By Karla Schneider
Polls show Americans are concerned about Islam, but know relatively little about the religion, often mistakenly connecting it with negative stereotypes. For the vast majority of Americans, what they believe about Islam they gleaned from the media.
Ohio University's African Studies and Southeast Asian Studies National Resource Centers have been awarded a joint two-year Social Science Research Council grant to draw attention to reform and progress in the contemporary Muslim world, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia. The goal of the project is to increase public understanding of the religion and the diversity of viewpoints that can be considered "Muslim" by increasing the exposure of media professionals and educators to the religion.
"There is an urgent need to introduce to media professionals, university educators and students the idea that there are progressive forces at work in Islamic communities around the world," said Steve Howard, director of the National Resource Center for African Studies.
Howard authored the grant proposal in collaboration with Elizabeth Collins, associate professor of classics and world religions and former director of the National Resource Center for Southeast Asian Studies.
The upcoming 100th anniversary of the birth of Sudanese teacher and Islamic reformer Mahmoud Mohamed Taha (1909-1985) provided inspiration for the cooperative project. Taha is a well-respected teacher and promoter of individual freedom, gender equality and democratic values throughout the Muslim world.
Planned projects include a lecture series featuring contemporary Islamic thinkers and scholars, workshops for journalists, press conferences and a series of radio interviews.
The first event in the Mahmoud Mohamed Taha Progressive Islam Lecture Series will feature Abdullahi An-Na'im, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law from Emory University, speaking at 7 p.m. May 27 in Bentley Hall 140. His talk is titled, "Imagining and Realizing Progressive Islam: A framework and call to action." The series will continue into next year with speakers from South Africa, Malaysia and Indonesia.
"Academia in the Pubic Sphere: Islam and Muslims in World Contexts" is a new SSRC grant program, made possible by funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Ohio University is one of 10 universities to receive funding, joining Harvard University, Indiana University, New York University, the University of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
To speak with a university representative regarding this story, please contact Director of African Studies Steve Howard at 740-593-1834 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Assistant Director of the Center for International Studies Karla Schneider at 740-593-1842 or email@example.com.