New York Times best seller to lecture on Islam culture

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Belmarie Ponciano/ Contributing Writer

Amy Tenorio understands why many individuals may have biased notions of Islam.

A sophomore majoring in computer science, Tenorio cites the negative media coverage of the religion as contributing to the negative opinions that people harbor.

However, Dr. Reza Aslan, a writer and religious studies scholar, will be coming to the University to deliver a lecture about Islam in the 21st Century to provide a new perspective of the religion.

Aslan is a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside with a joint appointment in the Department of Religion.

Pedro Botta, associate director of operations at the School of International and Public Affairs, believes that Aslan’s lecture will give FIU students and the general public a more complete image of Islam despite its radicalized perception depicted by the media today.

“What the media says isn’t the whole story…what we’ll find is that, in any religion, extreme versions don’t have much to do with the religion,” he said. “People engage in the types of behaviors for power and control”.

Botta added that these behaviors have nothing to do with the religion itself, and believe that the lecture will provide attendees with an overview of this idea.

At the lecture, students will have the opportunity to engage in conversation with Aslan, an expert who has received multiple degrees in religious studies, theological studies and sociology.

Botta believes that Aslan will not simply lecture aimlessly, but that he will offer various ideas to give a perspective to the topic of Islam.

“He is a brilliant scholar,” Botta said. “And what makes him brilliant isn’t what he knows, but that he is able to have a conversation. He is able to speak on these themes with anyone, regardless of their knowledge on the topic.”

Some students are excited about the idea of a discussion on Islam.

“With so much going on in the world and in the Middle East, I can see why many may have mixed or biased perceptions of Islam due to all the negative media going around,” Tenorio said. “A lecture from this expert can really help people dismiss misconceptions.”

In addition to his experience, Aslan has authored numerous books, including the New York Time’s Bestseller “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” “Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization” and “No God But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam,” which was named one of the 100 most influential books of the last decade by Blackwell Publishers.

The lecture will be sponsored by the School of International and Public Affairs as part of the Ruth K. and Shepard Broad Distinguished Lecture Series, with contributions by SIPA’s Middle East Studies program and the newly established Initiative for Muslim Studies.

The event will be held at the Modesto A. Maidique Campus in the SIPA building, Room 125, on Thursday, Feb. 19, at 12:15 p.m.
“Our goal is to give students learning opportunities so they can get a grounding in different areas,” Botta said. “Real grounding in themes that are in the world stadium right now vital, not just for students but for everyone.”

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