Visiting professor seminar widens perception about Islam in the world

Visiting assistant professor in the department history, Dr. Joshua Gedacht, talks to students about where Islam is practiced in the world. - File Photo / Nicole Mingo

About 30-40 people came together into a room in James Hall building on Thursday evening to listen to Rowan History Professor Josh Gedacht break down the history and repetition of the ongoing Rohingya Muslim crisis in Myanmar.

Since August of this year, 500,000 Rohingya Muslims have been kicked out of their homes, their homes destroyed, and most of all, there has been aggression against them from the Myanmar military, all occurring in the Rakhine State, the western coast of Myanmar. The military of Myanmar governs the nation, and since the early 1980s, this militarized government hasn’t recognized the Rohingya Muslims as citizens. In the 1990s, birth certificates were not being printed anymore for Rohingya babies.

In short, the only newsworthy activities from people following Islam are not just from the Middle East.

“People have views of the Islamic world, or they tend to immediately gravitate towards thinking about the Middle East, which is not unreasonable. You know, it’s a place where Islam was founded, it’s very significant with Islam. The Quran is written in Arabic,” Gedacht said. “But nonetheless, more than half of the world’s Islamic population live in the Asia Pacific.”

Gedacht earned his graduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the study of southeast Asian history, a place that is an epi-center for the particular study.

Gedacht has not only studied Southeastern Asia and the diplomatic past for the geographical area, but has also lived there. He conducted research for a year and a third in the Philippines and Indonesia, while teaching at University Darussalam. He also spent time in Singapore.

Over his time of studies throughout the moves, Gedacht has learned to speak Malay and Indonesian, in addition to his Arabic reading ability.

His partner got a job at Seton Hall University, which led Gedacht to taking a job at Rowan.

“By opening a lens up to look at Asia, I do hope that people get a new understanding that Islam is a global phenomenon, and seeing how it’s very complex. Some different ethnicities, languages, people who are going about all sorts of activities, ways of life, so that’s the idea, to kinda change the stereotype,” Gedacht added.

While Islamic tensions exist throughout the world, Gedacht hopes to continue to educate students about issues occurring in Asia. He will teach the Islam in Asia course.

The Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar is a strong topic to discuss in an introduction to recruit students to enroll in the course.

Registration to the course is currently active, and registration is open to all students enrolled at Rowan University.

For comments/questions about this story, email or tweet @TheWhitOnline.