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New York Imam to Speak At Carolina in March

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who has led an effort to build a controversial interfaith cultural center in lower Manhattan, will deliver the 2011 Weil Lecture on American Citizenship at UNC in mid-March.

The biennial lecture, supported by private funds, is the featured event in a series of conversations on American citizenship in the coming weeks. Last fall, a faculty committee representing a range of disciplines invited Abdul Rauf to deliver the lecture. The committee has organized two panels that will lead up to the talk.

Abdul Rauf, a naturalized U.S. citizen and Kuwaiti-born imam, founded the Cordoba Movement, which seeks to improve understanding among people of all cultures and faiths.

The free public talk, hosted by UNC’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities, will be at 7:30 p.m. March 16 in Hill Hall. Doors will open at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but tickets are required.

Abdul Rauf has promoted the Cordoba House, a center to encourage multifaith understanding at Park 51, the proposed cultural center located near the site of the World Trade Center tragedy. He plans to lead interfaith activities at the center. He is neither speaking for Park 51 nor raising funds for the center in his current appearances across the country. Besides UNC, he will speak at other universities, including Harvard, Yale and Columbia. In mid-January, it was reported that he and his wife, who had become the public faces of the project, were stepping down as leaders of the effort, but Abdul Rauf says he plans to remain involved with Cordoba House and is remaining on the center’s board of directors.

Abdul Rauf leads Masjid al-Farrah, a mosque at a different site in Manhattan. He also founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement, the first Muslim organization committed to bringing American Muslims and non-Muslims together through programs in academia, policy, current affairs and culture.

“The Weil Lecture brings people to campus to stimulate discussion about American citizenship,” said Bill Balthrop, interim institute director and professor of communication studies. “There is no doubt that Abdul Rauf will spark thoughtful conversations.”

In addition to the Weil Lecture, the institute, part of UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, will host the two free public panels on citizenship. A Feb. 22 panel will address civil discourse; another, on March 1, will discuss religious tolerance. Both will be from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the University Room of Hyde Hall, which houses the institute.

In 2003, Abdul Rauf led cultural awareness training for FBI employees in the bureau’s New York field office. In 2007 and twice in 2010, he traveled to the Middle East to talk about religious tolerance and Islam in America as part of a speaker program organized by the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs.

His publications include the books Islam: A Search for Meaning, Islam: A Sacred Law (What Every Muslim Should Know About the Shariah) and What’s Right With Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West, which the Christian Science Monitor rated among its five best books of 2004. It was re-released in 2005 as What’s Right With Islam Is What’s Right With America.

The March 16 lecture will be broadcast live to an overflow location, the Hanes Art Center auditorium, where seats will be available to UNC students, faculty and staff as well as the public on a first-come, first-served basis. No tickets will be required.

The Weil Lecture, founded in 1915 by brothers Henry and Solomon Weil of Goldsboro, has been given by speakers including Presidents Taft and Carter; U.S. Senators J. William Fulbright, Nancy Kassebaum and John Kerry; first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and the late Daniel Schorr, a CBS and National Public Radio correspondent.

Students, faculty and staff with UNC One Cards may pick up tickets beginning Feb. 28 at the Memorial Hall Box Office, 140 E. Cameron Ave. – one ticket per One Card; two One Cards per person. Starting March 3, remaining tickets will be available to the public to pick up in person at the box office – limit two tickets per person.

The box office is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The University recommends calling the box office at (919) 843-3333 first to confirm that tickets are available.


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