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US college launches centre to highlight Muslim American experience

Arizona State University's Center of Muslim Experience in the US will work to build 'belonging for Muslim students'
Arizona State University is home to more than 8,000 Muslim students, faculty, and staff.
Arizona State University is home to more than 8,000 Muslim students, faculty and staff (AFP/File photo)

A college in the US state of Arizona has launched a new centre that focuses on the experience and contributions of Muslims in the country.

The Center of Muslim Experience in the United States by Arizona State University "will facilitate belonging for Muslim students" and "work to build mutually beneficial partnerships between Muslim communities across the country and university", the university said in a press release on Monday.

"The Muslim contribution to world history and culture would be difficult to overstate - and the Muslim experience in the United States has helped to shape the nation," Jeffrey Cohen, ASU's dean of humanities, said in a statement.

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The university, which boasts a total enrollment of more than 70,000, is also home to more than 8,000 Muslim students, faculty and staff.

The centre will host a variety of events including poetry readings and musical performances and will invite inspirational speakers and writers to ASU for public events.

“By creating a space for students to share their own stories, both Muslim and non-Muslim students will benefit from knowing one another and learning to appreciate that socio-cultural differences can benefit improved community-building locally,” said Chad Haines, co-director of the new centre.

It will also host a years-long, student-run academic study to document the Muslim experience specific to the city of Phoenix, the capital of Arizona.

The exact population of Arizona's Muslim community is unclear, and various reports from local news outlets have pinned the number at anywhere from 50,000 to 120,000.

One of the main goals of the new initiative is also to highlight the scholarship of Muslim women and their contributions to society.

"At the heart of the many misconceptions of Islam are Muslim women," said Yasmin Saikia, the other co-director of the new centre.

"This needs addressing and discussing so we can transform the skewed image and show the reality of how Muslim women in America are contributing to multiple facets of American community life and well-being.”

The ASU's new centre would build on a few different educational initiatives across the country that are aimed at sharing the story of America's Muslim populations.

One of the most prominent such centres is the Islamic Heritage Museum in Washington DC, which was established in 1996 and explores Islamic history dating all the way back to the 16th century.

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