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UNC's summer reading holds lessons for Duke

Let me thank John McNulty for beginning a discussion about the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's summer reading. It is a huge oversight in our library acquisitions system that UNC's selection for this past summer's new students, Approaching the Qur'an, has not been ordered for Perkins, the Divinity School library or Lilly Library. Its author, Michael Sells, is a well known scholar and five of his seven books are available in the Duke system.

Even if Approaching the Qur'an were available at Duke, it is doubtful that our student body would've taken it to heart as many have at UNC. A required reading assignment sparks interest, and at no time more than now when Islam, its many interpreters and its many more uses is of increasing importance to Americans.

I think McNulty and others interested in this huge and complex issue would do well to begin with a visit to two websites. First, visit http://www.unc.edu/srp/guidelines.html, the home page for the Carolina Summer Reading Program, which highlights many aspects of the book and author. It also hyperlinks related resources. Especially apt is the online copy of Charles Kurzman's convocation keynote address to new UNC students at http://www.unc.edu/srp/keynote.html.

Second, visit Sells' home page at http://www.haverford.edu/relg/sells/UNC_ApproachingTheQur'an.htm. Through extensive hyperlinks Sells allows the patient scroller to see how this first year university-wide assignment at UNC spun out into an international controversy.

Finally, if McNulty and others want to go beyond reading the book, they can join many Duke students and me when we journey over to Chapel Hill on Thursday, Sept. 5 (on the Robertson Scholars' bus naturally; who wants to fight parking in Chapel Hill?). We will arrive by 6:45 and walk to Carroll Hall to hear Sells give his own view of Approaching the Qur'an, the controversy, and the future of academic study of religion.

Bruce Lawrence

Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor and

Professor of Islamic Studies

Department of Religion

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