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McDaniel lecture to focus on challenges that face Islam

There is much people don't know about Islam, but also many important and sometimes shocking topics to be discussed, according to Muqtedar Khan, associate professor of political science and international studies at the University of Delaware.

"There's a lot of politicization of Islam," he said. "It's important for people to be informed of the facts."

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Khan will speak about the challenges that face Islam in western countries and in the future at McDaniel College Thursday as a part of the college's annual Ridington Lecture.

The annual Ridington lecture honors two long-time teachers at McDaniel, William Robbins Ridington and Edith Farr Ridington. After the Ridingtons' deaths, their family endowed this annual lectureship, which began in 1991.

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Donna Evergates, professor of history at McDaniel, said the lecture series searches for speakers from a variety of disciplines.

"It's intended to be for a broad audience," she said.

Potential speakers are suggested from different departments each year. This year, Khan was recommended by McDaniel's political science and international studies department. He will be the lecture's first political scientist.

The topics to be discussed - the Arab Spring and the challenge of democratization, Islam in the west and the rise of the Islamophobia, the enduring challenge of the status of women, and the challenge of religious pluralism - are likely to appeal to students and facility members in many disciplines, Evergates said.

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Attendees may hear arguments that aren't prevalent and from a scholar with profound understanding of the issues, Evergates said.

"I think he's going to say things that Americans need to hear," she said.

Khan will discuss the guilt of Muslim communities in the west, particularly in the United States, he said. He will talk about what the emergence of Muslim communities means and how they are learning to practice their faith in the western world. Since the Muslim population in the United States is at around 2 percent, Islam can be something that people don't know much about, he said.

The Islamic religion is facing many challenges, such as deciding what stance to take when it comes to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. There is an emerging Islamic gay community, Khan said.

"Traditionally, Islam did not accord the same respect to gay relationships as it did heterosexual ones," he said. "What if two men want to get married in a mosque? Will a mosque deny their marriage? It will be interesting to see."

There is also the issue of the geography of a mosque and designated women's areas. Many are looking into why there isn't a shared space if there is equality between men and women, Khan said.

More interfaith marriages involving Muslims are occurring as well.

"More and more young Muslims are marrying out of the community," he said.

Khan hopes those who attend realize it's an important issue and therefore want to learn more about the topic and continue to participate in interfaith dialog.

"Some people may be startled by some things I will say to them," he said. "It opens doors for them they have never seen."

The lecture is a chance to discuss the efforts of many Islamic reformers to address issues within the Islamic religion, Evergates said.

"We hope to have some good questions at the end of the presentation," she said. "I think they will go away learning something."

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