Newswise — The University of Illinois at Chicago and Chicago-Kent College of Law have established a Jewish/Muslim studies initiative that will feature public lectures, a cross-listed course available to students from both institutions and a theatrical performance.

Sponsored by the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the UIC Jewish studies program and Chicago-Kent's Institute for Law and the Humanities, the program aims to develop understanding and opportunities for closer collaboration between the historically estranged Jewish and Muslim groups.

"Among the most serious rifts in the world today is the one between Jews and Muslims," said program creator Samuel Fleischacker, UIC professor of philosophy and Jewish studies. "Universities can play an important role in enabling dialogue, fostering understanding and developing co-operative relationships.

"Our overall goals are to increase the intellectual interaction among Jewish and Muslim students at UIC and Chicago-Kent. In addition, the initiative's public programs provide an opportunity for closer collaboration among Jewish and Muslim communities beyond the confines of the campuses."

Administrators from both schools expressed enthusiasm for this scholarly association.

"Engaged scholarship crosses disciplinary boundaries and takes on the most important questions," said Christopher Comer, dean of the UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "The Jewish/Muslim Initiative is a very exciting example of what our institutions can do together."

"We are pleased to join with UIC in this initiative, given the critical importance of fostering dialogue in today's world and understanding the historical roots of current conflicts," said Harold Krent, dean of Chicago-Kent College of Law, part of the Illinois Institute of Technology. "Lawyers have much to gain from understanding policy through the lens of the humanistic disciplines, and vice versa."

The inaugural program begins with two presentations by distinguished anthropologist, diplomat, writer and filmmaker Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic studies and professor of international relations at American University, Washington, D.C.

Ahmed, a former high commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain, has been actively involved for many years in interfaith dialogue and the study of global Islam and its impact on contemporary society. He is a partner with Judea Pearl, father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, in a Jewish-Muslim public dialogue established by Pearl following his son's death in 2002.

The British Broadcasting Corporation has described Ahmed as "the world's leading authority on contemporary Islam." His scheduled presentations include:

The Importance of Jewish/Muslim Dialogue: Crossroad for the Abrahamic FaithsMonday, Nov. 28, 4 p.m.UIC Student Center East750 S. Halsted St., Room 302RSVP required by Nov. 19Admission is free. Call (312) 413-2500

The Importance of Jewish/Muslim Dialogue: Judaism and Knowledge in the Abrahamic FaithsTuesday, Nov. 29, noonChicago-Kent College of LawOgilvie Auditorium, 565 W. Adams St.RSVP required by Nov. 19Admission is free. Call (312) 413-2500

During the spring 2006 semester, UIC and Chicago-Kent will offer the course "Judaism and Islam: Interactions and Intersections," to be co-taught by religious scholar and visiting professor Azim Nanji, director of the Ismaili Institute in London; Rachel Havrelock, UIC professor of Jewish studies; and Sheldon Nahmod, Chicago-Kent distinguished professor of law and co-director of Chicago-Kent's Institute for Law and the Humanities.

A leading contemporary figure in the Ismaili branch of Islam, Nanji has authored, co-authored and edited several books including, "The Nizari Ismaili Tradition" (1976), "The Muslim Almanac" (1996), "Mapping Islamic Studies" (1997), and "The Historical Atlas of Islam" (2004). In addition, he has contributed numerous shorter studies and articles on religion, Islam and Ismailism in journals and collective volumes including "The Encyclopedia of Islam," "Encyclopedia Iranica," "Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World," and "A Companion to Ethics."

"The course establishes a comparative cultural context for the study of two traditions often believed to be antithetical," Havrelock said. "By studying Islam and Judaism together, students will learn about a long history of conceptual cross-pollination and cultural contact between the two traditions."

In spring of 2006, the initiative will also co-sponsor the production of the hip-hop play, "From Tel Aviv to Ramallah," which debuted at the 2003 New York City Hip-Hop Theater Festival and later received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for "Best New Play."

The play, written and directed by Havrelock and starring the Jewish-Arab performance team of Yuri Lane and Sharif Ezzat, chronicles the daily lives of young people in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The performance date, time, and location are yet to be determined.

For more information about the Jewish/Muslim Initiative, call (312) 413-2102.

The initiative on Jewish/Muslim relations continues a close relationship between UIC and Chicago-Kent College of Law. In 2004, the institutions established an accelerated degree program that allows UIC students to complete a bachelor's degree and law degree in six years.

Chicago-Kent College of Law is the law school of Illinois Institute of Technology, which is a private, Ph.D.-granting institution with programs in engineering, science, psychology, architecture, business, design and law. Last year, Chicago-Kent educated more than 1,200 students from 45 states and more than 100 colleges and universities.

UIC ranks among the nation's top 50 universities in federal research funding and is Chicago's largest university with 25,000 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world.

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