It is hoped that a film and forum series devoted to some knotty issues will capture the interest of Gasparilla Island over the next week. Four experts on Islam and the Arab Spring have been invited to speak by the Boca Grande Community Center and the Johann Fust Library: two university professors, a writer whose prize-winning book has been turned into an acclaimed film, and a beloved Deerfield Academy headmaster who created a modern, co-educational school in the traditional society of Jordan.
On Wednesday morning, March 14 John Kiser will discuss his latest book, “Commander of the Faithful,” the biography of the amir who united western Algeria against the French colonial invasion in the 1830s. His adherence to the laws of Islam and his honorable treatment of French soldiers earned him respect around the world. Later in the day, Prof. Meera Viswananthan and her husband, Dr. Eric Widmer, will talk about the extraordinary request they received from King Abdullah of Jordan – to open a co-educational school in his country. Widmer, who was headmaster of Deerfield Academy when Abdullah attended the private school, became the first headmaster of King’s Academy. Viswananthan was the first Dean of Faculty.
On the morning of the Friday, March 16, Professor John O. Voll will speak on the topic of “The Many Voices of 21st Century Islam.” Voll is professor of Islamic History at Georgetown University and the associate director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the school. In addition to the speakers, there will be three films shown through the week, each highlighting the variety of views within the Islamic world.
First on the schedule is “Wham! Bam! Islam!”a movie about Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, a Kuwaiti psychologist, and his efforts to create a comic series based on the tenets of Islam and Islamic culture. The documentary follows Dr. Mutawa as he struggles with the suspicion of religious leaders across the Islamic world and in Saudi Arabia in particular, where his comic was banned. Kiser’s book, “The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria,” is the basis of the movie “Of Gods and Men,” which is the story of seven Trappist monks who were taken hostage and killed in Algeria in 1996 during that country’s bloody civil war.
Finally, “Miral,” the tale of a young Palestinian woman set during the decades leading up to the First Intifada. Miral, the protagonist, has been raised in the protected environment of Hind Husseini’s orphanage. At the age of 15, she is assigned to teach in a refugee camp where she first sees the day-to-day life of most Palestinians.
The week will wrap up on Friday, March 16 at 3 p.m. in the Boca Grande Community Center Auditorium, with a two-hour panel discussion by the week’s speakers on the internal debates that enliven global Islam today and make it abundantly clear that Islam is not "monolithic." Professor Viswananthan will speak on gender and class issues, John Kiser will address his recent return from Algeria and what is happening in North Africa, and Dr. Widmet will talk about modernizing educational efforts.
Jane Geniesse, a former New York Times reporter and author of two biographies set in the Middle East, will moderate the panel.
For the times, dates, and locations of each of the events, please contact Friends of Boca Grande at 964-0827 or visit the online Community Calendar at bocagrandehappenings.org. Seating is limited.
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