January 21, 2019

Cyrus Zargar, an Islamic Studies professor at UCF, was invested into the Al-Ghazali Endowed Distinguished Professorship on Wednesday, January 16 the FAIRWINDS Alumni Center. The endowed faculty position, which was created through donations from members of the Islamic Center of Orlando, recognizes Zargar’s accomplishments and will allow him to advance his work.

For Zargar, this means furthering his long-term goal of building connections among students and faculty to talk about religion, theology and social issues.

“I hope to make UCF a center of discussions—a center of learning where scholars and artists from around the US and the world are heard by a curious and participating campus community,” said Zargar.

Zargar has already made moves in advancing UCF’s Islamic Studies program. He hosted two public events in the fall semester and has initiated steps for creating a certificate in Interfaith Studies. His long-term goal is to build connections among students and faculty to talk about religion, theology and social issues.

Zargar and Rasheed both pointed to reasons UCF is the optimal place for a program in Islamic Studies. “UCF is not an ivory tower sort of university,” said Zargar. “In each of the fields it offers for study, UCF has deep connections to the Orlando community. Interdisciplinarity is not scoffed at as being beneath the specialist—rather, it’s encouraged. Change is not seen as de-evolution—rather, it’s embraced.”

The investiture was attended by members of the UCF community and of the Islamic Center of Orlando, including Imam Tariq Rasheed, a UCF alumnus who led the charge in creating this position to support Islamic Studies at UCF. UCF Provost Elizabeth Dooley and College of Arts and Humanities Dean Jeff Moore performed the ceremonial duties.

“Cultural study is the best way I can think of to teach empathy, self-awareness and global understanding,” says Jeff Moore, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities. “I look forward to the growth of the Islamic Studies program at UCF and to watching interfaith understanding and connectedness blossom under Dr. Zargar’s guidance.”

The Al-Ghazali Endowed Professorship was started in 2005 and the Islamic Studies program in 2011 with the overall goal of promoting the understanding and appreciation of Islam and Muslim communities.

“Perhaps what makes this position so distinctive is that it was not founded by one wealthy benefactor, not a government, nor a corporation, but rather by the Islamic Center of Orlando,” said Zargar. “Citizens of Orlando united by their common interest in promoting learning, dialogue, the study of religion, and the de-stigmatization of Islam and Muslims contributed to making their environment richer by giving of themselves.”

Learn more about the Islamic Studies program and Al-Ghazali professor Cyrus Ali Zargar at philosophy.cah.ucf.edu/islamic-studies.