Dr. Jamal Barzinji, President of IIIT, welcomed the guests and highlighted IIIT recent areas of focus in research and academic outreach, including reform of education in Muslim societies and support for Islamic studies programs in major institutions of higher learning in the US and abroad. Dr. Jamal also announced IIIT special recognition of Professor Abdul Aziz Sachedina – the current occupant of IIIT Chair in Islamic Studies at George Mason University – noted his distinguished contributions to the scholarly study and teaching of Islam and presented him with the title “IIIT Distinguished Senior Scholar”.
Another special recognition was made to Sister Asma Hanif, founder and president of Muslimat al Nisa, a pioneering Muslim organization that has provided shelter and social services to needy Muslim women for several years. Sister Asma was also recognized for her academic achievement. During the past two years she received a Masters degree in Islamic Studies and Christian Muslim Relations from the Hartford Seminary and two certificates from the same institution: one in Imam and Community Leadership and the other in Islamic Chaplaincy.
Beside Sister Asma Hanif, four other community members were recognized for high academic achievement:
The highlight of the evening was the keynote speech delivered by Professor John Esposito, director of Prince Al Walid Ibn Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. Professor Esposito spoke about the legacy of Ismail Raja al Faruqi and shared aspects of his own personal experience as a student and friend of Al Faruqi, highlighting Al Faruqi’s distinguished career as a scholar of religion, as an engaged public intellectual and community leader. He pointed to Al Faruqi’s fascination with art and music, his distinctive teaching style and role as mentor to scores of graduate students from Muslim countries and his pioneering role in introducing Islam to major academic associations such as the American Academy of Religion (AAR).
The evening program ended with testimonials from several distinguished participants including Delegate Tom Rust, Representative John Foust, Professor Jonathan Brown and Imam Mohammad Magid.
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