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INDIANAPOLIS -- Original Muslim-American poetry displayed at Indianapolis' Monument Circle. Muslim and Christian youth documenting each other's faith communities through a joint photography exhibit. A Holocaust museum conducting Islamophobia workshops for students. An original children's play based on Muslim folklore. Muslim youth learning how to confront anti-Muslim bias.

Those are five projects that could help prevent Islamophobia in greater Indianapolis, and they will all come to life thanks to a competition sponsored by Edward Curtis, Millennium Chair of the Liberal Arts at the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

Community activists, artists, teachers and anyone else hoping to combat anti-Muslim prejudice were encouraged to submit applications during the summer, with the best ideas receiving a $1,000 prize from the Millennium Chair's research budget. IUPUI students and employees were not eligible.

"I love these creative projects," Curtis said. "We got very optimistic, forward-focused projects on Indianapolis youth. This focus indicates just how hopeful community leaders are that the next generation can help reduce anti-Muslim discrimination and bias."

Curtis selected the projects after receiving input from fellow School of Liberal Arts faculty Modupe Labode, associate professor of history and museum studies, and Amira Mashhour, lecturer and director of the Arabic program.

Winners are expected to implement their projects by May 2018.

The five winners are: 

  • American Friends Service Committee, "Islamophobia Training for Muslims":Muslim community members Umaymah Mohammad, Ahmed Abbas and Leena Basha, supported by AFSC staff members Erin Polley and Mary Zerkel, will conduct a two-part training for local Muslim youth who want to join in the effort to prevent Islamophobia. The first part of the training will explore the cultural and systemic roots of anti-Muslim bias, including its connection to anti-black racism and the war on terrorism. The second part will help Muslim youth become more-effective community organizers and activists. The project's goal is to equip the victims of Islamophobia with the tools that they need to challenge and transform it.
  • Brick Street Poetry, "Muslim American Poetry in Public": Brick Street Poetry, a group of Hoosier poets that stages public readings of poetry and publishes a literary magazine, will support the writing of poetry among local Muslim writers. These poems will be displayed in prominent public places around Central Indiana, including Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. All poets will be asked to use the words of the 14th-century Persian poet Hafiz as a jumping-off point for their poems. "A poet," Hafiz wrote, "is someone / Who can pour light into a cup / Then raise it to nourish / Your beautiful, parched holy mouth."
  • Candles Holocaust Museum, "Islamophobia Prevention Workshop": The Youth Board of the Candles Holocaust Museum and Education Center will conduct student-led Islamophobia awareness and prevention workshops for high school and college students in both Indianapolis and Terre Haute. Participants will view the documentary "The Education of Mohammad Hussein," brainstorm ideas about how to overcome anti-Muslim discrimination, and design a program that can be implemented in their own communities or schools.
  • Downey Avenue Christian Church, "Not So Different": Partnering with the Islamic Society of North America in Plainfield, Downey Avenue Christian Church will work with local Muslim and Christian youth to document one another's faith communities in photographs. The youth will work together to depict one another's places of worship, scriptures, prayer and other sacred traditions. As they do, they will also get to know one another. The project will culminate in a public showing of the photographs in each religious community.
  • Kristopher Steege, "Children's Play of Islamic Folklore": Working with local actor and graphic designer Hadeiyah Ameen, Indianapolis theater professor Kristopher Steege will develop and stage an original children's play that incorporates Islamic folklore and parables. The play will first be workshopped with one local Catholic school and one local Islamic school. Students will have the opportunity to perform the play and suggest possible costumes and scenes for it. Then, Steege and Ameen, working with a third actor, will stage the play twice for public audiences.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Andrea Jain, an associate professor of religious studies in the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, has been appointed editor of the prestigious Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

With around 9,000 members, the American Academy of Religion is the largest organization of religious studies scholars in the world, and its quarterly journal is the most prestigious in the field.

