Michael P. Zirinsky is Professor of History at Boise State University, where he has taught modern history since 1973. Educated in the public schools of New York State and the Community School (Tehran, Iran), he holds degrees in government (A.B., Oberlin College), international relations (M.A., American University), and modern history (Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). At Boise State he regularly teaches courses on the history of the Middle East and modern Europe, as well as seminars on the history of revolutions, Middle Eastern crises, and genocide. He researches in the general field of western relations with the Middle East in the twentieth century, particularly on British and American relations with Iran.
Islam is a way of life. The word itself means peace, the peace that comes from submitting to the will of God. As a historic phenomenon, Islam today can be described as the world’s fastest growing religion. Its growth reflects the wide appeal, which the faith has to many people around the world, converts as well as those born to Muslim parents. And this appeal in turn reflects the historic reality of Islam’s toleration of other ethical religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Hinduism. Unfortunately, during the past fourteen centuries of its existence Islam has been demeaned in the west as a violent, conquering religion. This crusading spirit continues to bedevil our efforts to understand the realities faced by the one billion human beings who are Muslim. This presentation will attempt to explore Islam, which John Esposito believes to be “a prerequisite for an appreciation of our theologically interconnected and historically intertwined Judeao-Christian-Islamic heritage.”
Since the 1978-79 revolution and emergence of an Islamic Republic, America has been transfixed by images of Iran fomenting terror against the US. Ironically, before 1978 most Americans knew nothing about Iran, leading President Carter famously to praise it, on the eve of upheaval, as an island of stability in the midst of a sea of turmoil. Sad to say, many Iranians also have a hostile view of America, based not on the beneficent idealism which characterized US policy in the Middle East before the Second World War, but on American Cold War activism, including sponsoring a 1953 coup d’etat in Iran and supporting the regime of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi. This presentation seeks to illuminate America’s vexed relationship with Iran.