At UM, experts to highlight Islamic awareness

Posted April 07, 2010, at 9:36 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:40 a.m.

ORONO, Maine — An Islamic scholar who has offered $1 million to anyone who finds a reference in the Quran to “holy war” will be at the University of Maine this week.

Jamal Badawi, professor emeritus of management and religious studies at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been making the same offer since 2001, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. So far, Badawi never has had to pay up.

There is one catch to the offer — the reference must be in the original Arabic, not an English translation of the holy Islamic text, the Star reported in March 2008 when the professor lectured in the Twin Cities.

Badawi of Halifax and Mohamed Diini of Columbus, Ohio, will speak today and Friday at the university for the culmination of Islamic Awareness Week. The Muslim Student Association is sponsoring their visit to the Orono campus.

The Egyptian-born retired professor will speak at 7:30 tonight at Wells Conference Center on “Islam & Christianity: Similarities, Differences and Areas of Mutual Cooperation.” He also will speak at 7:30 p.m. Friday in 137 Bennett Hall on “What Does Jihad Mean?”

Diini, who was born in Somalia and became a U.S. citizen, will speak at 6 p.m. Friday on “The Limits of a Mother’s Love.”

Ismail Warsame of the Islamic Student Association said Wednesday the organization’s goals include raising awareness on campus and in the broader community about the tenets of the Islamic faith.

“We also want to find areas of mutual cooperation and build bridges within the university and the community,” he said.

Warsame, 25, of Orono was born in Somalia. He moved to Portland as a teenager, and graduated from Portland High School. Warsame is working on his master’s degree in higher education.

He said members of the Muslim Student Association have been attending a December conference in Canada for organizations like theirs for several years. The Maine group invited Badawi and Diini to speak in Orono after hearing them at meetings at the University of Toronto, Warsame said.

Badawi is well-known for his work on gender equality in Islam. He told the Calgary, Alberta, Herald in May 2009 that those who question gender equity positions in the Muslim faith should go back to the faith’s roots and its holy book, the Quran, before criticizing the religion.

Diini’s rise as a motivational speaker began in November 2008 when he helped organize a youth conference in Columbus, Ohio, where about 45,000 Somalis live, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Since then, Diini has traveled the world urging young Muslims to become leaders in their communities.

His Web site, www.mohameddiini.com, features videos of Diini speaking at events in the United States, Canada and Sweden. In one video, he speaks directly to viewers.

“Find something in life you can really care about that you can put your heart into,” Diini tells visitors.

For information about the events, call the Muslim Student Association of the University of Maine at 581-2150 or e-mail Ismail Warsame at iwarsame8@gmail.com.

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