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Sheikh envisions centre for Islamic studies at Mac

April 22, 2008 Wade Hemsw
The Hamilton Spectator
(Apr 22, 2008)

An Arab sheikh's million-dollar gift to McMaster could be just the beginning of much bigger plans for Islamic studies at the university.

McMaster is establishing a chair in global Islam, funded by the gift from His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al-Qassimi, the ruler of oil-rich Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, who visited the university yesterday.

He wants to build a better understanding of Islam and correct the view it promotes violence.

"There are people making trouble between us and the West -- between Christianity, Judaism and Islam," the sheikh said. "We should not work by shouting or accusing. We should put things in their real place and work through education."

McMaster has about 1,500 Muslim students, who comprise about 7 per cent of the student body.

The creation of the chair represents a major move by the university to bolster its profile in Islamic scholarship -- a profile that could grow considerably.

"The international diaspora of Muslims and Islamic religion is one of the major phenomena of the late 20th and the 21st century," said McMaster president Peter George.

"It's our responsibility, I think, as a scholarly community, to address what is such an important social, political, cultural and economic issue of our times."

If the new chair works out well, the sheikh said, he is prepared to help McMaster build an entire centre for Islamic studies, complete with its own library, as he has done at three British universities.

That, in turn, could mean new undergraduate and graduate programs in Islamic studies for McMaster.

Sharjah is in the Persian Gulf, opposite Iran and adjacent to Saudi Arabia.

The sheikh has ruled the emirate since 1972, establishing museums, a public library system and two universities there. McMaster's relationship with Sharjah includes its help creating an institute for applied health sciences at the University of Sharjah.


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