Muslims in America and the Principle of Religious Freedom was the subject of a public forum sponsored by Antioch University Midwest on Sunday, September 26th, 2010.

The focus of the forum was the topic of religious freedom that is saturating current news. A range of experienced scholars, diplomats, and mediators shared their experiences and insights to assist the audience in achieving a better grasp of the issues at stake, and ways of preventing resentment, discrimination and violence, wherever it is directed. The forum offered conceptual and practical tools for gaining strength through diversity without sacrificing our most cherished values in these times of security concerns.

The panelists include:

Dr. Wayel Azmeh
Dr. Azmeh was born in Scotland and spent many of his early years in Syria where he was eventually awarded his MD Diploma from Damascus Medical School. He continued his internship and residency in France for fours years before coming to the America where he did advanced training and achieved licensure to practice in the US. After practicing for several years in Kansas, Dr. Azmeh and his wife, also a physician settled in the Dayton area where he is employed at both the group practice of Miami Valley Cardiologists and at the Dayton Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Throughout his time in the US Dr. Azmeh and his wife, Dr. Ramzieh Azmeh, have been highly active lecturing on Islam and Arab Culture in diverse venues including universities, churches and synagogues. For their valuable interfaith work Dr. Azmeh and his wife have been co-recipients of two important awards: Peace Maker Award by the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution and the 2005 The Humanitarian Award by the National Conference for Community and Justice in Dayton. Dr. Azmeh has been a member of Dayton’s Inter-Faith Trialogue since 2003 and he has contributed lectures on Muslim Culture in The Life Long Learning series at the University of Dayton. Currently, he is a Board member of The Mercy Society/Islamic Center of Dayton and National Board member of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Professor Suheil Bushrui
Professor Bushrui grew up in Palestine under the British Mandate, and then pursued a major in Arab and Islamic studies at the University of Cairo. He received his Ph D in English Literature in the UK before teaching for many years at universities in the Sudan, Nigeria, Canada, and Lebanon before coming to the US 1982. Professor Bushrui is an internationally recognized author, poet, critic, and translator and currently Professor Emeritus and holder of the George and Lisa Zakhem Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace at the University of Maryland in College Park. His most recent publications in English include an up-to-date biography of Gibran entitled Kahlil
Gibran: Man and Poet and, most pertinently, The Spiritual Heritage of the Human Race: An Introduction – an expansive work that presents, on their own terms, 16 of the major faith traditions. He acted as a Senior Cultural Advisor to the President of Lebanon between 1982 and 1988 and has much experience in Muslim-Christian dialogue and reconciliation. He is a member of several international interfaith organizations. Winner of numerous awards for his service to peace and international understanding, Professor Bushrui is Senior Scholar at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management and Univ. of Maryland and is a member of the Advisory Boards of the Temple of Understanding in New York and the International Peace Museum in Dayton.

Dr. Jay Rothman
A native of Yellow Springs, Jay was inspired to pursue his career in conflict studies and mediation based on his experience in community government at Antioch College. He went on to get his doctorate in International Relations from the University of Maryland in College Park. Currently Dr. Rothman is President of Aria Group Consultants a conflict resolution training, consulting and evaluation company. He has been an academic/ practitioner in the field of conflict resolution for the past 25 years. Jay has worked with diplomats, business executives, opposing leaders of embattled communities, union leaders, school boards and superintendents, community activists and students around the world. He has developed and taught two cutting edge methodologies for conflict engagement and collective visioning in Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka and the former Soviet Union. From 1987-92, Professor Rothman was Visiting Professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he was also Director of the Jerusalem Peace Initiative at the Leonard Davis Institute. He served as Special Master to a US Federal Judge following civil unrest in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2001, during which he facilitated a city wide strategic visioning process that led to a landmark collaborative agreement to reform policing and improve community-police relations. In the fall of 2008 Dr. Rothman accepted a position as Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services at the University of Cincinnati. He has since launched an applied research Institute at CECH focusing on researching and engaging identity-based conflicts at home and abroad. Dr. Rothman is the author of numerous articles and books, including Resolving Identity-Based Conflict in Nations, Organizations and Communities, 1997).

Dr. Naseem Rahim
Dr. Rahim, a native of India and Pakistan, came to the US to conduct her doctoral studies in International Relations and Diplomacy. Although she maintained her interest in this field when she came to Ohio in the late 1970’s, she saw a greater need in the field of local diplomacy and community building in her city of Springfield, then undergoing severe decline. Dr. Rahim employed her skills in the Human Relations and Planning Departments in Springfield for several years before founding a private consulting firm with a staff of professionals in the areas of Community Development and Urban Planning and Neighborhood Revitalization. She subsequently became a lead Planning Professional for the city’s Human Relations, Housing and Neighborhood Services Department. In addition to many accomplishments in these areas, in the mid 1990’s Dr. Rahim began teaching undergraduate courses at Antioch University Midwest, notably: Leadership in Groups and Organizations; Jewish, Christian and Islamic Heritage; International Political Systems; and Peoples and Cultures of Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan. Since 9/11 she has intensified her involvement in interfaith dialogue and community education. She was a founding member of Global Education and Peace Network – an unusual and productive initiative that continues to host monthly lectures and publishes an annual interfaith calendar that is distributed widely to high and middle schools and general public “to advance public understanding and tolerance”. Dr. Rahim was founding member of Neighbors for Peace – 7th Congressional District and she is a member of the Greater Miami Valley/Dayton Area Trialogue Committee. She has frequently spoken on Islam, the Role of Muslim Women, and the situation of American Muslims at local schools and organizations and at public forums.

Mr. Brandon Sipes
Mr. Sipes received a BA in Christian Education from Mt. Vernon Nazarene University in 2001. In 2005, he began graduate studies in Theology at Xavier University. While there, he discovered a passion for analyzing what he calls the “beauty and danger inherent in religions.” This led him to focus his studies on violence and conflict that contain religious components. Brandon received the Brueggeman Fellowship while at Xavier, allowing him to travel internationally and conduct research leading to the publication of his thesis, “Sacred Rage and Sacred Hope.” He is currently the President of RE-Frame, LLC and a Senior Consultant to The ARIA Group ( During his career, Brandon has engaged with identity conflicts in the United States and around the world, leading to an understanding of the ways in which identity can be utilized for both division and unity. Research and practice in identity (and specifically religiously motivated) conflict has taken him to Northern Ireland, Croatia, Bosnia, France, Germany, Israel and the West Bank. His work has included organizational visioning, conflict mediation and workshop facilitation, and facilitator training and development. Brandon is a Christian and member of the Nazarene denomination, a conservative evangelical church in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. He is currently writing a book exploring his decision to remain committed to a community that he values but from which he holds somewhat divergent views.

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