The national Social Science Research Council awarded a grant of more than $90,000 to UW-Madison's eight Title VI National Resource Centers and Middle Eastern Studies to support the public communication regarding Islamic issues.
According to Tom Asher, SSRC program officer, nine universities in addition to UW-Madison received the grant, including Harvard University, University of California-Berkeley, University of California-Los Angeles and University of Minnesota, among others.
"We are really trying to push academics for working on the subject of Islam to be a part of the broader conversation taking place in the society right now and within the U.S," Asher said. "I hope that [UW-Madison] will be able to reach out to people living in the surrounding areas of the state and really start a conversation that needs to take place."
The grant allows UW-Madison's nine international studies programs, Wisconsin Public Radio and UW-Madison's Division of Information Technology to host a 12-month radio program and website called "Inside Islam: Dialogues and Debates."
According to Steve Smith, associate director of Global Studies, this is the first time UW-Madison departments are making such a coordinated effort to launch the program.
"The whole project is to create a democratic and polyphonic voice about Islam," Smith said. "Students will be integral because students really are sort of the experts. When it comes to international education and research, students are the ones who know what they're going to need in the future."
The live radio show, which Smith said would come out next academic year, will be a part of WPR's "Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders" program, with possible topics of women, Internet and science in relation to Islam.
The website, insideislam.wisc.edu, will feature broader debates and public interaction. Smith said the site should go live early next semester.
"The goal is that people will learn about the multi-faceted nature of Islam and the diversity of the Muslim world, not just the same kind of things over and over again about the conflict in the Middle East but a more holistic view of Islam in the world," he said.