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Islam will be the focus of scholarly events at UB

By ELLEN DUSSOURD AND CHARLOTTE HSU

Published April 4, 2016

“Our goal is to educate the community about the meaning of Islam as practiced by the majority of Muslims.”
Samina Raja, associate professor
Department of Urban and Regional Planning

A series of public events on Islam will be hosted by UB scholars, students and other groups this April, with the goal of educating the community about the religion and engaging in scholarly dialogue on issues facing Islam today.

Titled “Redefining the Narrative: Islam in Focus,” the event series is being held in response to some of the anti-Muslim rhetoric in the media and U.S. presidential campaign, organizers say.

“Our goal is to educate the community about the meaning of Islam as practiced by the majority of Muslims,” said Samina Raja, associate professor of urban and regional planning and a co-organizer of the events. “The hope is to spark thoughtful consideration of and scholarly discussion on this important issue.”

The series will include four events between April 7 and April 28, including a panel discussion in which Muslim students will discuss their faith and their experiences living in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The other three events are a lecture titled “An Introduction to Islam”; a Muslim Student Association banquet featuring a keynote speech on “The True Message of Islam: A Religion of Peace"; and a keynote speech on Islam in the time of ISIS and Islamophobia delivered by the director of the Islamic Studies Center at Duke University.

All sessions are open to the public, and all are free with the exception of the banquet, which is a ticketed event (see details below).

Attendees are encouraged to bring monetary donations to Food for All, a Western New York organization that strives to reduce hunger. The charitable effort reflects the importance that Islam places on giving and supporting one’s community, Raja says.  

The series is organized by the UB Office of International Education, School of Architecture and Planning, the UB Muslim Student Association, UB Intercultural and Diversity Center and UB Asian Studies Program, with support from those entities, UB and donations from Western New York residents.

Event details:

Thursday, April 7: “An Introduction to Islam”

5-6:30 p.m. in 120 Clemens Hall, UB North Campus

Presented by Jeannette Ludwig, associate professor in the UB Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and an affiliate of the UB Asian Studies Program, this free, public lecture will focus on Islam’s role in shaping world history theologically, politically, commercially and artistically.

Ludwig will examine the foundations of the religion (Muhammed and the Qur’an), its central practices and how Islam affects the daily life of both men and women.

Friday, April 15: Muslim Student Association banquet

6-9 p.m. at the Buffalo Marriott Niagara, 1340 Millersport Hwy., Amherst

Tickets are $15 for UB faculty, staff and students, and $20 for the general public.

The keynote speech, “The True Message of Islam: A Religion of Peace," will be presented by Shabir Ally, imam and president of the Islamic Information and Dawah Centre International in Toronto. According to a description of the lecture, the talk will “discuss the religion of Islam, which found its origins at a period in time when blood feuds, slavery and prejudiced class systems were widespread. Then, the Prophet of Islam came during this turbulent time as a messenger of mercy and changed the course of history.”

Thursday, April 21: “Muslim Students’ Experiences in the U.S.”

5-6:30 p.m. in 210 Student Union, UB North Campus

In this panel discussion, Muslim students at UB will discuss their upbringing, faith and experiences as Muslims in the U.S. and other countries.

Thursday, April 28: “Islam and Muslims in an age of ISIS and Islamophobia”

7 p.m. in 104 Knox Hall, UB North Campus

This keynote speech will be delivered by professor Omid Safi, director of the Islamic Studies Center at Duke University.

This lecture will explore the state of the American Muslim community and the American democratic experiment 15 years after the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Asserting that few American communities are viewed with more hostility, negativity and suspicion, Safi will explore the challenges faced by the Muslim community as Muslims consistently condemn the attacks of groups like ISIS while at the same time perpetually defending themselves against Islamophobia.

At a time when some leading presidential candidates talk seriously about increasing the surveillance of Muslim communities, turning away Muslim refugees and shutting down mosques, Safi will explore questions of importance to American democracy in an age of fear and fear-mongering: “Where do we go from here?” and “How do we rebuild the bonds of the ‘Beloved Community?’” (The Beloved Community is a term popularized by Martin Luther King Jr. that refers to an inclusive world defined by virtues such as justice, love, compassion and nonviolence.)