Muslim roots run deep at SFU

November 30, 2006, volume 37, no. 7
By Stuart Colcleugh

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SFU's Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures may be new, but the university's roots in Muslim and Islamic studies run deep, says the centre's acting director Derryl MacLean.

"Three of SFU's original 12 history professors were Middle East specialists," he says, "and we've managed to maintain that proportion."

"The department has introduced a popular concentration in Middle East and Islamic history and we now have five specialists in the area. I research Muslim India, Iran and Central Asia; Thomas Kuhn works on the Ottoman Middle East and Turkey; and André Gerolymatos is an international affairs specialist with a wide interest in the Muslim world. We recently hired Paul Sedra, an Arabist focussing on the modernisms and education, and Felicitas Becker, a specialist on the spread of Islam in East Africa."

MacLean says the rest of the university is also expanding its focus.

"Sociology and anthropology has hired two people: anthropologist Parin Dossa who has just published a book on the Iranian women of North Vancouver; and sociologist Yildiz Atasoy who specializes in Islamic politics and has just completed a new book about Turkey, Islamists and democracy in a Muslim state."

He notes there is also a chair in contemporary arts, Laura Marks, who is introducing courses next year on Islamic art and Arab cinema; Özlem Sensoy in the faculty of education who has considerable expertise in Muslim educational systems; and Habiba Zaman in women's studies who researches gender and development among Muslim peoples.

In the humanities, Paola Horta has written widely on the Arabian Nights in world literature.

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