A number of Olean-Allegany area community members have committed gifts totaling nearly $70,000 to St. Bonaventure University’s Center for Arab and Islamic Studies (CAIS), the university announced today.
Support for the center includes contributions from: Dr. Adil and Mrs. Jehan Al-Humadi; Dr. Mohaned Al-Humadi; John and Wardia Hart, Akbar and Nisreen Firdosy; Drs. Zahid and Durriya Khairullah; Donald and Mary Swanz; and the Islamic Society of the Southern Tier.
“We feel that the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies is an important initiative that will foster greater understanding and tolerance in our region and bring our communities together,” said Dr. Zahid Khairullah, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Islamic Society of the Southern Tier.
The Al-Humadi family has been instrumental in the founding and ongoing work of the CAIS. Their connection with St. Bonaventure began in the late 1970s when Fr. Cornelius Welch, O.F.M., a longtime dean and administrator at the University, contacted the family for help in identifying several Arabic texts found in the vault of Friedsam Memorial Library.
In 2015, the Al-Humadis — Dr. Adil Al-Humadi and his wife Jehan, and their son, Dr. Mohaned Al-Humadi — established with a generous gift the Dr. Adil and Jehan Al-Humadi Lecture Series for Arab and Islamic Studies at St. Bonaventure.
“We feel very strongly about supporting the center. It is an important part in our lives as Muslims. There is an ever-present need for interreligious understanding of what we all have in common, to promote tolerance and acceptance, especially with what is going wrong in the world. There is some element of intolerance and not being able to differentiate between what is the real Islam and what is fundamental extremism. The extremists have hijacked the Muslim religion in the name of Islam to smear its name. They make it difficult for all of the peaceful, loving and hard-working Muslims in the world,” said Dr. Adil Al-Humadi.
He commended the work of Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., university president, in promoting Christian-Muslim relations and noted the importance of adding Islamic theology to the curriculum.
“We should always strive to live with the good we have in common, then the religion will bring us closer together rather than separate us and bring hate,” Dr. Al-Humadi added.
Established in 2015, the CAIS seeks to promote an understanding of Arab and Islamic cultures, an appreciation of both their historical and contemporary significance in the global community, and respectful relations between Muslim and Christian people.
Since opening last fall, the CAIS has offered a number of programs and initiatives, including an event on the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, which featured speakers from the local Muslim community. Course offerings to date include: Islamic Art and Architecture; Islam: Religion and Culture; Christian-Muslim Relations; and History of the Modern Middle East.
A blog on timely issues related to Arab and Islamic studies and the newsletter Nūr, which translates to “light” in Arabic, are available at the center’s new website (www.sbu.edu/CAIS).
Several off-campus presentations are slated for this spring in New York, Florida and South Carolina, and this June interested St. Bonaventure alumni will have a chance to learn more about the center during Reunion Weekend.
“The generous gifts from the community have had and will continue to have a tremendous effect on promoting education and scholarship in the areas of Arab and Islamic Studies, a mission inspired by St. Francis’ encounter with the Sultan in 1219, and which is critical today for global citizenship,” said Fr. Michael Calabria, O.F.M., Ph.D., director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies.
A variety of students make use of the CAIS, which is located on the second floor of the John J. Murphy Professional Building, Calabria said — some to learn the language, others who are interested in pursuing political or diplomatic opportunities after graduation, and those who want to understand Islam as a religion.
Erik Furgal, a junior dual International Relations (with a Middle Eastern regional concentration) and Spanish major from Bowling Green, Ky., has taken history, political science and theology classes through the center. He also studies Arabic, which he has found to be “beautiful and fascinating,” and has made a number of friends.
“My basic knowledge of the Arabic language and my understanding of some of the nuances of the Islamic faith have helped me initiate respectful dialogue with people I now consider friends,” Furgal said, adding that his studies have helped him “better understand current events, the historic background of these events, and people of cultures, beliefs, and religions other than my own.”
Amina Golden-Arabaty, a freshman Journalism/Mass Communication major from Lockport, N.Y., has taken four courses within the center. This semester she is enrolled in Arabic 302 and Christian-Muslim Relations. “I have really enjoyed studying with Fr. Michael Calabria. He is so passionate about spreading his knowledge in an effort to create peace and eliminate misconceptions originating from the lack of knowledge,” she said.
People interested in learning more about the center, its lectures and course offerings should visit www.sbu.edu/CAIS or contact Fr. Michael Calabria, O.F.M., at firstname.lastname@example.org or (716) 375-2162.
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