carolina’s campus. This commitment to academic integrity, ethical behavior, personal responsibility and civil discourse exemplifies the “Carolina Way,” and this commitment is codified in both the University’s Honor Code and in other University student conduct-related policies. In your written work for this course, do not claim other people’s work as your own, and be very careful to give credit for words and ideas that you quote or paraphrase.

(2) 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 class that you miss without being excused, you will lose 1 point from a total of 19 points for the semester. Students are responsible for all class material that they miss. The Office of Undergraduate Curricula requires me to state that: No right or privilege exists that permits a student to be absent from any class meetings, except for these University Approved Absences:

  1. Authorized University activities
  2. Disability/religious observance/pregnancy, as required by law and approved by Accessibility Resources and Service and/or the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC)
  3. Significant health condition and/or personal/family emergency as approved by the Office of the Dean of Students, Gender Violence Service Coordinators, and/or the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC).

Communicate with the instructors as early as possible about potential absences. For situations when an absence is not University approved (e.g., a job interview or club activity), please contact the instructors well in advance to request an instructor-approved absence. Please be aware that you are bound by the Honor Code when making a request for an approved absence.
(3) Class Participation. We have 29 meetings scheduled, plus the final exam. Please prepare yourself your each meeting and participate actively through attentive listening, accurate note-taking (using the class PowerPoint presentations, if you wish — these will be posted prior to each class on the course’s Sakai page), appropriate questions and comments, and helpful collaboration. This will not be graded.
(4) Readings. Readings are available from the UNC Library and on the course Sakai site. Prior to each reading, please consult the syllabus for 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. These reading notes will encourage you to read actively, rather than passively, and will serve you well as an index to the readings when you wish to review the course material. Reading notes and all assignments should be turned in via the Sakai course page prior to the beginning of each class. Reading notes will receive one point for each class’s readings, for a maximum total of 27 points during the semester. Reading notes may be in outline format, and should include the following numbered sections:

  1. Author(s)
  2. Title of reading
  3. Page numbers
  4. Summarize the gist of the piece in your own words (one or more sentences)
  5. Note the major points of the piece (1 to 5 of them) and the author’s best evidence for them (with page references)
  6. Your reaction to the reading (something substantive, not just “I appreciated it”)
  7. Outline answer to the reading question (with quotations and page references where appropriate)
  8. Sentence or two on additional research that might be undertaken to test one of the major points of the piece.

Partial notes and late notes will receive partial credit, and you will be notified by e-mail prior to the following class session if your notes are not fully satisfactory.

(5) Survey Research. We will work together to design 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). Each student will conduct 10 interviews over Spring Break and submit the results in a shared spreadsheet before class on March 22, 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 language 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 26. This paper should be submitted in a Word or RTF file via the course Sakai site. More details on the paper are available here.

(6) Final Examination. The final exam is scheduled for Tuesday, May 3, 2022, at 12-3 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: 19 points maximum, minus 1 point for each unexcused absence
Reading Question Responses: 27 reading questions x 1 point each = 27 points
Project assignments (before final paper): 6 assignments x 2 points each = 12 points
Survey Data: 10 points
Survey-Analysis 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:

Accessibility Resources and Services:

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill facilitates the implementation of reasonable accommodations, including resources and services, for students with disabilities, chronic medical conditions, a temporary disability or pregnancy complications resulting in barriers to fully accessing University courses, programs and activities. Accommodations are determined through the Office of Accessibility Resources and Service (ARS) for individuals with documented qualifying disabilities in accordance with applicable state and federal laws. See the ARS Website for contact information: or email

Counseling and Psychological Services:

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is strongly committed to addressing the mental health needs of a diverse student body through timely access to consultation and connection to clinically appropriate services, whether for short or long-term needs. Go to their website: or visit their facilities on the third floor of the Campus Health Services building for a walk-in evaluation to learn more.

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 Equality Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC) at Please contact the University’s Title IX Coordinator (Elizabeth Hall, interim –, Report and Response Coordinators in the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (, Counseling and Psychological Services (confidential), or the Gender Violence Services Coordinators (; confidential) to discuss your specific needs. Additional resources are available at

Course Schedule:

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

January 13: 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 20: 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 27: 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 3: Fertility rates
Assignment 2 due: Which of the past Sociology 419 survey questions (available on Sakai) do you think are most useful for this year’s survey, and why?
Reading 7: 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 8: Masculinity
Reading 8: 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 10: The colonial state
Assignment 3 due: Select a theme you would like to explore in your survey research paper.
Reading 9: Roger Owen, State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East (London, England: Routledge, 1992), pp. 8-31.
Reading question: In what ways has colonialism shaped the politics of the Middle East?
In-class: Stateness

February 15: Nationalism
Reading 10: 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: Where did the idea of the nation-state come from?
In-class: Nationalism

February 17: Duplicate nationalisms?
Assignment 4 due: Draft three questions to propose for inclusion on our survey.
Reading 11: James L. Gelvin, The Israel-Palestine Conflict, 3rd edition (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 145-165.
Reading question: We all know who the real victim is here, don’t we? Discuss.
In-class: Discussion

February 22: Triplicate nationalisms?
Reading 12: 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


February 24: Fundamentalism
Assignment 5 due: Select old survey questions you propose to drop and new survey questions you propose to add.
Reading 13: 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 1: Islamic revolution
Reading 14: 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 3: Resource conflict
Reading 15: 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 8: Liberal Islam
Reading 16: 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 17: Abdulkarim Soroush, “Text in Context” (1995).
Reading question: What are three ways to justify liberal Islamic positions?

March 10: The “Arab Spring”
Reading 18: 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 15 and 17: No classes (spring break).

March 22: Nightmare of the “Arab Spring” in Syria
Assignment 6 due: Survey results.
Reading 19: 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.

March 24: The erosion of democracy in Turkey
Reading 20: 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


March 29: Oil
Reading 21: 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.

[March 31: Special session: Culture] Reading 22: Abigail Wood, “Sound, Narrative and the Spaces in Between: Disruptive Listening in Jerusalem’s Old City,” Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, Vol. 6, 2013, pp. 286–307.
Reading question: What is the “soundscape” that Wood describes? [Please prepare one question about the article to ask our guest lecturer.] In-class: Guest lecture.

April 5: 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 7: Labor migration to Europe
Reading 24: Olivier Roy, Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah (New York, New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), pp. 100-147.
Reading question: How is Muslim migration to Western Europe changing Islam?

April 12: 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 14: Wellness Day


April 19: 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 21: 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 26: Review
Assignment 7 due: Survey paper.

May 3, 12:00-3:00 p.m.: Final Exam.

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.

Last updated March 29, 2022.