"There is only one God, and Allah is his name!"

The Divided Realm:
Islam at the End of the 20th Century

by Mr. Richard Geib
Milken Community High School
Course: History of Civilization

Mr. Geib wishes you much luck in this project!

Introduction | Assignment | Process and Roles | Advice | Goals | Evaluation | Conclusion


The mellifluous voice of the muezzin rings out enraptured as its melody washes over the city, the faithful called to prayer. A young man proclaims the profession of faith: "There is no God but Allah!" In the early morning darkness a young family rises to share their last meal together until the sun sets at the end of the day during the holy month of Ramadan. The neighborhood Muslims bow and chant in Arabic at the local Mosque as have generation after generation before them. The devout pour over the pages of the holy Koran -- the word of Allah as delivered to Muhammad some fifteen centuries ago, arguably the most important book in the world today.

Islam provides moral meaning and spiritual sustenance for almost a billion persons and is the cornerstone of many societies around the world. Islam, along with Christianity and Judaism, is one of the three major monotheistic religions and is growing fast inside and outside of the United States. Islam is also the predominant religion in the Middle East -- a region central to the Muslim faith and geopolitically vital to the West because of its vast petroleum reserves, intractable  political problems, wars and rumors of war.

Islam today is in crisis. The Muslim world finds itself divided as to how to respond to the political and social realities of the late 20th century. Islam is often enmeshed in polemic due to political and historical factors: many Muslims feel besieged by the outside world, disrespected as a religion, and exploited by their own governments which many see as corrupt and oppressive. Violence and terrorism, committed in the name of Islam, fill the headlines of newspapers worldwide. Controversy and political violence threaten many of the countries in the Muslim world. To some Islam is synonymous with fanaticism and violence; stereotypes of Muslims are rampant in the modern media, and many see Islam as harsh and intolerant. The reality, however, is much more complex and ambiguous.

Your Assignment

A terrorist attack has just occurred with many Americans consequently killed or injured, and a Muslim fundamentalist organization has claimed responsibility for it. This has spurred the President of the United States to order a review of Islam in the world today and what America's response to it should be. You, as an independent professional consultant, will be part of a specialized team charged with making a presentation to the President and his Cabinet on a region and/or topic dealing with the Islamic world. It is imperative that your information be correct, informative, and comprehensive.

Specific questions to be answered will vary according to the topic in question. However, there are some general themes that pertain to all areas. What kind of force is Islam in the world today? How is its influence felt? How are relations between Islam and other religions? What issues do Muslims agree and disagree with among themselves? Is Islam a threat to the United States?

The Process and Roles

  1. Your focus group will be assigned an area of expertise from among the following choices:

    Focus Group Historical Context
    Focus Group Central Middle East
    Focus Group Persian Gulf
    Focus Group Asian Subcontinent
    Focus Group Central Asia

    Focus Group Social-Religious Issues

    In your focus group, decide who will perform what role.

  2. Study carefully your role; understand what expertise is expected from you.
  3. Conduct your Internet and other research and become widely knowledgeable in your area of expertise.  For your convenience, I have posted here the form for your research notes (in MS Word format).
  4. Focus your research and begin to build your presentation.
  5. Meet with your focus group and coordinate your presentations.
  6. Prepare and practice your presentation until it is smooth and fluent.
  7. Be ready to deliver your presentation on the assigned date.
  8. Deliver your briefing and be ready to answer questions from President and his Cabinet members.
  9. Write your culminating paper.


Students will understand the complexity, diversity, and importance of Islam in the world today. Students will appreciate the various pillars of power in the Muslim and Arabic worlds and know the recent history of those peoples. Students will be able to identify alliances and power lines between Muslim countries and with outside powers also. Students will also be able to understand the growth of Islam in the West, the Muslim population in Israel, and relations between Muslims and non-Muslims generally. Students will be cognizant of the different strains and sects inside Islam. Students will be able to recognize how Islam and the other major monotheistic religions are similar and dissimilar.


As you conduct your research, try to develop an overall idea of how Islam operates in the social, political, and historical relations in your area of expertise. The complexities and ambiguities of Islam and its relationships in various areas of the world are considerable and many; pay attention to the subtleties and nuances of the various relationship between the various parties you study. Such complexities are not immediately visible upon first study; you must dig deep, analyze that which goes unspoken, and read between the lines to understand deeper meanings and significances.

Be able to make your presentation in a brief, coherent manner. Anyone can ramble on about a complex subject; it takes hard work and preparation to be succinct and accurate. Be professional and smooth in your delivery and be ready to answer questions afterwards.


Students will be evaluated on both the strength of their presentation, as well as the quality of the overall focus group presentation. Student presentations must be between 30 to 40 minutes; that averages out to approximately 6-8 minutes per student. The group must make their presentation along with the help of a Power Point Presentation. Students must use note cards and make constant eye contact with the audience. Students must be prepared to answer questions, even difficult questions, from the audience after presentation. Students should show poise, preparation, and the ability to think on their feet. Presentations should be polished and practiced. Students must wear formal attire on the day they present.  

Here is the rubric I will use to grade your presentation. You will evaluate your group with this rubric.  Your culminating paper assignment can be found here.


In American culture Islam often passes for a religion that breeds Middle Eastern terrorists and terrorist attacks -- if it is thought about at all!  The goal of this unit, however, is to bring to light the complexity and importance of Islam in today's world above and beyond any one polemical political problem or region of the world.  A diverse and multi-faceted religion, Islam is practiced by its adherent in distinctly different historical and cultural contexts; and I hope you will come away from this project an educated and broad view of Islam in a number of different contexts and circumstances in all corners of the globe where it is practiced.

"There is no god worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is His messenger!"


Last updated February 14, 2000