Jain is a leading scholar of South Asian religions and yoga studies. Her 2014 book, "Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture," was published by Oxford University Press and is a top seller in the field of comparative religions. She has co-chaired the Yoga in Theory and Practice unit of the American Academy of Religion, and her work is featured regularly in newspapers, magazines and the scholarly blog Religion Dispatches.

"Since arriving at IUPUI, professor Jain has exemplified the religious studies department's commitments to research excellence and public engagement," said David Craig, chair of the IUPUI religious studies department. "She is an ideal choice to lead the Journal of the American Academy of Religion in new scholarly directions and to ensure its broader public relevance for understanding the importance of diverse religions to social, political and economic events and the lives of individuals and communities around the globe."

Jain joined the faculty in the School of Liberal Arts in 2010 after receiving her Ph.D. from Rice University. Her areas of interest include contemporary spirituality and the history of modern yoga; the yoga industry's relationship to capitalism and consumer culture; the intersections of gender, sexuality and yoga; religion and politics in contemporary society; and methods and theories in the study of religion.

"I am honored to serve as editor of such an important journal and look forward to helping share the work of colleagues around the world while fostering important conversations," Jain said. "I am also grateful to work with so many talented scholars at IUPUI, all of whom have made our department a valuable asset to the campus and to the field of religious studies."

The IUPUI religious studies department will serve as the journal's editorial office, which is also noteworthy for IUPUI, the School of Liberal Arts and the department.

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at IUPUI has allowed release time for Jain's work as editor, while the Office of the Vice President for Research at Indiana University is contributing funding for two IU Bloomington graduate students to serve as editorial assistants.

"These collaborative investments are foundational to the first-rate humanities scholarship recognized by professor Jain's selection as editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion," said Thomas J. Davis, dean of the School of Liberal Arts. "The journal will continue to be a key publication in religious studies, and we're delighted that IUPUI will have such a significant role."

A celebration of Jain's appointment, in conjunction with Indiana Humanities, will take place from 4 to 5 p.m. Oct. 10 in Room 409 of the IUPUI Campus Center. IUPUI Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer Kathy Johnson will speak along with Davis, while Jain will speak about her vision for the journal and for humanities research at IUPUI.

A National Endowment for the Humanities grant will ensure that a three-week seminar titled “Muslim American History and Life” will continue for a third year during the summer of 2018.

Professor Edward Curtis IV, professor of religious studies in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, directs the seminar.

Open to K-12 educators across the nation, the seminar emphasizes the contributions of Muslims to U.S. history and culture while also giving teachers an opportunity to develop lesson plans for their classrooms.

“The course’s goal is to equip teachers with the knowledge they need to integrate Muslim American history into their classrooms,” Curtis said. Participants learn how Muslims have contributed to the economic, political, and cultural life of the United States since the 1800s. They also learn about the diversity of religious identity and practice, the importance of race and ethnicity, and the role of gender in Muslim American communities.

The class meets Monday through Friday for three hours. Then attendees have time to complete class readings and work on individual teaching projects. Each scholar receives a $2,700 stipend to help with travel, room and board during the course.

Teaching projects include lesson plans that the teachers will put to immediate use. For example, one English teacher from North Carolina integrated Muslim American writing into units on transcendentalism and civil rights. A government teacher used the case of Muhammad Ali. v. The United States (1971) to design a unit about the First Amendment and the founders’ different interpretations of religious liberty. A history teacher used the voices of Muslim American teenagers to teach her world civilizations students about fasting during Ramadan.

Curtis, a Millennium Chair of the Liberal Arts, recently pledged ten $1,000 grants for the best ideas to combat Islamophobia in Indianapolis. His work has long centered on Islam and Muslim history and culture. His recent work includes editing the forthcoming volume, “The Practice of Islam in America,” and “Muslim Americans in the Military: Centuries of Service.” 

“A lot of my work is devoted to increasing knowledge and ultimately understanding of Muslim history and life in the United States,” Curtis said. “I can’t think of a better way to do that than to train instructors how to teach their students about Muslims and Islam.”

The application deadline for the 2018 session is March 1, 2018.

