Selected Lecture Topics

World History: an Alternative Story

World history as commonly taught in Western schools traces a development from Mesopotamia and Egypt, through Greece and Rome, and then to the Dark Ages, which is followed by the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the rise of modern democratic nations. I offer an alternative global storyline: a picture of world history as it looks if you put the Islamic world at the center.  From this perspective, the successor to Mesopotamia was Persia, the Dark Ages were the brighter ages, and the Crusades and the Mongol invasions were pivotal turning points. This talk explores the relativity of historical narratives and proposes a world historical story from a truly global perspective, a theme explored (but not exhausted) in my book Destiny Disrupted, A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes.

Conquering Afghanistan

Afghanistan is impossible to conquer, says conventional wisdom.  Actually, Afghanistan haas been conquered many times. It’s just that the succesful conquerors are now called Afghans. What is difficult, it seems, is conquering Afghanistan and holding it from somewhere else.  Four times in the last 180 years (five by some counts) a mighty global power has undertaken this project.  The first three attempts failed and the fourth one may be in the process of foundering now. Curiously enough, the failed conquerors failed in the same way and for the same reasons. The United States failed to learn from the Soviets, the Soviets from the British, and the British from themselves! Yes, they made essentially the same mistakes in Afghanistan twice within forty years. What accounts for this amnesia? I probe this question by telling the story of the failed British and Soviet attempts to conquer Afghanistan and comparing them to the US and NATO experience over these last ten years. [more][column]

 If you’re interested, please contact my lecture agent Deborah Krant at, or send me a note through the Contact page on this website.


Selected Previous Engagements

Television appearances

  • Oprah Winfrey Show
  • Bill Moyers, In Conversation with
  • KTLA, Los Angeles
  • KRON, San Francisco
  • Al Jazeera, The Riz Khan Show
  • The News Hour with Jim Lehrer
  • Ariana TV
  • Noor TV

Radio Shows

  • Forum with Michael Krasny, KQED
  • The Ronn Owens Show, KGO
  • The Gene Burns Show, KGO
  • World History Through Islamic Eyes, a 6-week series on KALW
  • NPR stations around the country

Speaking Engagements

  • Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
  • Dartmouth University, Hanover, NH
  • Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
  • Brandeis University, Waltham, MS
  • Reed College, Portland, OR
  • Albion College, Albion, MI
  • Carleton College, Northfield, MN
  • Mills College, Oakland, CA
  • Baylor University, Waco, TX
  • Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA
  • University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
  • University of California, Santa Cruz, CA