Center for Global Islamic Studies in need of funding


Lehigh’s Center for Global Islamic Studies has operated for seven years on donations and grants, but has never received funding from the university. Now that those initial funds have run out, the center is in danger of being shut down.

Rob Rozehnal, the director of the Center for Global Islamic Studies and an associate professor of religion studies, said the center was founded in 2009 through the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Since then, it has hosted 11 traveling scholars, who have specialized in such things as Arabic language and literature, Islamic art and architecture, Islam and gender, and others.

“But the funding was temporary, and visiting scholars moved on,” Rozehnal said. “Since the end of Mellon funding in the spring of 2014, the center has remained in a state of limbo.”

Zara Khan, an adjunct professor in the political science department, believes the center to be important as a space on campus for students to study Islamic culture. Islam is one of the major global religions, she said, and having the center legitimizes the Muslim world’s contributions to society, in both historical and contemporary contexts. Khan is at Lehigh replacing Nandini Deo, an associate professor of political science, who is on maternity leave.

“It’s a matter of civic duty to support the center,” she said. “It is also important due to the rise of Islamophobia in the United States.”

Rozehnal said the future of the center now lies in the hands of Donald Hall, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Provost Pat Farrell and President John Simon.

“We are definitely committed to making sure the center survives,” Hall said, speaking on behalf of himself and Simon.

Hall said the main goal to get donors to fund the center.

“We do have a strong interest from donors,” he said.

The College of Arts and Sciences has received some money toward the center — not yet enough — but Hall said he is optimistic.

He said he is deeply committed to dialogue across cultures, and that the center plays a large part in that effort.

Khan said she thinks allowing the center to dissipate would be detrimental to the social sciences at large. Money has been moving toward the STEM sciences, she said, and this creates a downward spiral for the social sciences.

When there is less money, Khan said, there is less student interest and when there is less student interest, there is less money. Moreover, for students studying global studies and international relations, there will be a hole in their knowledge — a hole the size of the Muslim world.

“Everybody would suffer, it would create a void,” she said, “and who would fill it?”

Khan said the Center for Global Islamic Studies fills a need for the university with college-educated faculty and teaching opportunities, and without it there is the potential that the void left behind will be filled with extremist thinking instead.

Khan told her class about the potential loss of the center and to write to the president if they wanted to do something. She also wrote a letter to the president in support of the center.

“I think the center is very important for general education and removing stereotypes about the Islamic people, fostering a more inclusive community,” said Helen Ard, ‘17, a global studies major who has taken two classes offered through the Center for Global Islamic Studies and attended its lectures and discussions. “Islam is followed by over one billion people around the world. If you lose the center, you’re losing a large part of global studies.”

Ard said she first found her passion for Islamic studies through studying the Arabic language, which she thinks is also being forgotten on Lehigh’s campus.

“I found a lot of passion in learning about it,” she said. “I think it makes me a better person to be better informed.”

Hall said he hopes to see greater enrollment in these types of classes. He said there are only four students enrolled in both the beginner and intermediate Arabic classes for the spring.

Ard feels Lehigh has done a lot to foster programs between colleges, but as a result, programs within the College of Arts and Sciences have gotten left behind.

Rozehnal said he thinks students should make their voices heard by the Lehigh administration if they want the center to stay.

“Students should take ownership of their own education by voicing their interests and demands,” he said. “Talk to other students. Talk to your professors and talk to Lehigh administrators. Let them know why you think the center is valuable.”

Hall said if he can show the administration and donors the demonstrated demand for these classes, he can make a stronger case for their funding.

“Knowledge about Islamic civilization is an essential element of a 21st century liberal arts education,” Rozehnal said. “It’s no longer optional, it’s absolutely critical.”

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  1. Pingback: Center for Global Islamic Studies in need of funding – Matthew Cossel

  2. How about a joint program with a university in a Muslim country, Islamic Studies here and Jewish/Christian Studies there?

  3. The center has already tried to get funding from Malaysian donors and has organized a conference last year in partnership with a Malaysian university. The problem is that those funds promised by the Malaysians never came through due to some circumstances of which I am not specifically aware.
    I think the university has to step up this time, and affirm its comittment to international education. A global education cannot be complete without the study of the Muslim World and Islamic civilization, the same way that a mechanical engineering education cannot be complete without studying thermodynamics.

