African Scholars Visit Duke for Conference on Islamic Higher Education

President Richard Brodhead talks with Duke Professor Mbaye Lo and Ahmad K. Sengendo, rector of the Islamic University in Uganda. Photo by Geoffrey Mock
President Richard Brodhead talks with Duke Professor Mbaye Lo and Ahmad K. Sengendo, rector of the Islamic University in Uganda. Photo by Geoffrey Mock

President Richard Brodhead met with more than a dozen scholars and university administrators from sub-Saharan Africa and the United States Oct. 17, and thanked the Duke Islamic Studies Center and others at Duke who made their visit to campus possible.

"Universities are the places that pull the whole world together," said Brodhead, who noted he has visited Duke projects across the globe, including in Tanzania and Uganda. "Our strength in Islamic studies has enabled us to pull all of you together."

The diverse group -- which includes scholars and administrators from Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Union of the Comoros -- was on campus for a two-day workshop that began Friday on "Islamic Institutions of Higher Learning in Africa: Their History, Mission and Role in Regional Development."

Brodhead acknowledged the crucial role of Islamic centers of study in the establishment of the oldest Western educational institutions.

"No doubt you know that the learned traditions of the West were only made possible by the transmission of classical materials through Islamic centers of study. The people around this table come out of a centuries old tradition of serving the world in expected and unexpected ways through your centers of learning," Brodhead said. "So now when I see you, in Africa, studying culture, history, medicine, all the things I heard about at this table, I think to myself, well, this is the newest chapter of a long story of the contribution that Islamic education has made all around the world."

The group also had a chance to view the Doris Duke's Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape and Islamic Art exhibit at the Nasher Museum of Art, tour Duke Chapel, and pray in the campus' Muslim prayer room with Duke MSA students, before attending a packed public talk by University of Michigan assistant professor of history Rudolph (Butch) Ware on the themes of his forthcoming book: "The Walking Qur'an: Islamic Education, Embodied Knowledge and History in West Africa."

The faculty co-organizers of the workshop and visit are Mbaye Lo (assistant professor of the practice, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies at Duke) and Bruce Hall (assistant professor of history, African & African American Studies at Duke). 

Sponsors include the Duke Islamic Studies Center; the center's ISLAMiCommentary forum (funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York); the International Institute of Islamic Thought (headquartered in Virginia), Duke's Africa InitiativeAsian & Middle Eastern Studies (Duke) and several other Duke departments, schools and institutes.

Below, President Brodhead with visiting scholars.

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