New ASU center aims to showcase Muslim contributions, accomplishments in US

The Center of Muslim Experience in the United States draws on ASU's charter of inclusivity, public values and community impact

August 29, 2022

The recent launch of the Center of Muslim Experience in the United States (CME-US) at Arizona State Univerity reflects a pioneering endeavor to advance research and deepen public knowledge on the understudied history of Muslims in the United States and their many contributions to American society and culture.

With a student-centered approach, CME-US will facilitate belonging for Muslim students at ASU and work to build mutually beneficial partnerships between Muslim communities across the country and university. The center will be housed in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and is part of the humanities division in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Portrait of Yasmin Saikia and Chad Haines, co-directors of the Center of Muslim Experience at ASU. Yasmin Saikia and Chad Haines, co-directors of the Center of Muslim Experience in the United States. Download Full Image

​​“In creating the vision of CME-US, we were inspired by ASU’s mission of being ‘measured not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include and how they succeed,’ and by its commitment to research defined by public value,” says Chad Haines, associate professor of religious studies at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studes and co-director of CME-US. “These values connect with Islamic ethics of acceptance and working for the social good that is evident in Muslim American communities and their experiences, providing CME-US a unique opportunity to bridge diverse worlds and advance ASU’s mission.” 

In the first three years, Haines and co-director Yasmin Saikia, Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and professor of history in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, will work to develop a faculty- and student-led academic project and write a report on “Global Phoenix and Muslim Lives and Contributions.” The study will document the long history of Muslims in the Valley and their richly diverse cultures, along with their many contributions to making Phoenix a uniquely global city.

In addition, they plan to conduct a “Connections” seminar bringing together faculty, graduate students and journalists to work on writing about Muslims from a new perspective for wider public dissemination. All of this work will lead to the creation of a digital virtual museum on Muslim experiences in the United States.

“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,” says Jeffrey Cohen, dean of humanities. “ASU has a population of over 8,000 Muslim faculty, staff and students. They deserve to have their stories, histories and rich cultures valued and shared. Under the leadership of Dr. Haines and Dr. Saikia, CME-US will change the narrative, both locally and nationally, to ensure that the Muslim experience in the U.S. receives the attention it deserves.”

“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,” Haines ssays.

The CME-US will also highlight the diversity and creativity of Muslim Americans and their contributions to American culture by organizing events and performances. The center plans to host poetry readings and musical performances, curate exhibits documenting Muslim lives and invite Muslim stand-up comics, actors, inspirational speakers and writers to ASU for public events.

Haines and Saikia have coedited three books: “Women and Peace in the Islamic World,” “People’s Peace” and their forthcoming book, “On Othering.”

“The focus of our books is on sustainable peace forged by everyday lived ethics between people rather than the Band-Aid solutions of conflict management by international organizations that dominate the field of peace studies. We decided to focus our work on the most misrepresented group in the United States – the Muslims – and tell their story from their perspective to transform the relationship between Muslims and the wider American public,” Saikia says.

Saikia, who is Muslim by birth and a naturalized American citizen, says “at the heart of the many misconceptions of Islam are Muslim women. 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 center will develop workshops, public lectures and community outreach to schools and local organizations to educate and advance scholarship of ASU faculty and graduate students on Amercian Muslim women.

Combining ASU’s power as the largest university in the country, the support of ASU’s administration and Arizona’s vibrant and fastest-growing local Muslim community, Saikia and Haines look forward to the work ahead.

They said their aim is to show how Muslim experiences can contribute to making the United States a more dynamic and inclusive country.

Andrea Chatwood

Communications Specialist, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Arizona Board of Regents celebrates President Crow's first 20 years at ASU

August 29, 2022

Event fetes president with accolades, testimonials and a new title

A special celebration Thursday night honored the 20th anniversary of Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow’s leadership with touching moments, humor — and a new title.

The Arizona Board of Regents recognized Crow’s contributions and service to the university, honoring him with the distinction of Regents Distinguished President.

The distinction, conferred for the first time, was presented along with a unique medallion that can be worn as part of his official university regalia. 

Lyndel Manson, chair of the Board of Regents, said the medallion made of turquoise, silver and petrified wood represents the legacy, prosperity and transformation of Arizona, as well as Crow’s commitment and leadership in the continued success of the university and the state.

“These materials are symbolic of your leadership,” she said. “Turquoise brings good fortune and represents the good you have brought to the university. Silver symbolizes your success and impact on the university. Silver has a long history in Arizona as a catalyst for exploration, growth and prosperity. Petrified wood is a stone of transformation and represents the transformative impact you have had on the university and its students.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU News

Crow became the 16th president of ASU in 2002 and dedicated the last two decades to advancing its redesign as the New American University. ASU has achieved historic levels of inclusion, research, advancement and student success.

Thursday night, a clearly touched Crow reflected on the 20-year journey.

“This has been the most fantastic job, the most fantastic place that I could have possibly imagined,” Crow said. “... I am deeply humbled to be here, deeply honored to be able to hold this position, thankful to the Regents, and thankful to those of you who have been part of helping to make this work.”

The evening, hosted by the Board of Regents in ASU’s Carson Ballroom in Old Main, brought together Crow’s family, friends, mentors and colleagues past and present to reflect on the last 20 years.

In video remarks, two of Crow’s close colleagues and mentors paid tribute to his extraordinary career. Jonathan Cole, provost and dean of faculties, emeritus at Columbia University, recounted his decades-long relationship with him — first with Crow as his student, then as his colleague and today, as his mentor. Sir Malcolm Grant, chair of the National Health Service of England, delivered insightful, powerful and entertaining remarks about Crow’s leadership of the ASU “ecosystem.” 

Another video energetically recapped many of the accomplishments achieved during the last two decades. Alberto Ríos, Arizona's inaugural poet laureate, penned a special poem for the occasion.

The University of Arizona gave Crow a basket of assorted gifts and a framed photo of a certain billboard down in Tucson — one that commemorated ASU’s 70-7 football victory in 2020. On behalf of Northern Arizona University, President José Luis Cruz Rivera shared “tastes” of Flagstaff to recognize Crow’s favorite food and coffee locations in the high country — and a rare first edition of the seminal 1910 book “The Idea of a University” by John Henry Newman.

Video by VisComm/MRSC

The evening forced Crow, seemingly always in forward motion, to stop and look back.

“When I heard there was going to be an event related to my job anniversary, I think my heart went into my stomach. It’s kind of against my nature,” Crow said. Indeed, he shared a text from his wife, Sybil Francis, from earlier in the day that reminded him, “I know it’s hard for you to take praise and appreciation.”

“It is,” Crow continued. “So I just want to say thank you to everyone, and thank you to the Regents. It really is more than an honor to be here and to be in this job, this role. ...

“Thank you for the recognition, thank you for this medallion, thank you for allowing me to be here in Arizona.”  

And while focused on the past, the evening had an inspiring tone: There’s more still to come.

Top photo: President Michael Crow smiles during Thursday's celebratory dinner at Old Main. Photo by Caroline Huey 

Assistant vice president , Media Relations and Strategic Communications