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Seminars 2008

Being Muslim in the United States
July 14 - August 1, 2008

Directed by Lamin Sanneh

Funded by The Louisville Institute and Seminars @ Calvin

Seminar Description

The seminar will explore Islam’s encounter with the modern West. It will look first at the basic Islamic institutions and their formative role in Muslim life. In the second stage the seminar will consider the implications for North American life of the spread of Islam in the West, both its challenges and opportunities. A crucial area of intercultural encounter is the tradition of church-state separation.  This condition is fundamental to American life and practice and yet something that Muslim tradition rejects. For Americans, one can be religious only by being free; for Muslims, one can be religious only by submission. To amend Tocqueville, Americans believe that by being free, one believes; whereas Muslims hold that by believing, one obeys. The seminar will discuss this dimension of the political and cultural implications of Islam’s encounter with the West.

About the Director

Lamin Sanneh is the author of over a hundred articles on religious and historical subjects, and of several books. Most recently he has published Abolitionists Abroad: American Blacks and the Making of Modern West Africa; Faith and Power: Christianity and Islam in “Secular” Britain (with Lesslie Newbigin and Jenny Taylor); and Whose Religion is Christianity? The Gospel Beyond the West. He has also written The Crown and the Turban: Muslims and West African Pluralism; Religion and the Variety of Culture: A Study in Origin and Practice; Piety and Power: Muslims and Christians in West Africa; and *-- and is co-editor of The Changing Face of Christianity (forthcoming from Oxford University Press). He writes articles for scholarly journals, including Church History: Studies on Christianity and Culture; Newsletter of the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (University of Leiden, The Netherlands); and The Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion. He is Honorary Research Professor in the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and a life member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University. He was chairman of Yale’s Council on African Studies. He is an editor-at-large of the ecumenical weekly The Christian Century and a contributing editor of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, and he serves on the editorial boards of several academic journals and encyclopedias. He has served as consultant to the Pew Charitable Trusts. He is listed in Who’s Who in America. He was an official consultant at the 1998 Lambeth Conference in London and is a member of the Council of 100 Leaders of the World Economic Forum. He was appointed by Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Commission of the Historical Sciences, and by Pope Benedict XVI to the Pontifical Commission on Religious Relations with Muslims. He has received an award as the John W. Kluge Chair in the Cultures and Societies of the South by the Library of Congress. For his academic work, he was made Commandeur de l’Ordre National du Lion, Senegal’s highest national honor, and is a recipient of an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.