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Last modified: Thursday, June 5, 2008

Indiana University wins national grant to launch project on Islam

June 5, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A new project at Indiana University hopes to break down some of the misconceptions about Islam and increase intercultural dialogue and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Patrick O'Meara

Photo by: Chris Meyer

Patrick O'Meara

Print-Quality Photo

A consortium of six Title VI National Resource Centers, led by IU's Center for the Study of Global Change, was awarded $96,600 from the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) to launch the Voices and Visions project.

"This is a timely project which will widen our understanding of Muslims and Muslim communities," said IU Vice President for International Affairs Patrick O'Meara. "The grant, from the prestigious Social Science Research Council, is a recognition of this important topic and of the capacity of IU to implement it."

The money comes from the SSRC's newly launched "Academia in the Public Sphere: Islam and Muslims in World Context" program, funded by the Carnegie Corp. of New York. Out of the ten universities awarded funding, IU's Voices and Visions project received the most money because of the "ambitious scope" of the program, said Tom Asher, the SSRC's Islam and Muslims in World Contexts program officer.

"The decision to fund Indiana University was made not by SSRC itself but by an external selection committee consisting of prominent academics, members of the media and the nongovernmental sector," Asher said. "These individuals saw in Indiana's proposed project a way of introducing scholarly voices to a public debate that often takes place with flawed premises and a real misunderstanding of the nature of Islam and Muslims generally."

Project directors Hilary Kahn and Brian Winchester say the project draws upon international strengths and programs already at IU to help create a meaningful dialogue about Islam. It will also serve as an important bridge between the university and local communities.

"This project facilitates dialogue between scholars and the general public," Kahn said. "It expands public understanding, builds bridges between communities and educates by providing access to a wide variety of voices from around the world."

Voices and Visions will consist of 60 podcasts produced with public radio station WFIU, which will begin airing in September as well as four events -- two for the public and two for media and business professionals. The events will take place during the fall and spring semesters of next school year.

The Center for the Study of Global Change is partnering with IU's African Studies Program, East Asian Studies Center, Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center, Russian and Eastern European Institute, West European Studies, Center for International Business Education and Research and School of Journalism to create Voices and Visions.