Exploring Cafe Finjan’s Venue: American Islamic College

American Islamic College will host Cafe Finjan – the annual Jewish/Muslim performing arts event – on April 4th, 2013. Find out more about this vibrant community institution that combines academic learning, community engagement and Islamic spirituality.

by Max Harkavy
Communications Intern, JCUA

American Islamic College (AIC), located at 640 W Irving Park Road in Chicago, was founded, it was intended to serve as a college of liberal arts & sciences that is grounded in Islamic spirituality.

Romana Manzoor

Romana Manzoor

“The building that houses AIC was bought from Immaculata High School in the 1980s with the hopes of creating a liberal arts college that would operate within an Islamic framework,” said Romana Manzoor, the program coordinator for AIC.  The first administration at AIC was able to work up to being fully accredited, but the institution has since seen their accreditation revoked.

“The new administration, that started in 2010, is working to revamp and revive the college,” said Manzoor.  “We are starting the accreditation process all over again.”

Since taking over, the new administration has enhanced the mission of the college, going beyond the attempts of the previous administration, by creating a hotbed for both spiritual and secular learning.  AIC seeks to be an institution that can offer classes that are academically rigorous, challenging, and thought provoking.  Offering these types of courses is important but the college also seeks to remain rooted in spirituality, while being a place where students can feel comfortable with expanding their knowledge of both Islam and other, more secular topics.

Entrance to AIC

Entrance to AIC

There are currently 35 students enrolled and active at AIC.  “That may not seem like much, but it is a big step for us.  Usually we hover around 20-25 students per semester,” Manzoor explained.

There are currently 5 classes open to students, and AIC is looking to expand the course selection soon.  “Our most popular classes are our Islamic arts classes.  They offer a way for students to be creative while still being spiritual and focused on Islam,” said Manzoor.  “Our ultimate goal would be to provide our students with an accredited liberal arts & sciences degree from AIC, and hopefully one day, we can issue masters and doctoral degrees as well.”

In addition to all of the academic opportunities offered at AIC, the college plays a key role in interfaith partnerships in the City of Chicago.  Manzoor noted that when the Parliament of World Religions – an organization that seeks to cultivate harmony between the many religions of the world – was revived, it’s first meeting was held at AIC in 1993.

Bar-Tura (left) at AIC symposium

Bar-Tura (left) at AIC symposium

More recently, on February 23, 2013 AIC hosted a symposium on Islamophobia in America and strategies for combating it. JCUA’s Asaf Bar-Tura spoke on a panel at the event, discussing ways to confront bigotry and Islamophobia through interfaith partnerships.

On Thursday, April 4, 2013, AIC will host “Cafe Finjan” – an evening of Jewish and Muslim performing arts. Cafe Finjan is an event of JCUA’s Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative, and is presented in partnership with the Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionals, among others.

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