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Monday, January 26, 2009

Islamic Studies Chair for Carolina Students

CAIRO — The University of North Carolina (UNC) is creating an endowed faculty chair in Islamic studies to meet the growing hunger for information on Islam and Muslims in the post-9/11 world.

"At Carolina, we're proud that our academic strengths include the study of diverse religions since that helps our students and the public better understand other cultures," Holder Thorp, the university chancellor, told the Herald Sun on Monday, January 26.

Along with money granted from the state tax, fundraising effort would be led by Cemalnur Sargut, president of the Turkish Women's Cultural Association in Istanbul.

"We're grateful that our distinguished friends from Turkey are providing a new opportunity to further enhance the university's expertise in Islamic studies," Thorp said.

Named after Turkish writer Kenan Rifai, who advocated women education and development in the 20th century, the chair aims to raise awareness about Islamic studies and the Muslim world.

"It's not teaching religion the way you might do it in Sunday school," notes Dee Reid, director of communications of the College of Arts and Sciences.

"It's not for a practitioner of Islam, it's for an expert in Islamic studies…for the academic study."

Chartered in 1789, the UNC was the first public university in the US and the only one to graduate students in the 18th century.

Today, it is a public, multi-campus university dedicated to the service of North Carolina and its people.

It encompasses 16 diverse constituent institutions and other educational, research, and public service organizations.

Growing Interest

The Islamic studies chair aims to meet the growing interest among American students for information about Islam and Muslims.

"There's increasing interest in this among students," explains Reid, the College of Arts and Sciences communications director.

"I think since 9-11 there's been tremendous interest in learning Arabic and learning about people who practice Islam in different parts of the world," added the official.

"It's an emerging field. Students are tremendously interested in going abroad because of this."

A recent Pew Research Center and the Pew Forum poll showed that the majority of Americans know very little about the practices of Islam.

The Islamic studies chair has drawn a "wait-and-see" stance from the Christian groups at the university.

"I'd really rather not comment on it until I have a chance to look into it and think about it," Lee Sullens, campus minister with Carolina Baptist Campus Ministry, told the newspaper.

"We would be interested in understanding it more," agreed Miles O'Neill, campus director of Cornerstone Campus Crusade for Christ.

"It's not the type of thing we're going to protest."

Source : & Newspapers

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