Sunday, March 23, 2008

Project Nur hopes to enlighten students about the Muslim culture

By: Kristine Duker

Posted: 3/14/08

Sacred Heart University has become "enlightened."


A new chapter of Project Nur has been opened on campus. The project, which is a student-lead initiative of the American Islamic Congress (AIC), is being co-sponsored by the Middle Eastern Studies Program.


The AIC is a Muslim civil rights organization that works to promote tolerance and exchange ideas between Muslims and non-Muslims. Nur, which is Arabic for "enlightenment," will help students from all backgrounds and cultures to understand the differences and bring knowledge to their communities.


"Project Nur aims to engage SHU students through various events on topics of human rights, social dinners, intimate dialogues and other interactive activities with the purpose of building bridges between students through cross-cultural communication," said Sana Saeed, director of Project Nur.


In an interview with Jason-Guberman-Pfeffer, a Civil Rights Fellow with Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance, another initiative of the AIC, and SHU Nur organizer, he said that in this "time when understanding of 'the other' has never been so vital, and yet is so seldom attained, Project Nur, in the spirit of the Enlightenment, seeks to foster the freedom of inquiry by bringing together students from various backgrounds to engage in critical dialogue."


"The hope of Project Nur is that students will come to recognize the ignorance embodied by stereotypes and other forms of anti-Muslim bigotry, and the necessity to openly discuss issues within the Muslim community that have previously been neglected for fear of discrimination," said Guberman-Pfeffer.


In Aug. 2007, a group of students in the Washington D.C. area began to work together to bring awareness about the genocide that is going on in Darfur. The students from there decided to further their work and realized that there needed to be a student group on campus that dealt with raise awareness of issues between Muslims and non-Muslims.


Following the students lead, George Mason University was the first university to open a Project Nur chapter, and other schools in Boston Mass. and Washington D.C. have also opened chapters.


"Project Nur aims to involve students by engaging them in issues that are important to them, and then hosting events and activities in order to raise awareness. Such activities include, hosting film festivals, concerts, petitioning for issues, panel discussions and intimate dialogues," said Saeed.


The students' efforts will be organized around the fundamental guiding principles of the AIC: nonviolence, women's equality, and free expression. The students will never loose sight of their belief that terrorism should be denounced unequivocally, Muslim women should be treated as individuals with equal rights, and free speech advocates need to be supported.


Recently, Project Nur sponsored a peace vigil for Sayed Kaambaskh, a 23-year-old student journalist. The peace vigil which took place in front of the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington D.C. was to protest the arrest and death sentence conviction of Kaambaskh for publishing an article on women's rights and sharing it with university classmates.


According to Guberman-Pfeffer, this project is a way to get students from all different backgrounds and cultures together. Students will learn more about cultures that they do not understand and get a new understanding of and appreciation for people from different backgrounds.


"Project Nur provides the entire Sacred Heart community with an opportunity to discuss important issues and support individual human and civil rights. Also, they'll have hummus," said Guberman-Pfeffer.

For more information visit:

Or contact:

Jason Guberman-Pfeffer

AIC-HAMSA Civil Rights Fellow

1 comment:

Jonathan Kroner said...

Learning about Muslim culture does more than prepare you for interactions with Muslims.
As a bonus, most people who benefit from this sort of training find themselves better able to understand and get along with their friends, families and coworkers.
Jonathan Kroner