Amir Koushkani, Persian ethnomusicologist, composer and musical director, shown here playing the tar, will be a special guest speaker during a summer program on Muslim cultures that focuses this year on popular culture and mysticism.


SFU summer program explores Muslim cultures

May 13, 2014

Say the word “Islam” in Canada and the most familiar images that come to mind are of covered women, bearded men, and perhaps associations with various armed groups around the world, from the Taliban to Boko Haram. These images have been highlighted and repeated until they seem to be not only representative of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, but for some, defining.

A more accurate understanding of Muslim cultures

Now in its seventh year, a summer program at SFU takes on the challenge of delivering a more accurate understanding of the many different cultures and traditions that make up the Muslim world.

Expressions of Diversity: An Introduction to Muslim Cultures, is a non-credit program jointly offered by SFU’s Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures (CCSMSC) and the Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations, London, U.K. It will run from June 16–27, at SFU’s Vancouver campus at Harbour Centre. 

“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 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.”

Whirling dervishes

Popular culture and mysticism

This year's session focuses on popular culture and mysticism, with topics ranging from Sufism and poetry to music, architecture, art, sexuality and gender. Special guest speakers include Professor Omid Safi, author of Progressive Muslims: On Gender, Justice, and Pluralism, and Amir Koushkani, Persian ethnomusicologist, composer and musical director of several groups, including the Nava Ensemble.

The list of scholars delivering modules this year includes academics from the U.K. and the U.S., as well as from B.C.    

Every year the program attracts applications from around the world, and the small class size invites dynamic conversations among participants and scholars. Applications will be accepted until May 30th.   

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