Muslim studies program comes home
A joint SFU/Aga Khan University (AKU) summer program that ran in London UK last summer will be offered in Vancouver this summer, July 9–20. Expressions of Diversity: An Introduction to Muslim Cultures is designed to broaden understanding of Muslim cultures. The non-credit course is offered by SFU’s Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures (CCSMSC) and AKU’s London-based Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations (AKU-ISMC).
“We bring in a wide range of academics internationally to help professionals and lay people worldwide gain insight into Muslim people’s diverse cultures and societies, past and present,” explains Derryl MacLean, CCSMSC director and an associate professor of history.
“Historically, most of the discussion between and among these groups focuses narrowly on contemporary issues of Muslim extremism,” says MacLean. “We want to increase understanding of how this major world civilization’s experiences and insights may bear upon universal questions that humanity faces today.”
Established in 2008, the program uses discussions, lectures, films and co-curricular activities to help participants appreciate the complexities, achievements and challenges of Muslim societies. Last summer’s program at AKU-ISMC attracted social workers, journalists, administrators and graduate students from Canada, the U.S., France, Britain, Italy, Kenya, Pakistan and India.
It “gave me a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which Muslims interpret and express their faith,” says Alexandra Holland, a curriculum leader at the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, Kenya.
“The course helped me grasp issues and sensitivities that I encounter in working with Muslim communities,” says 2010 participant Robert Graham, an urban planner working in Amman, Jordan. “In a world that is polarized between the West and the East; the have and the have not; and the religious and the secular, programs like this help broaden the western media’s narrow depiction of Muslims.”