Cultural odyssey on offer at SFU this summer

Cultural odyssey on offer at SFU this summer

Islam and Muslims featured often in the news from the displaced communities in Burma and the Central African Republic, to the political convulsions of the Arab spring, and questions of integration and citizenship in Canada.  Quebec’s Charter of Values recently highlighted some of these local concerns about religious accommodation.  But an understanding of the variations across Muslim societies and communities is not something you get from the media.  

The Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim and Cultures (CCSMSC) at Simon Fraser University runs a two week program every summer designed to introduce the rest of us to the big picture.    Expressions of Diversity: An Introduction to Muslim Cultures is your guide to a deeper understanding of one of the world’s largest religious traditions.  The program brings eighteen leading scholars to Vancouver, to speak on a wide range of topics.  It’s not just about religion: art, culture, and politics are all discussed.  You don’t have to be a grad student to get in — it’s designed for those of us without an academic background on the subject.  Here’s a preview of this year’s line up.

Omid Safi

A Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Safi is the author or editor of several books including Progressive Muslims: On Gender, Justice, and Pluralism and Memories of Muhammad: Why the Prophet Matters.  He is a frequent contributor to the media and has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, the Washington Post, PBS, NPR, CNN and in international media.  In addition to his expertise in contemporary and mystical Islam, he runs a lively blog, and he has a wicked sense of humour.  

Sufis, Dervishes, and Poetry

From whirling dervishes to the ecstatic poetry of Rumi, the meditative, mystical side of Muslim traditions are a major theme this year. 


From the Middle East to the Mediterranean and South Asia, learn how cross-cultural encounters are reflected in stone and tile. 

Sexuality and Gender

Want a feminist approach to the Islamic tradition?  Ayesha Chaudhry, Assistant Professor of Gender and Islamic Studies at UBC will tackle the treatment of women in law and religious scholarship.  She recently wrote a book on the subject called Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition: Ethics, Law and the Muslim Discourse on Gender.  

Culture in the Diaspora

How are tradition and identity affected as people migrate and mix?  Explore the ways that Muslim diaspora communities engage and challenge traditions. 

Mysticism and Music

Amir Koushkani is an ethnomusicologist, composer, and performer of classical Persian music. He is currently a Post-Doctoral fellow at the Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures (SFU). He plays the tar and setar, both traditional stringed instruments, and in addition to performing with his trio, Safa, he is the Musical Director of Mostagh Music Group, Nava Ensemble and the Ruh Afsa Ensemble. He will be conducting a workshop on music in the Persian tradition.

 This year the program runs from June 16-June 27, and is conveniently located in the heart of the city, at Harbour Centre.  The deadline for applications is May 30th.   

Go here for more info or to register: Centre for the Comparative Study of Muslim Societies and Cultures

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