SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Unwinding after a full day was a unique experience for a Wittenberg professor attending conferences in Granada, Spain and Morocco last summer — from eating in caves or below bull-fighting stadiums to visiting Granada’s recently opened, first new legal mosque to watching flamenco dancing. After intensive study, time was still available to enjoy the local customs and scenery.
“The scenery was often breathtaking as well, and the towns that we visited had no end to wonder,” said Professor of Sociology Jerry Pankhurst. “Mediterranean blues, aquas and whites colored the buildings as we walked along narrow, winding alleyways among craft and spice shops. Carpet sellers and artisans beckoned us to come in and shop.”
Pankhurst is dedicated to global awareness, helping students understand the Islamic culture. He took it to another level this summer. With organizational support from IES (Institute for the International Education of Students) and financial support from Wittenberg’s Office of the Provost, Pankhurst learned about Islam in Spain and Morocco in a busy summer “vacation.”
He has incorporated his experiences at the conferences into his class on Islam and Islamic Studies. The trip gave Pankhurst a new appreciation of the cultural impact of the Andalusian Period, a key time in the history of the Muslim religion, exposed him to the Islamic artistic heritage and provided him with specific classroom techniques.
IES is taking the initiative to introduce American faculty to these issues through its study center in Granada. The last two days in Granada were devoted to the international seminar titled “Challenges of Security and Defense in the Mediterranean: Processes of Dialogue and Meeting Spaces” that was co-sponsored by the Euro-Arab Foundation for Advanced Studies and IES Granada. The Institute of Strategic Studies of the Spanish Ministry of Defense was an additional patron.
Pankhurst gave a presentation to the conference that focused on the sociological approach to dimensions of injustice or inequity and the contributing factors in the development of alienation among the Muslim population in Europe. The audience included members of security forces from Spain and Portugal, academics, journalists, human rights advocates and political figures from around the world.
Preceding the security conference, Pankhurst participated in every plenary session throughout the general Granada Seminar. Some of the topics included: History of the Arab-Muslims World in the Mediterranean Area, Arab-Muslim Cultural Heritage in the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa and The Development of a Civil Society in Arab-Muslim Countries in the Mediterranean. He also attended two pedagogical workshops: Learning about Islam in Europe: Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Students and Teaching about Islam in U.S. Universities: Challenges and Opportunities.
“I made a presentation on my experiences teaching about Islam at Wittenberg in the last workshop,” said Pankhurst. “I addressed several issues; first, why it is important to have a curriculum that acknowledges Islam in today’s world; second, what I see as some of the most important challenges that teachers face when teaching about Islam in a small liberal arts college like Wittenberg; and third, how courses like mine can change the challenges into opportunities for making a real contribution to human understanding.”
“I think that it is essential that Wittenberg students develop an ever greater understanding of the importance of global dynamics for their own futures,” Pankhurst continued. “We live in a situation that simply gets more and more global in its processes. Study abroad, learning about other cultures, studying world history and culture – all of these are essential parts of higher education that need to be pursued by our students.
“They will find that building a successful career in almost any field depends more and more upon understanding our own place in the global system.”
In Morocco, Pankhurst and other conference particpants became better acquainted with Muslim culture and society. Moroccan Muslims built the Andalusian Empire –Pankhurst visited a ruined mosque and Marabout (holy man) tomb, which is managed as a state-managed park with beautiful gardens.
With his study abroad experience fresh in his mind, Pankhurst has gained new perspective and a deeper knowledge base, which he continues to incorporate into courses such as Islam and Islamic Studies.
“I am grateful that Wittenberg has now gained additional faculty with interests in Islam and they are able to add breadth to our offerings on the topic,” said Pankhurst. “I think that it is essential that Wittenberg students develop an ever greater understanding of the importance of global dynamics for their own futures.
“We live in a situation that simply gets more and more global in its processes. Study abroad, learning about other cultures, studying world history and culture – all of these are essential parts of higher education that need to be pursued by our students. They will find that building a successful career in almost any field depends more and more upon understanding our own place in the global system.”
By: Dani Nicholson '07
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