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Akhtar, S. (2010). Muslims of the World: Less Familiar Narratives. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 7(3):193-196.

(2010). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 7(3):193-196


Muslims of the World: Less Familiar Narratives

Salman Akhtar, M.D.

In 1999, when I was asked to edit the Special Issue of a journal on immigration, I chose to restrict the contributions to immigrant and refugee children. This was my way of avoiding the all-too-familiar, if not hackneyed, discourse on the post-migration identity change, ego strains of leaving home, and the anxieties consequent upon encountering a new culture. I wanted to shed light upon the plight of immigrant children, a topic that was inoptimally addressed in our literature. In the same spirit, when a younger colleague from Boston recently sought my guidance about editing a book about immigration, I suggested that she focus upon the dilemmas of immigrant women. This too was an attempt to push the envelope a bit further, to expand knowledge.

In a similar vein, I decided to focus this Special Issue on those aspects of the world's Muslims that are less known to the Western readership. I deliberately side-stepped Islam per se, for I knew little about the religion; I chose to focus upon Muslims, about whom I did possess some knowledge. I was determined to avoid what is repeated ad nauseam in the public press. The images of veiled women, poverty-ridden Afghani men, stone-throwing Palestinian kids, and Kalishnakov-waving “terrorists” and “insurgents” of this or that stripe, and words like al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hamas, and Hizballah were not going to be a part of my vocabulary. There is too much of all this in the public eye as it is. To re-tread this beaten path would have added little knowledge, psychoanalytic or otherwise.

I chose instead to bring forth some narratives pertaining to the “Muslim world” that have remained less familiar, if not unknown, to psychoanalysts and other members of the mental health community. The word some in the preceding sentence acknowledges that not all that needs to be expressed can be put in a limited number of pages. Were that possible, the smorgasbord offered here would also contain:

ο    An account of the eras and places where Muslims and Jews (Montville, 2008), Muslims and Christians (Kayatekin, 2008), and Muslims and Hindus (Akhtar, 2005) have lived peacefully together.

ο    A record of the great achievements made by Muslims in the realm of architecture (e.g. the Blue Mosque of Istanbul, Taj Mahal), early evolution of mathematics, and the arts of carpet weaving and calligraphy.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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