The Millennium Chair of the Liberal Arts at IUPUI announces ten awards of $1,000 each to prevent Islamophobia, or anti-Muslim prejudice, discrimination, and violence, in Greater Indianapolis.

Highly original projects are sought from local writers, community activists, artists, religious congregations, public school teachers, dancers, community volunteers, philosophers, amateur historians, linguists, musicians, healers, social workers, poets, non-profit groups, and others.

Projects can include performance, social media, debate, dialogue, the production of objects, sound, consciousness-raising, teaching, websites, and so on. They might focus on the political, social, cultural, or religious roots of Islamophobia, including anti-Muslim think tanks, federal surveillance and counter-intelligence, media bias, U.S. foreign policy, and cultural and religious stereotypes.

Collaborations between Muslims and non-Muslims are especially welcome. All individuals who are not currently employed by or enrolled at IUPUI are eligible to apply. Applicants must submit three- to four-page, double-spaced, carefully crafted proposals that outline (1) what the project is, (2) who will be involved, (3) who the audiences will be, (4) how the project will be accomplished, (5) where it will take place, (6) how it will be marketed, and (7) why it is likely to reduce anti-Muslim prejudice and discrimination. A timeline should be included.

Proposals are due by Sept. 1, 2017, with notification of awards expected by Sept. 15, 2017. All projects must be implemented sometime between October 1, 2017, and May 1, 2018. Please send inquiries and/or final proposals to Prof. Edward Curtis, Proposals must be sent as a Microsoft Word file or PDF attachment to an email. The email must include the applicant's address and phone number.

Half of the award will be payable immediately, with the other half contingent upon completion of the project.

INDIANAPOLIS -- American Christians view the Bible as their spiritual guide. But as an everyday, usable volume, is it something a bit different?

Three Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Liberal Arts religious studies professors set out to answer that question through nationwide surveys and explored the results with the help of other preeminent religion and history scholars. The culmination of that work is a new book, "The Bible in American Life," published by Oxford University Press.

Philip Goff, Arthur E. Farnsley II and Peter J. Thuesen served as co-editors and the driving forces behind the book, which explores how the Bible is used by Americans in their personal lives.

"People are always interested in the Bible, but usually it's more in public life -- how it might show up in film or in literature, certainly in politics," said Goff, executive director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at IUPUI. "We wanted to see how it worked out in people's personal lives. That really had never been done."

With a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., the professors were able to add questions to the General Social Survey and the National Congregations Study in 2012. Participants were asked to name which translation of the Bible they most often read, if they had read the Bible outside of worship services within the last year, the extent and purpose of their usage, if they read it on electronic devices, and more. The answers, combined with participants' demographic information, provided a baseline for study.

"This isn't exactly a surprise in the survey, but one response was 50 percent -- exactly half of the people had read the Bible outside of a worship service in the past year," said Farnsley, director of the Indiana University Center for Civic Literacy at IUPUI and associate director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture. "There have been people who said to us, 'Wow, I would have thought it would be a lot more,' and people who said 'I thought it would be a lot less.' It turns out, it depends on where you're coming from -- what 50 percent looks like."

Among the findings were that African-Americans read the Bible at a higher rate than other races; women read it more often than men; older citizens read it more than younger; and the American South had higher readership than the Midwest, West and Northeast. Also, the 400-year-old King James Bible is the most-read version.

"The extent to which people are still attached to a 17th-century translation of the Bible indicates that people are not necessarily looking for clear meaning or teaching; what's also important is the actual sound of Scripture," Thuesen said.

Amanda Friesen, an assistant professor of political science and faculty research fellow in the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, wrote a chapter exploring how American men and women read the Bible. Conclusions included that women, in reading the Bible more than men, do so with motives more toward personal devotion than political reasons.

Paul Gutjahr, the Ruth Halls Professor of English at Indiana University Bloomington, contributed a chapter on the use of production and reception studies to determine the most popular English-language translation of the Bible in contemporary America, reiterating that the King James Version is the most popular despite many newer translations.

