The Magazine

The Universities’ 9/11

Prepare for a season of intellectual posturing and Islamic outreach.

Sep 12, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 48 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
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At Harvard, a good portion of the anniversary programming is emanating from Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, which will host a “Campus-Wide Panel Discussion” on September 8. The three panelists will consist of: Jocelyne Cesari, director of Harvard’s Islam in the West program, one of whose aims is to “promote greater understanding of Islam and Muslims in the West”; Duncan Kennedy, godfather of the Critical Legal Studies movement, which holds that the American legal system is a carefully constructed edifice designed to keep wealthy white males in power and minorities in subordinate positions; and Charlie Clements, a human-rights activist on the Harvard faculty who worked as a physician during the 1980s in territories controlled by anti-U.S. guerrillas in El Salvador. Other offerings at the center include an “art, identity, and September 11” set of lessons for high school teachers created by “artists who identify as Muslims,” a PowerPoint presentation (“how do we determine truth and reality?”) that aims to help students see “the impact various contexts have on depicting the events of 9/11,” and a webinar titled “State of Muslims in America” designed to “explore the issues of Islamophobia with a focus on the progress and challenges that have developed in the ten years since Sept. 11th, 2001.”

New York University will also focus on “Islam in America” in its commemoration, with a September 13 panel discussion centering around Irshad Manji’s book Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom. St. John’s University will host a lecture by Amir Hussain, a professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Hussain also specializes in Islamic communities in North America. His 2006 book, Oil and Water: Two Faiths: One God, asserts that Muslims who commit acts of terrorism are “caught up in cycles of violence” and lends a sympathetic ear to the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ complaints about alleged “profiling” of Muslims by U.S. government agencies. The International Programs Office at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, plans to go all-Islamic in its commemoration of the massacre, with a series of lectures over the fall semester titled “A Decade After 9/11: Muhammad in History, Politics, and Memory.” The scheduled lectures themselves bear such titles as “New Views of Muhammad and Early Islam,” “Muhammad the Warrior; Muhammad the Peace-Maker,” “Islam and the Strength of Visual Images,” and “Of Prophetic Ascents and Descents: Muhammad’s Journeys Through European Cultural Space.”

Duke University plans to hold a day-long conference on September 15 on the “global and religious effects of 9/11,” at which news writers for Al Jazeera, the Religion News Service, and CNN will join Duke faculty members to discuss such topics as Islamic studies and the Muslim vote. The title of the conference (which will not be open to the public) is “Muslims in America: The Next 10 Years.” Among several 9/11-related photo exhibitions that will be on display at Duke throughout the fall are “Iraq / Perspectives,” photographer Benjamin Lowy’s war pictures taken through the windows of Humvees, and Todd Drake’s “Esse Quam Videri” [to be rather than to seem], a set of self-portraits of North Carolina Muslims that Drake helped his subjects craft “in response to the stereotyping of Muslims and in recognition that it is human nature to fear what we do not know.” (Muslim self-portrait projects seem to be 9/11 favorites on campuses; NYU is also hosting one.) The subject matter of Drake’s pictures—photogenic Muslims often clad in ethnic dress—almost mirrors that of the photos of New York City Muslims taken by Robert Gerhardt for an exhibition that will accompany the St. John’s University commemoration. Gerhardt titles his photo collection “Muslim/American, American/Muslim: Portrait of a Brooklyn Masjid,” and writes on his website that the pictures are a response to “serious cultural misunderstanding, discrimination, and acts of violence due to their perceived relation to” the 9/11 attackers.

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