Conference to shine light on Islam

Conference to shine light on Islam

Josh Brunsting

With the proposal of a mosque and Islam learning center near “Ground Zero,” Islam has become the source of multiple protests nationwide, including a proposed burning of the Koran by Florida Reverend Terry Jones.

The Kaufman Interfaith Institute and speaker Dr. Omid Safi, chair for the Study of Islam at the American Academy of Religion, hope to change confused perceptions of Islam with the event “Islam: Beyond The Headlines.”

“This event is an annual conference dealing with various aspects of interfaith understanding, which in today’s world is important,” Safi said. “I will be the first speaker at the conference to be both a keynote speaker and born and raised a Muslim. It’s a real honor.”

The event will take place at the Prince Conference Center at Calvin College today. It is open and free to the public, with an optional lunch and dinner available for a fee.

“The conference is going to be a full day and will hopefully open up eyes to Islam as a faith instead of a headline,” said Safi, a professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina. “There will be multiple different discussions particularly the two keynote speeches, which will hopefully be a great learning experience for those who may not know about Islam or those who are interested in learning more.”

According to the event website, the conference will feature two keynote speeches from Safi: “Where is lover? Where is Justice? Muslim Reflections for Today,” and the evening keynote address “Memories of Muhammad: The Prophet We Never Knew.” The two speeches will bookend a series of breakaway sessions that will address other topics.

“The breakaway sessions are especially interesting,” Safi said. “They will focus on not only Islam as a whole, but will also look at Islam in relation to other religions. This, I think, will be the most interesting and powerful way for those new to the faith to truly understand and comprehend it.”

Faculty from eight colleges will lead the breakout sessions and discuss misconceptions surrounding the Islamic faith.

“Because of the memories of 9/11, many people still think that violence is a central theme in Islam,” said Douglas Kindschi, director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute. “This is not true and a misunderstanding of the Koran and the Islamic faith. There are Christians who also misuse the Christian message in ways that lead to violence, but this also is a false understanding of the faith.”

The importance of understanding various religions is not lost on others involved with this event.

“America is the most diverse nation in the world and Islam has become a major force in the cultural world,” Kindschi said. “Our understanding of this religion and tradition is very important to our future as a diverse people who understand and accept the various differences among our citizens.”

For more information, and to register to attend the conference, go to, or by calling Kindschi at 616-331-5702

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