Seminars to address Islam, environment, economic justice and more

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics and Society at Indiana University has launched its inaugural round of Religion and Ethics Seminars, a yearlong series of faculty-led seminars taking place on a number of IU campuses.

The Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics and Society, founded in 2013, is an interdisciplinary group of scholars, academic programs and research centers from all eight Indiana University campuses.

The consortium's goal is to connect faculty, incubate research and creative activity, and promote awareness of IU scholarship in areas relating to religion, ethics and values.

The new seminar series is an important new step in realizing the consortium's goal, said Brian Steensland, director of the consortium and professor of sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

"Within the Indiana University faculty, there is tremendous expertise on topics relating to religion, ethics and values," Steensland. said "We have world-renowned scholars, but they are spread across fields and campuses. The Religion and Ethics Seminars program is a big step bringing these minds together.

"We received interest from faculty on numerous campuses and representing a variety of disciplines and professional areas, including medicine, law and business in addition to fields across the humanities and sciences," Steensland added.

The Religion and Ethics Seminar topics and their leaders are:

  • Religion, Spirituality, Healthcare and Ethics: Led by Amber Comer, Department of Health Sciences at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at IUPUI; and Alexia Torke, Department of Medicine at the IU School of Medicine. The first event in this seminar will be a talk by Wendy Cadge, Brandeis University, at noon March 9, titled "Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine."
  • Islam in the American Public Sphere: Led by Asma Afsaruddin, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the School of Global and International Studies at IU Bloomington; and Abdulkader Sinno, Department of Political Science and Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the School of Global and International Studies at IU Bloomington.
  • Environmental Justice: Led by Gabriel Filippelli, Department of Earth Sciences at the School of Science at IUPUI; and Carlton M. Waterhouse, IU McKinney School of Law at IUPUI.
  • The Ethics, Values and Practices of Public Art in Urban Contexts: Led by Jason M. Kelly, Department of History at the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI; and Pamela Napier, visual communication design program at Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI.
  • Economic Justice and Inclusive Markets -- The Ethics of Doing Business With the Poor: Led by Kelly R. Eskew, Kelley School of Business at IU Bloomington; and Philip T. Powell, Kelley School of Business Indianapolis.
  • Moral Thinking in Artworks of Economic Success and Economic Failure: Led by Stephen Buttes, Department of International Language and Culture Studies at the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, and Andrew Kopec, Department of English and Linguistics at the College of Arts and Sciences at IPFW.

Each pair of faculty members will lead a seminar that meets six times over two consecutive semesters. Seminar meetings may include faculty workshops, public speakers, community events and faculty-student activities. Each seminar will set its own schedule. Details will be available through the consortium's website.

"The seminars can have different purposes," Steensland said. "Some are oriented toward public engagement. Others are oriented toward scholarly development and academic research. Some involve students, and others involve community partners. The mix of goals and activities matches the diverse ways in which religion and ethics impact society."

The consortium solicits proposals for seminars twice a year. Proposals for the next round of seminars, to begin in Fall 2017, are being accepted between March 1 and April 1.

INDIANAPOLIS -- The author of a new book on Muslim Americans in the military hopes it leads U.S. readers to ask this question: "Who are we as a people, and who do we want to become?"

In "Muslim Americans in the Military: Centuries of Service," Edward E. Curtis IV, professor of religious studies and Millennium Chair of the Liberal Arts in the School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, profiles Muslim soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen who have served in the country's armed services since the Revolutionary War.

Among the stories told in the book are those of Bilali Mahomet of Sapelo Island, Georgia, who stood ready to repel the British in the War of 1812, and of John Omar of Quincy, Massachusetts, who was awarded a Purple Heart after being injured in a bombing campaign thousands of feet above German territory in World War II.

The first chapter of the book focuses on two fallen soldiers named Kareem Khan and Humayun Khan, why their images became part of the presidential elections of 2016 and 2008, and how the Muslim solider sits at the symbolic center of what it means to be an American today.

