A local mosque is donating $1 million to the University of Cincinnati to increase understanding of the Islamic religion amid concerns about Islamophobia.
UC is adding a titled professorship in Islamic studies, thanks to the gift from the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. Money originates from Inayat Malik and his wife, Ishrat Malik.
Dr. Inayat Malik is a urologist and former 18-year board chair of the Islamic Center. He came from Pakistan in 1967 to specialize in urology at UC Medical Center and was a member of the UC College of Medicine clinical faculty for 20 years.
The Maliks have been leaders in the local Muslim community and promoted interfaith dialogue and understanding, efforts that include the co-founding of the Bridges of Faith Trialogue. It is an ongoing conversation among Cincinnati civic leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, restarted in January 2016 to address renewed incidents of Islamaphobic violence and hate speech.
"We have a significant Muslim population in the area now, many of them affiliated with UC Medical Center," Inayat Malik said in a statement released by the UC Foundation. "Ishrat and I felt that we needed to make this resource available to UC, not just for the sake of the Muslim community but for the larger community so they have an understanding of the history of Muslim civilizations and contributions."
The Malik professorship aims to add to the university's expertise in Abrahamic religions, faiths that claim descent from practices of the ancient Israelites and worship the god of Abraham. UC already has chairs in Judaic and Catholic studies.
The new position will allow the university to boost its classes and research related to Islamic studies, which already include a focus on the Middle East and Arabic language and culture.
UC's College of Arts and Sciences will begin a formal search for a top scholar with an international reputation to fill the chair. In the spring, before undertaking the search, the college plans to invite other Islamic studies scholars as a way to learn more about the field and spread the word of its larger commitment, said Dean Kenneth Petren.