Issues regarding Islam aren’t necessarily isolated to any particular region of the world, nor are they exclusive to the topic of theology.
“I think we all agree that it’s now time to go beyond the Middle East, as a focus of our current scale program, and to look at Islam on a global scale,” said Florida International University Provost Kenneth Furton. “And so I’m pleased to announce that we’re launching an initiative to establish the Center for Muslim World Studies.”
Furton spoke of the initiative Saturday night, at the fifth annual Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations’ community appreciation dinner.
The event took place at the University of Miami. Members of the Muslim community, political leaders and academics attended the dinner.
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“This new center will explore the diversity and complexity of Islam worldwide, and will also highlight the interconnections between Islam and globalization,” Furton said.
The intention is for the Center to address three main themes: the global Muslim diaspora, interfaith dialogue, and Islam and security.
The Center for Muslim World Studies is in the initiative phase as it seeks the minimum $5 million endowment required by the university to establish a new center. The money is intended to ensure that the center will continue in perpetuity, according to David Skipp, associate director for advancement for FIU’s School of International and Public Affairs.
The initiative is the direct result of a request made by South Florida’s Muslim community to FIU President Mark Rosenberg at the 2013 COSMOS dinner.
Rosenberg was the keynote speaker that year, and embraced the idea once it was presented to him.
It’s now one of FIU’s priorities, according to Skipp.
“Usually these types of programs involve slow and long-term planning, but he was very prompt and moved it on the fast track,” said Mohammad S. Shakir, a COSMOS board member, and director of the Miami-Dade County Asian-American Advisory Board. “It was a promise that he made — and he delivered on it.”
Members of COSMOS worked with FIU on the initiative, and plan to continue their relationship with the university.
The plan is to house the center in the university’s School of International and Public Affairs. The idea is that it will draw on facility from a wide range of disciplines, in areas such as law, women’s studies and human rights.
“We see how radicals have kidnapped this religion and presented it as their own version of Islam. We need something that brings about a correction to the current narrative,” said Daniel Alvarez, interim director of the Muslim World Studies Center Initiative. “We need a center that will dispel these horrendous and malicious distortions of one of the great world religions.”
Alvarez said the intention is to have the center discuss complex issues, such as terrorism, security and conflicts.
“We want to deal with the difficult questions, but we want to do it fairly,” he said.
Furton said the initiative is an example of the university’s commitment to education: “We intend to make this a world-class center and we’re committed to its development.”