  4. It sounds to me like this center is an uncritical propaganda effort to cheerlead for Islam.

    I’m amused where the article says:

    “It’s a matter of civic duty to support the center,” she said. “It is also important due to the rise of Islamophobia in the United States.”

    The dictionary definition of phobia is:

    A persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.

    A fear of Islam is NOT irrational. All you have to do is listen to what the adherents have to say, which is to declare jihad upon all non believers, and in the extreme to annihilate them and destroy western civilization.

    Even their own citizens are under threat of death due to the foolishness of Islamic culture.

    Yes, such things as the use of Arabic numerals were an important contribution to the world. Try doing math using Roman numerals. But on balance one must assess whether the overall benefits coming from Islamic culture outweigh the negatives.

    • D E Clayton, I think your comment shows exactly why there is a pressing need to fund the center of islamic studies, and for this matter, similar centers in all major universities.
      First, you mention that fear of Islam is completely rational. Before you make such a claim, you have to bear in mind that one in five people around the world we live in is Muslim, so if Islam advocated for the killing of all “infidels” and the destruction of other societies, as you claim, Muslims would have achieved their aim a long time ago. It is important to understand that Islam, like all other Abrahamic faiths, stands for justice, freedom, brotherhood and compassion. If a minority of fanatics distort the teachings of Islam and pervert centuries of Islamic scholarship in order to achieve some political and strategic goals, then Islam (as a religion) cannot be held responsible for their behavior. When people gain a better understanding of Islam, not only through religion and theology, but also through art, philosophy, history, literature and architecture, they will realize that the fanatics, who advocate intolerance towards people who hold different beliefs, are but an anomaly. One reason why having a center of islamic studies at a university such as Lehigh is important, is so people can have access to correct information and sound scholarship instead of the distorted and flawed images the “media” presents to them.
      Second, you included a link to an article published in the Sun (of all news outlets!) about death threats directed towards a Saudi woman for not wearing her hijab. If you’re looking for serious evidence-based journalism, the Sun should never be a source to which you refer. In addition, basing your opinion on Muslims on one quasi-article from the Sun, even if it’s true, is not rational at all.
      On a side note, there is no such a thing as “Islamic culture”, Islam is a religion, a way of life which can adapt depending on the cultural, social and political context of the people who adopt it. For example, Moroccan culture is very different from Indonesian culture, likewise the way Islam is practiced in Morocco may differ in certain aspects from the way it is practiced in Indonesia.
      Finally, studying Islam is not about what you think is negative or positive. This sort of binary thinking, which lacks sophistication, is what sometimes prevents us as humans from understanding other humans in all their complexity and diversity. Studying Islam and the Islamic world is about building a nuanced understanding of a civilization which heavily influenced human history and it is about relating to the experiences of more than 1.5 billion people around the world with all their customs, cultures, languages and colors.
      Sorry for the long comment, and I hope that it was beneficial.

      • Bruce Haines '67 on

        The Islamic Studies Center was a flawed vision of Lehigh’s former President who was very misguided. Other Universities refused funding for such centers as many are clandestinely funded by the very radical element of which you speak to establish footholds in communities for propaganda. This was an ill conceived initiative and should be abandoned as it is clearly not embraced at Lehigh (4 students). This is not Lehigh’s core strength and hopefully John Simon will see thru this and keep Lehigh focused rather than trying to be all things to all people who want everything. If you want to study or teach Muslim Studies suggest going applying to some other school where it is a core strength.

        • Clandestine funding!? With all due respect, I challenge you to show me one example of this sort of thing happening.
          As for the lack of interest, classes on Islam usually have a good number of students in attendance. The Arabic program is a different story, because the lack of students is not due to a lack of interest, but rather to the fact that Lehigh does not offer an Arabic minor like it does for other languages. I know this because I talked over the last couple years with several students who have taken or are interested in taking Arabic.
          As for your comment about Islamic studies not being a “core strength”, we all know that for a fact. However, Islamic studies were only intended to complement Global studies, religion studies, political science as well as other programs. The university does not need to pour millions into the Center for Global Islamic Studies, it just needs to provide it with a little funding to continue inviting scholars, supporting researchers at Lehigh and providing its services to the Lehigh community.

