May 092010
Authors: K.C. Fleming

In 1996, when James Lindsay was a new history professor at CSU, he used to teach his classes with his newly born son, Zachary, cradled in his arms.

“The girls thought it was cute and the guys thought ‘What’s wrong with this guy?’” Lindsay said.

Since then, Lindsay has become what many of his students call one of the most interesting, yet challenging history professors on campus.

Lindsay is an expert on the religious and geographic history of the Middle East.

In addition to teaching, Lindsay has written and edited several books, including “The Daily Life of the Medieval Islamic World,” which he uses in his Islamic history course as the main text. The text chronicles daily life, historic events and technological trends in the early Islamic world.

Egypt banned the book upon publication by the al-Azhar, the chief religious authority in Egypt.

“The phrase that was in the State Department’s report was ‘contains material contrary to the principals of Islam.’ And I have no idea what that means,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay will use the banned text when he teaches HIST 115, a course on the Islamic World up to the 1800s, this summer for as many as 60 students. He will also teach HIST 432, the Sacred History in the Bible and the Qur’an for up to 40 students during CSU’s first summer session.

HIST 115 examines the history of the Islamic world, from the birth of Muhammed to the decline of the Ottoman Empire, while HIST 432, what Lindsay calls an “intellectual history class,” will compare different religious theories from the Bible to the Qur’an.

Lindsay said students taking HIST 115 can fulfill their All-University Core Curriculum, AUCC, history requirement, but each class is very intensive and requires a high level of commitment.

“(Lindsay’s) knowledge, especially on jihad, is very good … and he does great jokes,” said Nicholas Swails a history graduate student.

After graduating from Calvin College with a bachelor’s degree in history, Lindsay found a job loading trucks for Pepsi-Cola.

In 1982, after realizing that he didn’t want to be working second shift as a heavy lifter all of his life, Lindsay said he decided to apply for a study-abroad program in Jerusalem, where he studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for two years.

He spent an additional year studying in Cairo after receiving his master’s degree.

“I was intrigued by the similarities and dissimilarities between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. That’s what got me into it,” he said.

Having realized his interest in the history of the Middle East and religious theory, Lindsay went to the University of Wisconsin where he received his Ph.D.

Lindsay recently completed another book co-authored with Suleiman Mourad, a professor of religion at Smith College, called “The Radicalization of Jihad Ideology in the Crusader Period.”

Lindsay said he hopes it will be published by the end of this year.

Staff writer K.C. Fleming can be reached at

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