Duke professors often give lectures to distinguished audiences in unusual locations, but few get the chance to speak before the king of Morocco in a centuries-old mosque.
Ebrahim Moosa, associate professor of Islamic studies and director of the Center for Study of Muslim Networks, traveled to Morocco to deliver a lecture titled "Ethical Challenges in Contemporary Islamic Thought."
The lecture was held in the renovated Qarawiyin Mosque in Fez-the oldest mosque-university in the world--during the month of Ramadan.
A speaker in an eight-part lecture series, Moosa was invited as part of a tradition of honoring Muslim scholars of religion around the world. In attendance were the king of Morocco, diplomats and other Moroccan government officials.
"I was in total awe of the place," Moosa said. "I was thinking to myself, 'What a great honor for me, a relatively young scholar, to get the honor to speak.'"
Moosa said the attentive audience of Moroccan scholars and leaders added to the intimidating atmosphere of the mosque.
"The first one minute or so my mouth was dry just because of the anxiety and stress," he said. "I was thinking to myself, 'Oh my God, am I going to have a dry mouth so that I cannot get a sound out.'"
Moosa's speech focused on the relevance of traditional Muslim practices in an era with different social experiences than those present during the times when the practices originated.
He stressed that Muslim society should incorporate values such as compassion, purity, courage and humility. In addition, Moosa said Muslims should come to a consensus on the issues of pluralism, tolerance and nonviolent methods of settling internal differences.
Moosa said his trip to Morocco showed him that there is a great interest in scholarship among people outside the United States and he hopes to find Americans who are just as eager to listen.
"There is a lot of opportunity for us to share knowledge and share ideas about the state of the world," he said. "Even in a time of gloom, people are out there to listen to some sectors of the American society."
Moosa added that he wants Duke students to understand that they have a great opportunity to learn from people around the world and members of the Islamic community.
"In the last week, as I went as a American-based professor to Morocco and shared with people, there was a lot of good will," he said, "People were saying, 'Send your students out here because we would like to receive them.'"
Moosa said positive interaction among American university professors and the Muslim community makes it easier for students to explore the Islamic world themselves.
"Duke students have a fantastic opportunity to go to places like Morocco and go to the universities to meet [other] students and learn a great deal to be equipped for the present-day challenges," he said.