Diverse Thoughts and Conclusions on Common Ground
By Amina Derbi
After two weeks of rigorous course work, reading, and discussion at IIIT’s Summer Student Program, all 18 participants were ready to present their proposals for their research paper proposals. The students presented to a panel of five professors: Dr. Ermin Sinanovic (Director of Research and Academic Programs), Dr. Jonathan Brown (Georgetown University), Dr. Feryal Salem (Hartford Seminary), Dr. Mahmoud Ayoub (Chair of IIIT Summer Institute for Scholars), and Dr. SherAli Tareen (IIIT Resident Scholar). Each instructor offered constructive feedback after each presentation.
The topics were as diverse as the students themselves. Some chose to focus on the relationship between Islam and democracy as well as that between religious identity and foreign policy. Others focused on the environmental history of Islam, Ibn Qayyim, Sufism, Jihad as a means for peaceful resistance, the Arabization of Islamic cultures, Neo-Ottomanism, and the Black Experience of Islam. Some chose to present on Muslim aesthetics and education, canonization, the Salafi representation of Muslim women, popular versus official Islam, and the controversy over the Mawlid. There were also students who presented on the hot topics of ISIS’s distorted view when approaching scripture and religious pluralism.
The literature students used came from a vast amount of resources and disciplines within the humanities such as anthropology, philosophy, Islamic studies, and history. A consistent question brought up during the presentations was “who speaks for Islam?”. It is a question which scholars will continue to pose as history progresses and society faces new challenges. No matter the circumstances, IIIT will be at the forefront of addressing these issues from an academic perspective in order to work towards a better world for all.