MORE SUMMER STARS AT CHATAUQUA INSTITUTE
Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Harvard University
Ali Asani is Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures, Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. He came to Harvard as an undergraduate in 1973 from his native Nairobi and has been there ever since. A concentrator in comparative religion, he later pursued his doctorate work on Near Eastern languages, developing his dissertation on the ginans, the religious texts of the Ismaili branch of Islam. Capitalizing on his multilingual fluency in Urdu, Hindi, Persian, Gujarati, Sindhi, and Swahili, he began teaching at Harvard’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Today a tenured professor, his research focuses on Shia and Sufi devotional traditions of Islam, as well as popular or folk forms of Muslim devotional life.
Using art forms, such as poetry, music, and calligraphy, Ali Asani is combating ignorance about Islam and Muslim cultures. He believes that the arts help to humanize cultures, whereas political discourses based on nationalist ideologies tend to dehumanize. He sees the arts as wonderful pedagogic bridges that help to connect peoples who perceive those different from themselves as “the other.” In keeping with his mission of promoting religious literacy, Asani held workshops for educators following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to help them better understand Islam. He also recently developed a detailed historic and cultural curriculum for the study of Muslim societies for the Islamic Studies Initiative, an international professional development program for high school teachers in Kenya, Pakistan, and Texas.
Most recently, Professor Asani, who is also associate director of Harvard’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, has been working on incorporating the arts into his “Culture and Belief” course, which is offered as part of Harvard’s new Program in General Education.
Imam Rami Nashashibi
Executive Director, Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), Chicago
Rami Nashashibi has served as the Executive Director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) in Chicago since its incorporation as a nonprofit in January 1997. Dr. Nashashibi holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Chicago, and has been an adjunct professor at various colleges and universities across the Chicago area, where he has taught a range of Sociology, Anthropology, and other Social Science courses. He has worked with several leading scholars in the area of globalization, African American studies, and urban sociology, and has contributed chapters to edited volumes by Manning Marabel and Saskia Sassen.
Rami has lectured across the United States and Europe on a range of topics related to American Muslim identity, community activism and social justice issues, and is a recipient of several prestigious community service and organizing honors, including the Norman R. Bobins Fellowship presented at the most recent Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards. Rami and his work with IMAN have been featured in many national and international media outlets, including the BBC, PBS, and a front page story in the Chicago Tribune. In 2007 Islamica Magazine profiled Rami as being among the “10 Young Muslim Visionaries Shaping Islam in America,” and most recently Chicago Public Radio selected Rami Nashashibi as one of the city’s Top Ten Chicago Global Visionaries. Invited by the governor of Illinois to serve on the Commission for the Elimination of Poverty, Rami was named one of the “500 Most Influential Muslims in the World” by The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in concert with Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.
Monday, July 23
Ambassador Akbar Ahmed
Ibn Khaldun Chair, Islamic Studies, American University
Ambassador Akbar Ahmed is currently the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington DC; the First Distinguished Chair of Middle East and Islamic Studies at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis; and a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He has taught at Princeton, Harvard, and Cambridge Universities, and has been called “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam” by the BBC. He has advised myriad US agencies and organizations on Islam and foreign policy. Regularly interviewed by CNN, NPR, BBC, Fox, and Al-Jazeera, he has appeared several times on Oprah, and has also been a guest of The Daily Show and Nickelodeon.
Sayyid M. Syeed
national director, Islamic Society of North America
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed is the National Director of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), heading up its Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances in Washington, DC. He served for 12 years (1994-2006) as Secretary General of the Indiana-based national umbrella organization, which has more than 300 affiliates all over the U.S. and Canada.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Director, The Shalom Center, and a panel of elders
Rabbi Arthur Waskow is the founding director of The Shalom Center, which he has led since 1983. He was legislative assistant to a left-liberal US Congressman, 1959-1961; Resident Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, 1963-1977; co-author of the Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority, 1967; member of the DC delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, 1968; member of the steering committee of the New Mobilization Committee against the War in Indo-China, 1969-1971; and Resident Colleague of the Public Resource Center, 1977-1982. During these years he wrote several books and monographs on U.S. military strategy and disarmament, on race relations, and on nonviolence.
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