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“What is Sharia Law?”: Groundbreaking philosophy podcast celebrates ten years by exploring Islamic legal tradition
North Dakota-based radio program combines diversity and accessibility beyond the college-course stereotype
Grand Forks, N.D. – February 11, 2019 – Unique philosophy podcast “Why? Philosophical Discussions About Everyday Life” (www.whyradioshow.org) continues its tenth-anniversary year with its episode “What is Sharia law?”, an exploration of the range, beauty, and logic of the Islamic tradition . The show translates philosophy into language anyone can understand, demonstrates its relevance to daily life, and reveals that everyone is doing philosophy all the time. In its latest episode, “Why?…” Host Jack Russell Weinstein invites Sharia scholar Professor Robert Gleave to make the complexities of the Muslim “path” accessible to both admirers and skeptics alike. The direct link to the discussion is https://goo.gl/WKASxb.
“Why?…” is an unexpected podcast that undermines many stereotypes. Produced in the red, rural state of North Dakota, the non-partisan show tackles controversial issues without raised voices and embraces diversity without being preachy. “Why?…” defies stereotypes because we know our listeners are doing the same,” says host and creator Jack Russell Weinstein, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Dakota.
“Why?…” currently has 123 episodes, ranging from “The Philosophy of Hunting” to “What Does Buddhism offer an African-American Woman?” to “Why we Need More Jokes in Our Lives.” It covers topics as diverse as Native American tribal sovereignty, teaching philosophy to children, immigration, gardening, prostitution, world music, black identity, restaurant culture, disability, and aging, as well as classic philosophical questions about “just war”, relativism, freedom and beauty. In its ten years, “Why?…” has attracted impressive and influential thought leaders as guests, from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner to feminist, journalist and social political activist Gloria Steinem. Some other notable guests include Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, Humanities Medal Award Winner Kwame Anthony Appiah, Macarthur Fellow Rebecca Goldstein (who also won a Humanities Medal), Pulitzer Prize Winner Taylor Branch, National Book Critic’s Circle Award winner, poet Mary Jo Bang, and the bestselling authors Peter Singer, Stephen Pinker, Daniel Goldhagen, Deborah Tannen, Ross King, and James Loewen.
“When ‘Why?…’ started a decade ago, there were podcasts attempting to make philosophy sound fun — with forced jokes and fake camaraderie. But I knew there was a deeper opportunity to engage listeners—that just about everyone would love philosophy if they were only asked the right questions,” says Weinstein. “Our job is to show everything is worth thinking about through the lens of philosophy. We’ve had conversations about college sports and explored how to read a comic book. We’ve looked at midlife crises and examined food magazines.”
“Unlike many other academic podcasts, “Why?…” doesn’t talk down to listeners, or tell people how they’re supposed to feel,” adds Weinstein. “As host, I don’t teach, but instead, explore topics alongside our audience, inviting them into a non-adversarial conversation, and introducing ideas and controversies that might otherwise be intimidating.”
“We’re bringing the world to North Dakota, and North Dakota to the world,” adds Weinstein. “Our listeners are emailing comments from behind the wheel of a combine or thinking deeply about the Black experience, while listening from their rural 400-person all-Caucasian towns. But they’re also reaching out from across the globe.” The show draws listeners from more than 110 countries, including a significant following in Iran.
Weinstein created the show as a way to cope with his family’s relocation to North Dakota nearly 20 years ago, when he and his wife both became professors at the University of North Dakota. “I’m a Jewish New Yorker and was out of my element. For an urban kid from the city, rural life became a diversity experience. Instead of resenting cultural differences, I chose to make my own fun and opened myself to this newness. We’re proud to be celebrating a decade broadcasting this show.”
“Why? Philosophical Discussions About Everyday Life” translates philosophy into language anyone can understand, demonstrates its relevance to daily life and, reveals that everyone is doing philosophy all the time. The show is both broadcast and distributed as a podcast by Prairie Public Radio, the North Dakota public radio network, and an archive of all episodes can be found at https://philosophyinpubliclife.org/previous-episodes/. It is celebrating the milestone with a free live event, “The Logic of Jazz,” on February 26th at 7 p.m., at the Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks, N.D.