Middle East studies in the News
Muslim Center Fights to Clear Misconceptions of Islam
by Maria C. Serrano
Last month, the University's Center for Muslim World Studies was unveiled to explore the mystification and diversification of Islam worldwide.
"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," Kenneth Furton, provost for the University, told the Miami Herald.
David Skipp, associate director for advancement for the School of International and Public Affairs, was one of the individuals involved in the project.
"This is the first project that I have worked on with SIPA that is a direct response from the community. It started with the direct appeal from the Muslim American Community."
The idea for the center originated from a request by the Muslim community in South Florida to University President Mark B. Rosenberg at the 2013 COSMOS dinner.
"There is a lot of misunderstanding about Islam," said Daniel Alvarez, interim director of the Center for Muslim World Studies initiative. "There is lots of prejudice about what Islam is… and [there] are lots of fears in the West about the Muslim World."
The main objective for this center is to address three crucial themes: the global Muslim diaspora, Islam and security and interfaith and sectarian communication.
"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," Alvarez said.
Despite the initiative, there is no physical center yet.
At the moment, the center consists of a group of professors who are contributing their efforts to offer academic opportunities in the University.
The center will also support internships in the United States and abroad, lecture series, study abroad programs, events and community outreach activities.
According to Alvarez, the Center for Muslim World Studies is seeking $5 million in funding to establish physical facilities for the center.
The center's directors want to engage not only students and faculty but also engage the community.
They are working with the Muslim community in South Florida to create an advisory board that is strictly academic and will be part of the University curriculum.
The Muslim Students Association is also collaborating with the center to help with ideas and planning.
"We are very excited that we have received visits from FIU Muslim students who are excited and want to contribute," Skipp said. "I would like to tell all students and community that their input is valued and recorded."
The professors involved with the center are also planning to open certificate and degree programs for University students.
"We are working with the faculty in developing curricula to develop a certificate program," said Alvarez. "We are going to work with the Middle-East studies center, which is already in place."
Their current plan is to locate the center in the University's School of International and Public Affairs.
By selecting this location, the participants in this center will work on a great range of disciplines, among them human rights and law.
"This is going to be a unique program," said Alvarez. "It is probably the first center of its kind in the world to look at the Muslim experience on a global base."
Others shared their vision.
"We intend to make this a world-class center and we're committed to its development," Provost Furton told the Miami Herald.
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