Kareem Khan, a Muslim soldier who was killed with three other soldiers in Iraq in 2007 after a bomb detonated while they were checking abandoned houses for explosives, entered the 2008 presidential election when Republican Colin Powell concluded his endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama by referring to him.

Curtis explains that moment, saying Powell had been deeply troubled by anti-Arab, anti-Muslim rhetoric by Republicans as well as personal attacks by Republicans on Obama, intimating that he was Muslim.

"Of course Obama is not a Muslim," Curtis said. "But Powell said the real question to ask about Obama was not whether he is a Muslim, but so what if he is? Do we want a boy like Kareem Khan who is willing to sacrifice his blood for his nation to grow up thinking he can't be president?"

Powell answered that question, saying, "No, that's not what America is."

Humayun Kahn was killed in 2004 in a suicide attack near Baqubah, Iraq, and was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He became part of the 2016 election when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump derided his parents for their appearance at the Democratic National Convention.

In the book, Curtis examines why some African-American Muslims such as Muhammad Ali refused military service in the Vietnam War and how many of these same Muslims became the military's strongest supporters after 1975. He also takes a close look at the controversial cases of James Yee, falsely accused of treason, and Nidal Hasan, who murdered 12 soldiers and one civilian.

"America is split about Muslims in general, and that split plays out in how Americans view Muslims in the military, with half the country thinking Muslim soldiers are a fifth column of enemies inside our walls," Curtis said.

Much of the book is composed of vignettes and stories that give readers real pictures of Muslims who have served their country over the last 200 years, Curtis said.

Curtis hopes readers will realize that Muslims are human beings who are complicated: "They are not all good and not all bad; they're normal human beings.

"Once they've read this book, I'd like for them to search their hearts and ask whether the fact that Muslims have always served the country in uniform gives them a different image of Muslims in America," he said.

Professors in the IU School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis will discuss their sabbatical projects throughout the fall semester. Topics include migrant labor, the Gustav Adolf Association, religion and violent weather, philosophical reflection, and liberal arts values in internships.

The series is free and open to the public. The lectures will take place from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the IUPUI Campus Center (CE), 420 University Blvd.

Friday, Oct. 7 (CE 309): Michael Snodgrass, international studies, “Back Home in Jalisco: Indiana Steel and Mexico’s Emigrant Heartland.” One hundred years ago, thousands of labor migrants departed the highlands of Jalisco for hard work in the steel mills of Indiana. Most returned home. Learn how this rarely explored history of return migration forged a migratory culture that persists to this day.

Wednesday, Oct. 19 (CE 309): Kevin Cramer, history, “Collecting and Giving: The Gustav Adolf Association Builds Its Philanthropic Network.” With over a thousand local branches, the Gustav Adolf Association (1843-1885) served the German diaspora in Europe and the Americas. This Protestant philanthropic network apportioned strategic decisions on collections and aid between a national executive and regional and local leadership.

Wednesday, Oct. 26 (CE 405): Peter Thuesen, religious studies, “Tornado God: American Religion and Violent Weather.” Tornadoes, nature’s most violent windstorm, strike the United States more than any other nation and pose a perennial challenge for forecasters. Tornadoes also confront Americans with profound religious mysteries. How have religious views of violent weather changed over time?

Wednesday, Nov. 2 (CE 309): Martin Coleman, philosophy, “Experience, Meaning, and the Common Practice of Philosophical Reflection.” Philosophy is the activity of reading experience and extracting meanings to enrich experience and live humanely. Why does this matter, how is philosophical reflection continuous with sense-making through storytelling?

Wednesday, Nov. 30 (CE 309): Hannah Haas, English, “Liberal Arts Values and the Internship in English.” When interns spend the bulk of their time on the job learning from supervisors, how can an online English internship course curriculum be used to ensure that interns' experiences go beyond professional training and uphold the values of a liberal arts education?

Visitor parking is available for a fee in the Vermont Street Garage.

For more information or to RSVP, email