Graduate Theological Union

A Dream in the Making

Munir Jiwa

A dream long in the making, the Center for Islamic Studies will open its doors for the first time this fall. The center will enhance the work of Muslim scholars and all students at the Graduate Theological Union.

The GTU has been no stranger to the study of Islam. Its Board of Trustees first suggested the idea of a center in the mid-1990s. At the request of GTU President James A. Donahue, Starr King School for the Ministry Professor Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé chaired the Islamic Studies Task Force formed in 2002. Since then, curricular offerings in Islamic Studies have grown by four hundred percent; student participation in these classes has expanded from ten students in 2001-2002 to 132 students last year. The GTU has sponsored numerous events on Islam in recent years, including “Religious Pluralism in the 21st Century: Muslim Identities in the Diaspora,” a conference which drew more than 200 attendees in 2002. Friends of the GTU have given half a million dollars to propel the center into its first three years of work.

Munir Jiwa, who recently accepted the position as assistant professor of Islamic Studies and director of the center, has a rich background in engaging difference. His research has addressed mass media portrayals of Islam and Muslims. Jiwa was previously at the University of Toronto, where he was a Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the Department and Center for the Study of Religion. He holds a master’s degree in religion from Harvard and a doctorate in anthropology from Columbia University.

“Few theological schools and seminaries offer Islamic Studies,” says Jiwa. “As the largest partnership of theological and graduate schools in the U.S., housing one of the most comprehensive theological libraries, with its distinguished faculty and students, and its outreach to various religious communities, I can think of no better environment than the GTU to advance the study of Islam and the role of Islam and Muslims in public life.”


“Few theological schools and seminaries offer Islamic Studies…I can think of no better environment than the GTU to advance the study of Islam and the role of Islam and Muslims in public life.”

—Munir Jiwa

In cooperation with several GTU member schools, the new center will offer introductory and advanced courses in Islamic history, theology, philosophy, culture, arts, and religious practice. Professor Farajajé and Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology Professor Marianne Farina, C.S.C., will serve as associated faculty at the center.

The center will expand its certificate program, and then create a master’s degree similar to those offered at the Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies and the Institute of Buddhist Studies. It will also strengthen GTU ties with various departments at the University of California, Berkeley. The center will host a biennial Islamic Studies Conference and offer lectures, symposia, and cultural events.

Local Muslim religious leaders will be able to use the center’s resources to shore up their backgrounds in pastoral counseling, pastoral psychology, homiletics, and interfaith scholarship. The center will also reach out to Jewish and Christian communities for interreligious understanding and collaboration. The new Center for Islamic Studies is a dream in the making for the GTU as well as its new director. “Working within an interreligious and intercultural setting where dialogue and diversity are the norm, is for me,” Jiwa says, “a privilege and necessity.”