While America still stands in the midst of a controversial war abroad, the country has started to feel the symptoms at home – civil unrest at plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero and threats of burning Qurans are just a few of the more recent examples.
However, the Middle Eastern/South Asia Studies Program (MESA) at UC Davis has put together a prognosis of the issue – a lecture by internationally acclaimed writer and scholar Dr. Reza Aslan entitled “Is America Islamophobic?”
The lecture will take place today at 7 p.m. in Freeborn Hall, followed by a book signing. Tickets are available for students at $5 and $20 for general audience.
“We think that this is a very appropriate topic for addressing many of today’s current issues,” explained Professor Sudipta Sen, Director of MESA at UC Davis. “As Middle Easterners, we are aware of the mistrust felt toward the Muslim community and feel that we are being singled out.”
Aslan, who has appeared frequently on “The Daily Show” and authored the bestselling book No god but God, will diagnose the causes and consequences of anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.
“He is someone who can bridge the gap between academia and public opinion,” Sen said. “We believe that Dr. Aslan can reach out and offer an outlook to students that is different from mainstream media, in hopes of reconciling conflicting views.”
Many students are also anticipating a fresh perspective that will differ from some presented from textbooks, professors and the news.
“Aslan is pretty prolific,” said Shobhik Ghosh, MESA student assistant. “I think that he can answer questions that pretty much all of us have been fumbling around with for quite some time.”
The lecture is also part of an ongoing Iranian Studies lecture series and is being used as a fundraiser for the MESA program, which like many other departments, has felt the aftermath of recent budget cuts.
MESA hopes to use the revenue from the event to expand its program to include an Iranian studies and Arab studies minor, an estimated $30,000 project.
“Our department was very fortunate to get such a high-profile figure to speak at the event,” said Gurjit Mann, MESA program coordinator. “Dr. Aslan typically charges around $20,000, but he is doing this lecture for free.”
Ultimately, the lecture will not only give voice to a marginalized community, but will also bring MESA into the limelight, Sen said.
“We hope that the event will draw attention to the MESA program,” Sen said. “We want to let the public know that we are here and we are growing.”
EHSUN FORGHANY can be reached at email@example.com.