Taking on tough issues like Islamophobia and bullying; the role of the Jewish community in fighting anti-Muslim racism; and prospects for peace in the Middle East, the Mohsin and Fauzia Jaffer Center for Muslim World Studies at FIU has reached its one-year anniversary and several important milestones, including the expansion of undergraduate and graduate certificate programs in Middle East and Muslim World Studies.
The Middle East and greater Muslim world are among the most significant and consequential regions shaping contemporary world politics and dynamics today. Strong knowledge of the region is a major asset to graduates seeking employment in governmental institutions, non-profit organizations and the private sector.
In collaboration with the South Florida Muslim community, FIU launched the Mohsin and Fauzia Jaffer Center for Muslim World Studies in January 2017 with a $2 million endowment from the Jaffer family. The first center of its kind in South Florida, the Jaffer Center is housed within FIU’s Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs.
Since its creation, the center has held more than two dozen academic and cultural events for students, faculty and the community, including a roundtable conversation on the then-upcoming midterm elections focused on the importance of the Muslim American vote and a “hijab-a-thon” in collaboration with FIU’s Muslim Student Association that invited women of all faiths to wear a hijab for the day, then reflect on their experiences.
This year, the center will host a three-day conference dedicated to Muslim-Jewish relations, “Muslim-Jewish Encounter: Texts, Contexts and Contemporary Implications,” which will bring together scholars from around the world to explore the historical, cultural, sociopolitical, economic and geographic linkages that exist between Jews and Muslims.
The project is part of a larger Muslim-Jewish relations initiative at FIU and is intended to foster meaningful dialogue among different religious communities. The conference is a collaboration with the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU and will be held April 10-12, 2019.
The center has also expanded its course offerings, including a new course on Islamic art and architecture, which will be offered this year. The course will assess how Islamic doctrine manifests itself through art and architecture, providing students with understanding of the theoretical and practical principles unifying Islamic art in a global perspective.
To increase awareness about Muslim art and artists, the center will partner with the FIU School of Music to bring two Muslim guitarists to the Miami International GuitART Festival 2019 – Bahar Ossareh, an Iranian-Canadian classical guitarist, and Cihat Askin, a prominent figure in the music scene who has been a regular soloist for all the major orchestras of Turkey.
This year, the center welcomed postdoctoral researcher, Saeed Moshveghyaganeh, who studies the participation of Muslim women in STEM fields, and visiting assistant professor Carlos Grenier, whose work focuses on Islamic thought in the early Ottoman Empire.
Mohsin Jaffer, a physician and founding board member of the Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations (COSMOS), and his wife Fauzia, who leads the couple’s charitable foundation, have been involved in the development of a Muslim studies initiative at FIU for several years.
The creation of the center is the result of a request made by the South Florida Muslim community for FIU to lead the way in advancing the study of global Muslim communities.
Academically, the center focuses on key themes, including the global Muslim diaspora; interfaith dialogue and intra-faith relations; gender and identity; and Islam and security. Its multidisciplinary curriculum draws upon FIU’s expertise in religious studies, political science, international relations, sociology, anthropology, geography, economics, history, law, business, women’s studies, human rights and other areas.
The center collaborates with numerous community organizations, centers and mosques, including COSMOS, the Islamic Center of Greater Miami, the Ershad Center, the Islamic Jaffaria Association and Emgage USA.