April 9 Conference to Examine 'Nonviolence in the Islamic Traditions'

“Ways of Peace II: Nonviolence in the Islamic Traditions,” a daylong conference designed to address misperceptions and increase understanding about Islam and Muslims, will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, in the auditorium of O’Shaughnessy Educational Center on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.

The keynote address, “The Political Climate Today,” will be given by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress. Ellison was first elected in 2006 and represents Minnesota’s 5th District.

The conference – the second in a series that is exploring nonviolence in various faith and secular traditions – is open to the public. The fee is $15 ($10 for students) and lunch is available for an additional $10 in advance. Details about the conference and how to register can be found at the Friends for a Non-Violent World website or by calling (651) 917-0383.

“Many non-Muslims want to learn more about Islam, without the slant given by some politicians and commentators,” said Erika Thorne, managing director of Friends for a Non-Violent World, conference co-presenter.

“The conference will provide a rich opportunity to hear directly from Muslim scholars and activists about nonviolence in the Islamic traditions. And many Twin Cities Muslims may also be curious to explore nonviolence in Islamic sacred texts, history and current practice. ‘Ways of Peace II: Nonviolence in the Islamic Traditions’ is a chance to come together across cultures to absorb some of this rich body of thought and practice.”

St. Thomas’ Muslim Christian Dialogue Center and Justice and Peace Studies Program are conference co-presenters.

In addition to Ellison, speakers and panelists include:

  • Mel Duncan, co-founder, former executive director and current outreach director of the Nonviolent Peace Force; 
  • Afra Jalabi, weekly columnist for the Saudi daily newspaper, Al Yaum, and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Law and Religion at Hamline University;
  • Dr. Yahya  Michot, professor of Islamic studies and Christian-Muslim relations at Hartford Seminary’s Macdonald Center;
  • Dr. Adil Ozdemir, co-director of the Muslim Christian Dialogue Center and a professor in the Theology Department at St. Thomas;
  • Dr. Fatma Reda, a member of the Minnesota group Feminists in Faith, who has spoken extensively on the topics of social justice, women’s rights, and feminism and Islam;
  • Kathleen McKay, founding member and the executive director of the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project (IARP);
  • Abdisalam Adam, board chair of the Islamic Civic Society of America and board member of the Islamic League of Somali Scholars in America, the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition and Neighborhood House in St. Paul;
  • T.C. (Teri) McLuhan, international award-winning filmmaker.

The conference will conclude with the Minnesota premiere of “The Frontier Gandhi: Badshah Khan, A Torch for Peace,” a documentary about this little-known Islamic leader. Khan assembled 100,000 Muslims in pre-partition India to work in the nonviolent movement for independence from Britain. The film had its Middle Eastern premiere in fall 2009 at the third Middle East International Film Festival in Abu Dhabi, where it won the Black Pearl Award, the top prize for documentary films.

Other sponsors of “Ways of Peace II: Nonviolence in the Islamic Traditions” include The Saint Paul Foundation, The Fredrikson and Byron Foundation, Tim Wulling and Marilyn Benson, and the Al-Rawiya Foundation.

For a full description of the conference and speakers, the program schedule and a film synopsis, visit the Friends for a Non-Violent World website.