The Catholic University of America

 Out of Cordoba - Joshua Mugler

The Out of Cordoba screening was an entertaining, engaging, and educational evening hosted by the Institute for Interreligious Study and Dialogue. Held in the main auditorium of Aquinas Hall on a warm spring evening, the night began with the showing of a brief video produced by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Though the connection of this particular video to the subject of the night’s event was rather unclear, it was certainly relevant to our discussions of interfaith coexistence.

After this short video, we watched Out of Cordoba, a full-length documentary about the lives of ibn Rushd (Averroes) and Maimonides, two scholars of Muslim and Jewish origin, respectively, who lived strikingly parallel lives in the twelfth century. Both were born in Córdoba, in present-day Spain, then under Muslim rule; both were forced to flee to North Africa (beginning in Morocco) due to the intolerance and disapproval of the Almoravid rulers of Spain. Maimonides later became a major public figure in Egypt, leading that country’s Jewish community and serving as physician to Egyptian rulers for many years. Both scholars enjoyed great and lasting influence, including in the burgeoning intellectual life of Western Europe, where Averroes was seen as the foremost interpreter of the works of Aristotle. In the movie, the filmmaker travels to many parts of the world that have some connection to these two great thinkers, reflecting on their significance for our contemporary attempts to interact peacefully with members of other religious traditions.

We took a break after the movie to enjoy a plentiful spread of snacks and drinks, and then gathered again for a panel discussion with three CUA professors. One professor focused on Maimonides, another on Averroes, and another on Thomas Aquinas, who was not discussed in the film but was instrumental in the European reception of the two Andalusian scholars, especially Averroes. One topic of discussion was the need to build personal connections between people of different faiths, and especially the need for these connections to extend to diverse members of each faith, not just to scholars and interfaith activist leaders. Following the discussion, there was a brief time of questions and answers to end the night.

Though the Out of Cordoba screening was informative and engaging, its primary shortcoming was its lack of attendance. It unfortunately fell on CUA’s Founders’ Day, when there were many other events occurring that may have diverted people from attending this one. It was also, as I mentioned, a beautiful spring evening, so many people were enjoying the weather outside. In addition, some students may have felt that their final papers and projects needed their attention more than optional events, as this screening took place in April, when the semester was beginning to near its end. Different scheduling, or perhaps more or different advertising, might help with this problem in the future.

The film itself was entertaining, but suffered at times from an unrealistic optimism, especially in its presentation of the conditions of interfaith interaction in the twelfth-century Muslim world; the panel discussion afterward helped to clarify some of these problems. On the whole, however, the evening was greatly informative and entertaining, hosted by knowledgeable professors. I look forward to future events of this kind.