Last summer, Zahra Jamal, Ph.D., who earned two undergraduate degrees from Rice University, was named the associate director for community engagement at Rice’s Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance. She will lead a new daytime course at the Glasscock School beginning Thursday, March 31, 2016, called “Living the Faith: Religion and Spirituality in Everyday American Life.”
In this six-session course, Dr. Jamal will look at the worldview and belief of Americans who practice the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, examining the ways in which these faiths express everyday spirituality through worship and prayer, food and hunger, illness and wellness, religious objects, and acts of social justice.
Dr. Jamal’s education and experience have prepared her well for her new role at the Boniuk Institute. After graduating from Rice in 2000 with bachelors’ degrees in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies as well as Slavic studies, she went on to Harvard University to earn both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in anthropology and Middle Eastern studies. Over the next several years, she taught at Harvard, MIT, the University of Chicago, Michigan State University and Palmer Trinity, a college preparatory school, on topics including gender, Islam, civic engagement, human rights, youth development, international development and education. She also served as a consultant for the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, the Aga Khan Development Network, the Swiss Development Cooperation and the Aspen Institute.
With the Boniuk Institute, Dr. Jamal hopes to apply her experience to actions that will help others.
“Working with diverse groups around the world, I've learned that religious literacy is increasingly important in the cultivation of global citizens and a cosmopolitan ethic. By embracing this form of pluralism, we can better address clashes of ignorance, understand and value people of all faiths and no faith, and work together for peace and justice.”
Dr. Jamal says Houston is an ideal place to pursue this passion.
“Houston is the most diverse city in the country and as such, provides a wonderfully rich environment to explore and engage issues of religious tolerance and interfaith cooperation across public and private sectors.”
The Glasscock School course is just one of many ways Dr. Jamal and the Boniuk Institute are promoting tolerance. For more information on the institute’s research, education and engagement efforts, please visit boniuk.rice.edu.