The event began at 7.25pm with the recitation and translation of the verses from the Qur’an, following which Dr. Jamal Barzinji, IIIT’s Vice-President, addressed the gathering. In his short address, he emphasized the importance of IIIT’s mission, especially in light of the recent events in the Arab world which exposed the limitations of current approaches in Islamic thought. He said that the IIIT is perfectly situated, both as a research center and because of its location in the United States, to positively contribute to the developments in Muslim-majority countries. Dr. Barzinji reiterated the significance of Muslim experiences in the US and how these could be used to influence Muslim-majority countries in their treatment toward non-Muslim minorities. After his speech, a short video was shown, highlighting IIIT’s history, mission, and plans for the future.
The highlight of the evening was al-Faruqi Memorial Lecture, “What good is the knowledge if it does not bring benefit to society?,” delivered by Prof. Abdulaziz Sachedina, the IIIT Chair of Islamic Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. In his lecture, Prof. Sachedina emphasized the link between knowledge and practice, criticizing at the same time those academicians who see themselves as detached from the real world, all in the name of supposed objectivity. He stressed the importance of bringing values into the academic world. An ideal professor is the one who believes in what he or she teaches, and serves not only as a repository of knowledge for his or her students, but also as an important referential point when it comes to values and praxis. He issued a special call to Muslim academicians in the United States to serve as bridges of understanding, so that their non-Muslim students could gain a better appreciation of Islam, both in theory and in practice.
After al-Faruqi Memorial Lecture, a call for prayer indicated end of fasting for the day. Following short refreshments and prayers, the dinner was served. During the dinner, Dr. Yaqub Mirza introduced a number of prominent Friends of IIIT, each of whom briefly addressed the audience. These included: Tom Rust, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates; Mark Herring, a Virginia State Senator; Dr. Norton Mezvinsky, the president of the International Council for Middle East Studies; Dr. Jonathan Brown, associate professor at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University; Susan Douglass, Senior Research Associate at Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, George Mason University; Douglas Johnston, President of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy(ICRD, Dr. Ihsan Bagby, Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Kentucky, Imam Mohamed Magid, the president of the Islamic Society of North America, and others. After these brief addresses, the Annual Iftar/Dinner for Friends of IIIT was successfully concluded.
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