‘Traverse Talks’ Episode 1: Dr. Lawrence Pintak On The Muslim World And American Exceptionalism

Dr. Lawrence Pintak and Sueann Ramella after a recording of Traverse Talks with Sueann Ramella.
Photo of guest Dr. Lawrence Pintak and host Sueann Ramella on August 12, 2020 in the Northwest Public Broadcasting podcast studios.

Journalism professor Dr. Lawrence Pintak sits down with host Sueann Ramella in the first episode of Traverse Talks with Sueann Ramella. Pintak gives advice on what you can do to understand the Muslim world, how to check your news sources and a history lesson on American exceptionalism. Pintak is a former CBS News Middle East correspondent and author of American & Islam: Soundbites, Suicide Bombs and the Road to Donald Trump and The New Arab Journalist. Listen to the episode below or stream Traverse Talks with Sueann Ramella, wherever you get your podcasts.

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1. Dr. Lawrence Pintak
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Conversation Highlights:

Pintak’s views on critical thinking and the influence of media on students:

It is a fundamental religious divide, it is a fundamental cultural divide and now in the modern day it is a fundamental political divide. That’s why Saudi Arabia and Iran are at each other’s throats. It all comes back to their different approaches of Islam. Then there are a plethora of subsets within Islam that believe in everything under the sun. Yes, it all comes back to ‘there is an Allah, there is a God’ but there are small skisms of Islam like the Druze in Lebanon who believe in reincarnation. Well there is nothing more anathema to mainstream Islam than reincarnation. Then culturally it is vastly different. Even where women are covered in some way, shape or form, it is dramatically different wherever you go.

View of American Exceptionalism:

It’s this idea that we are the symbol. It traces back to a poem in the pre-colonial era. It was written on a ship off the Jamestown colony. It was this paean to the potential of this new land and they will build this city on a hill and Raegan used this term in one of his more famous speeches. It’s the idea that we are this city on a hill that is a shining beacon of light for the world of freedom and opportunity. And at many many many levels, that’s true. We have, as a nation, always been that place that other people want to come for opportunity etc. But, it also, taken too far, means we can do whatever we want to and anything we do is right and there is no wrong. You can’t criticize our society or you’re un-American, we heard that recently. It’s a two-edged sword. We want to be inspired by seeing the American flag, but we also don’t want to believe that everyone should be under the American flag. It doesn’t take into account our differences. 

Dr. Lawrence Pintak and Sueann Ramella after the recording of Traverse Talks with Sueann Ramella

Dr. Lawrence Pintak, left, and host Sueann Ramella on August 12, 2020 in the NWPB studios.

Thoughts on variations of Islam:

It is a fundamental religious divide, it is a fundamental cultural divide and now in the modern day it is a fundamental political divide. That’s why Saudi Arabia and Iran are at each other’s throats. It all comes back to their different approaches of Islam. Then there are a plethora of subsets within Islam that believe in everything under the sun. Yes, it all comes back to ‘there is an Allah, there is a God’ but there are small skisms of Islam like the Druze in Lebanon who believe in reincarnation. Well there is nothing more anathema to mainstream Islam than reincarnation. Then culturally it is vastly different. Even where women are covered in some way, shape or form, it is dramatically different wherever you go.

*Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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