  5. There are many instances where Christianity has become extremist by the acquisition or pursuit of power. Think of the Puritans who after having been persecuted in England became persecutors (Salem witch trials et al) in the New World.

    It is important to study different religions to understand how they relate to their co-religionists and how they treat the “other”. I assume “religions gone bad” would be a part of that study.

    “Can’t we all get along.”

  6. As I said in my initial comment: “It sounds to me like this center is an uncritical propaganda effort to cheerlead for Islam.”

    The grim realities are that the goal of Islam is to supersede all other cultures and achieve world domination. Muslim immigrants are actively destroying the way of life in Europe and have made it dangerous and unsafe to live in many places.

    See these articles for a description of what is happening:

    The Islamic culture is incompatible with American values.

    The following is adapted from Dr. Peter Hammond’s book: Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat:

    Islam is not a religion nor is it a cult. It is a complete system.

    Islam has religious, legal, political, economic and military components. The religious component is a beard for all the other components.

    Islamization occurs when there are sufficient Muslims in a country to agitate for their so-called ‘religious rights.’

    When politically correct and culturally diverse societies agree to ‘the reasonable’ Muslim demands for their ‘religious rights,’ they also get the other components under the table. Here’s how it works (percentages source CIA: The World Fact Book (2007)).

    As long as the Muslim population remains around 1% of any given country they will be regarded as a peace-loving minority and not as a threat to anyone. In fact, they may be featured in articles and films, stereotyped for their colorful uniqueness:

    United States — Muslim 1.0%
    Australia — Muslim 1.5%
    Canada — Muslim 1.9%
    China — Muslim 1%-2%
    Italy — Muslim 1.5%
    Norway — Muslim 1.8%

    At 2% and 3% they begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and disaffected groups with major recruiting from the jails and among street gangs:

    Denmark — Muslim 2%
    Germany — Muslim 3.7%
    United Kingdom — Muslim 2.7%
    Spain — Muslim 4%
    Thailand — Muslim 4.6%

    From 5% on they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population.

    They will push for the introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs for Muslims. They will increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature it on their shelves — along with threats for failure to comply. ( United States ).

    France — Muslim 8%
    Philippines — Muslim 5%
    Sweden — Muslim 5%
    Switzerland — Muslim 4.3%
    The Netherlands — Muslim 5.5%
    Trinidad &Tobago — Muslim 5.8%

    At this point, they will work to get the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves under Sharia, the Islamic Law. The ultimate goal of Islam is not to convert the world but to establish Sharia law over the entire world.

    When Muslims reach 10% of the population, they will increase lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions ( Paris –car-burnings). Any non-Muslim action that offends Islam will result in uprisings and threats ( Amsterdam – Mohammed cartoons).

    Guyana — Muslim 10%
    India — Muslim 13.4%
    Israel — Muslim 16%
    Kenya — Muslim 10%
    Russia — Muslim 10-15%

    After reaching 20% expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia formations, sporadic killings and church and synagogue burning:
    Ethiopia — Muslim 32.8%

    At 40% you will find widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks and ongoing militia warfare:

    Bosnia — Muslim 40%
    Chad — Muslim 53.1%
    Lebanon — Muslim 59.7%

    From 60% you may expect unfettered persecution of non-believers and other religions, sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a weapon and Jizya, the tax placed on infidels:

    Albania — Muslim 70%
    Malaysia — Muslim 60.4%
    Qatar — Muslim 77.5%
    Sudan — Muslim 70%

    After 80% expect State run ethnic cleansing and genocide:

    Bangladesh — Muslim 83%
    Egypt — Muslim 90%
    Gaza — Muslim 98.7%
    Indonesia — Muslim 86.1%
    Iran — Muslim 98%
    Iraq — Muslim 97%
    Jordan — Muslim 92%
    Morocco — Muslim 98.7%
    Pakistan — Muslim 97%
    Palestine — Muslim 99%
    Syria — Muslim 90%
    Tajikistan — Muslim 90%
    Turkey — Muslim 99.8%
    United Arab Emirates — Muslim 96%

    100% will usher in the peace of ‘Dar-es-Salaam’ — the Islamic House of Peace — there’s supposed to be peace because everybody is a Muslim:

    Afghanistan — Muslim 100%
    Saudi Arabia — Muslim 100%
    Somalia — Muslim 100%
    Yemen — Muslim 99.9%

    Of course, that’s not the case. To satisfy their blood lust, Muslims then start killing each other for a variety of reasons.

