WINCHESTER — About 100 people are attending a three-day event at Shenandoah University to foster a global dialogue on civil discourse, diversity, race and ethnicity in higher education.
The Barzinji Fall Colloquium, hosted by SU and Bridgewater College, invited higher education representatives from two Muslim-majority countries — the International Islamic University in Malaysia and the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia.
The colloquium, which began Monday and ends today, is named for Jamal Barzinji, a Muslim scholar with a passion for higher education. He died in 2015 at age 75. In 1981, Barzinji co-founded the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a nonprofit group headquartered in Herndon that aims to advance education in Muslim societies.
In February, school officials and students from the International Islamic University and the University of Sarajevo visited SU and Bridgewater College. In March, 12 representatives from SU and Bridgewater College visited Malaysia and Bosnia. This week, those same representatives gathered at SU to discuss their respective visits.
On Tuesday, SU announced it will begin an annual scholarship in Barzinji’s name to honor his legacy as a humanitarian, educator and community builder. It will be awarded to an SU student, staff or faculty member. No dollar amount has been assigned to the annual scholarship yet, said SU Provost Adrienne Bloss.
Ermin Sinanovic, executive director of the Center for Islam in the Contemporary World at SU’s Scholar Plaza in Leesburg, gave Tuesday’s keynote speech.
“How do we create a community where we can communicate based both on our shared values and our differences?” Sinanovic asked. “It is by being invited into discomfort that we acquire deeper understanding about who we are and about our fellow humans.”
But he emphasized that it’s important to not lean into that discomfort alone. There must be someone to guide others into the discomfort and to also find ways to deal with it, he said.
Hazizie Sulkafle, a doctoral candidate at the International Islamic University studying history and civilization, said an important aspect Sinanovic’s talk was that it emphasized putting differences aside to achieve a common goal of bettering humanity and achieving justice.
“To at least achieve some common good, we focus more on the values than the creed,” Sulkafle said.