Posh Kickoff for Oakland University Islamic Studies Program at Historic Meadow Brook Hall
August 13â€”Rochesterâ€”Oakland University is the sometimes neglected younger sibling of Michigan universities, but it is now in the planning stages for an Islamic Studies program sponsored by the university itself in concert with local Muslim academics and ulama. Imam Achmat Sallie of the Bloomfield Unity Center has put immense effort into forging bonds across religious and sectarian boundaries with other people. His easy demeanor, knowledge of Islam, his ability to speak English, Arabic and Afrikaans, and his flexibility with others has made many friends for him of many backgrounds.
Imam Sallie is using his ability to associate with others to help kick-start Oakland Universityâ€™s Islamic Studies program. Thus, The Muslim Observer and many Muslim academics and prominent community members were gathered together for a brief tour of Meadow Brook Hall in Rochester (next to the Oakland University campus), a luncheon banquet, and presentations by the dean of Oakland University, prominent local Muslim academics, and Imam Sallie.
Oakland University has an excellent campus with state-of-the-art buildings and facilities, about 4,700 students, requires at least a 2.5 GPA for admission, has programs comparable to those of other universities including foreign study programs. The university awards bachelorsâ€™, mastersâ€™, and even Ph.D degrees. They have nursing, health care, engineering, and other liberal arts programs. Oakland University is extremely affordable compared to other local universities, although it is somewhat less popular with local Muslim students. The cost per credit hour is currently $250, so one yearâ€™s tuition at the university is about $4,000. There are approximately 100 Muslim students on campus, according to OUâ€™s MSA president, Zeeshan Rizwan; and of those 100 about 30 are practicing Muslims who are themselves involved with the MSA.
The purpose of the luncheon meeting was to introduce plans for the Islamic Studies program to the approximately 50 attendees, as well as to create social bonds between those in attendance, to explain the motivations for the program, and to commence fundraising for the program. Imam Sallie explained that in fact Jewish supporters donate millions of dollars to support university Jewish Studies programs, and it is for this reason that they are sustainable by universities. The modest goal for the luncheon was to collect $250,000, which will fully support the Islamic Studies program for 5 years.
The Islamic Studies program has already been approved as a minor at the university; there is a faculty union, which has requirements that Imam Sallie and the other program sponsors (Mansoor Ranganathan, Mohamed Siddique, Prof. Altaf-ur-Rahman, and Prof. Sayed A. Nassar, all of whom have made significant professional and academic achievements) do significant paperwork, which they are in the process of doing. The sponsors hope that the program will begin offering classes this coming year. The funds raised at this fundraiser will support a Director of Islamic Studies position (which may be filled by Imam Sallie) at the university, and the professor who will teach courses on Islamic studies (which will be Imam Sallie). Expected courses include Islamic Spirituality and Islamic Medical Ethics. Similar Islamic Studies courses held at UM Ann Arbor are filled to capacity and forced to turn away students. Interest in similar courses is not only from Muslims, but also from non-Muslims. OU had courses on Islamic Studies in the past, but they were held sporadically.
It seems likely that with its new Islamic Studies program, taught by Imam Sallie who has excellent ecumenical connections with other religious community members, will likely attract many Muslim students who might otherwise pay more money to attend other local universities.
The program has the endorsement of the Dean of the College of Arts and Studies at OU, Prof. Ron Sudol, and he spoke at the fundraiser, emphasizing that the purpose of the program was not to proselytize and also that independent sponsorship of the program was essential for it to actually happen. He said that coincidentally, when the sponsors of the Islamic Project approached him, the university had already been considering the development of an Islamic Studies program.
To donate to the program, please mail payments to: Oakland University, FAJRI/ORSP Linda Tucker 152 DHE Rochester, MI 48309-4401. If you have questions about the program you can contact Imam Sallie directly at (248) 659-2109.
Imam Sallie will also be conducting classes for married couples who include one Muslim and one convert, for those who are interested please contact the Bloomfield Unity Center at (248) 857-9200.
Table Tennis Tournament Held at Muslim Community of the Western Suburbs (Canton Mosque)
August 12â€”Cantonâ€”Many Muslims love to play table tennis, a sport which can be played in the privacy of oneâ€™s own home, and this fact was in evidence this past Saturday at the mosque on Palmer Road in Canton. Minimal publicity attracted 26 high-quality players, including one non-Muslim, who competed for large prizes: $500 for first-prize, $250 for second prize, and $100 for third prize. There was only a $5 entrance feeâ€”all proceeds went directly to the MCWS mosque. The tournament was sponsored by a Dr. Shahid, who is a West Bloomfield Physical Therapist motivated by his desire to find more quality ping pong players.
The reason the MCWS supported the tournament was to bring more people to the mosque to interact in a friendly way. Of course, those who competed in the tournament broke for prayers and prayed together.
Originally, the tournament was to be conducted Saturday and Sunday, but at the last minute it was decided to finish the entire tournament on Saturdayâ€”which was more convenient for those traveling from far away.
The winner of the event was named Ahmad Awad, an Egyptian who handily beat very competitive players. The final was intended to be a best-of-5 match, and Mr. Awad won in only 3 games. Mr. Awad explained that he used to play for the Egyptian national table tennis team, so he was no stranger to competition.
MCWS has three table tennis tables, which are available to play on when the mosque is open. Some of those involved expressed an interest in having follow-up tournaments twice a year. Suhail Ahsan, who kept statistics for the event, explained that the organizers never expected so much participation from the community for the event. People from more than 60 miles away expressed interest in the tournamentâ€”so it might be a good idea to continue this fun event. â€¢