    ‘Before I was nine I had learned the basic canon of Arab life. It was me against my brother; me and my brother against our father; my family against my cousins and the clan; the clan against the tribe; and the tribe against the world and all of us against the infidel. – Leon Uris, ‘The Haj’

    It is good to remember that in many, many countries, such as France, the Muslim populations are centered around ghettos based on their ethnicity. Muslims do not integrate into the community at large. Therefore, they exercise more power than their national average would indicate.

    • It seems like you developed a comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding the historical, social and political development of Islam and Islamic societies! Nice work!
      Just reading through your comment reaveals inconsistencies and flaws that are just mind-boggling. I will not go into every one of them, because there is just too many, too many. Your theory is too simplistic and will break at first contact with reality.
      I suggest you extend your reading list to include books and articles by “real” scholars of Islam. Those who have done extensive studies in Western universities and/or in the Muslim world, and are familiar with Arabic and the rich diverse Islamic literature (Jasser Auda and Tariq Ramadan are good examples). I would also advise you, for your own benefit, to take a lot of what these think-tanks (you mention the Gateston Institute) publish with a grain for salt. I you’re seriously seeking the truth, you should know that even if they call themselves non-partisan, they always have their own political agenda.
      Additionally, on your next vacation maybe think about going to a Muslim country, that will change a lot of your perception. Start with Morocco, for example, a beautiful country which receives about 10 million tourists a year most of them from Europe. No, the locals won’t try to kill you or harass you because you’re different. In fact, you will find out that people are overall very generous and nice, and you will return to your home with a different perspective on things.

      • I am not a lightweight when it comes to my exposure to the Middle East. Overall, I have spent about a year of my life living in Turkey spread out over 8 different visits from 1963 to 1990.

        I continue to keep in touch with several Turkish friends. One of them emigrated here to the United States and became a naturalized citizen. I went to his citizenship swearing in ceremony, took him to lunch afterwards, and gave him an American flag to welcome him as a new citizen. He has assimilated well, just turned 50 in age, and has a delightful wife and family with two children.

        My Turkish friends are disgusted with what has been happening in Turkey in recent years as a result of Erdogan coming to power. They tell me they no longer recognize their own country.

        Like it or not, most of the world suffers from various levels of corruption. Certainly this is not unique to Muslim countries. However, they all appear to have a lousy track record in this regard. See this link about the Corruption Perception Index:

        Every time I surf around Lehigh’s website I become more and more disgusted with the nauseating and never ending brainwashing messages about equity and community. I do not believe that Lehigh is a hotbed of intolerance as one might suppose from reading ridiculous news items such as:

        followed by President Simon’s say nothing “feel good” irrelevant blather issued the same day:

        To which he added another missive of unctuous nonsense a few days later

        The realities are that Lehigh seems to be utterly obsessed with the failed concept of Multiculturalism.

        Esteemed scholar, professor, and essayist Walter Williams comments on this concept in this link:

        As he points out, it should be obvious to an decent person that some cultures are superior to others and all should NOT be respected equally.

        I find it comical to look at the directory of personnel for just the Student Affairs office at Lehigh.

        There over 100 people in this list.

        A quick look at their position titles indicates to me that a sizable majority of these jobs are utterly useless sinecure positions that are there to blot the tears of the perpetually aggrieved whiners in the Lehigh populous.

        If the students are wondering why tuition costs so much, one of the reasons is that it goes to pay the salaries and fringe benefits of these people.

        And as a further aside, being as Lehigh toots its horn about equity so much, why are around 75% of the people in this staff list women?

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