BY November 19, 2007

I spent my first full day—and second day overall—here at the American Academy of Religion’s 2007 conference here in misty, hazy San Diego.

I’m not sure exactly what I wanted this morning as I headed down to the conference center. Actually, no, that’s not true. I always want to be blown away. I rarely am.

The morning started with a two-and-a-half hour session entitled “From ‘Muslims in America’ to ‘American Muslims’.” For some reason, I bemoan the identity politics of current Muslim discourse, yet continue to go to things like this hoping for some kind of revelatory experience, something that’s going to speak to me.

But despite the excellence of the scholarship, I found precious few things that really spoke to me at that session. I did like Abbas Rezagar’s outlining of six broad categories of American Muslim identity, which corresponded vaguely and more comprehensively to my own theories that Western Islam is shifting to a model similar to that of Judaism (Orthodox, Reform, Reconstructionist, etc.).

BY November 17, 2007

After a long day of air travel, I’ve arrived in San Diego for the 2007 edition of the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature conference.

I managed to make it down to the expansive San Diego conference center by about 4 pm, in time for what turned out to be a rather abstruse deliberation by a group of scholars about the interpretation of the Qur’an. I wish I could summarize what they were talking about, but, well, I have no real clue. Something about some lost manuscript or other.

Actually, a presentation in that session about the idea of “holy land” in Islam did bring up the Hajj pilgrimage. I get those crazy ideas, after the Rural Studio show, of going on some literal radio pilgrimage to Mecca, with some eloquent Islamic scholar who can reflect on the whole experience. Or maybe go down to the Ganges when the largest pilgrimage in the world descends on that river.