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Indian Scholar to Discuss Myths of Islam


Indian Scholar to Discuss Myths of Islam

Muslim activist Asghar Ali Engineer will lecture at UCR on April 18.

(April 7, 2008)

Asghar Ali Engineer

Asghar Ali Engineer

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Asghar Ali Engineer, an Islamic scholar and activist from Mumbai, India, will discuss “Myths About Islam” in a public lecture on Friday, April 18, at 4:15 p.m. in Bourns Hall B118 at UC Riverside.

Engineer will spend the week of April 14 at UCR, where he will meet with students, faculty and community activists.

He will conduct a faculty-student workshop, “Teaching about Islam: Issues and Challenges,” on Thursday, April 17, at 2:15 p.m. in Humanities and Social Sciences 2212. The workshop and lecture are free and open to the public. Parking costs $6.

Engineer also will conduct an interfaith dialogue, “Learning about Islam,” organized by the Inland Communities Chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 16, at the Downtown Library Auditorium, 3581 Mission Inn Ave. For information contact the chapter at 951-682-5364 or redwoodgirl@sbcglobal.net.

Trained as a civil engineer, Engineer currently heads the Institute of Islamic Studies and Centre for Study of Society and Secularism in Mumbai. The center is a research institute and think tank that promotes interfaith dialogue and harmony in India.

He is the founding chairman of the Asian Muslim Action Network, an 18-year-old organization that brings together individuals, groups and associations of Muslims in Asia who subscribe to a progressive approach to Islam. He has won national awards in India for promoting interfaith activities, including the Communal Harmony Award from the government of India. In 2004 he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award (widely considered the “alternative Nobel Prize”) by the Swedish Parliament for promoting the values of religious and communal co-existence, tolerance and mutual understanding in South Asia.

“Dr. Engineer is unique not only in the breadth of his expertise, but also in bridging the divide between scholarship and activism,” said Farah Godrej, assistant professor of political science who is coordinating Engineer’s visit to UCR. “Moreover, as a member of the minority Bohra Muslim community, Dr. Engineer can shed light on the ways in which alternative or marginal voices — other than the ‘mainstream’ Sunni or Shia strains of thought — can be heard within Islam.”

Engineer’s scholarship on Dawoodi Bohra and Sufi Muslims suggests that a deeper understanding of Islamic thought must include a space for non-traditional voices, Godrej said.

The selection of an Indian Muslim scholar to speak with students and faculty also seeks to shed light on the uniqueness of South Asian Islam, and on the ways in which Islam has evolved in its growth beyond the Arab world, Godrej said.

Engineer has written more than 40 books and many journal articles on topics related to Islam, such as the role of women, Islamic liberation theology, and Islam and modernity. Among his books are “The Origin and Development of Islam,” “Islam and Its Relevance to Our Age,” “The Islamic State,” “Rights of Women in Islam,” “Sufism and Communal Harmony” and “Islam in South and South East Asia.” His papers include “Developing Theology of Peace in Islam” and “The Concept of Compassion in Islam.” He also has lectured at numerous universities in the United States, Canada, Europe, South and Southeast Asia, and Australia.

The Islamic scholar’s visit is sponsored by the UCR Department of Political Science, Department of Religious Studies, Office of the Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Public Policy Initiative and the Mellon Grant Speaker Series on “Gandhi and his Legacy”

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