"Exploring Islam" is the theme of the 2011 Critical Issues Symposium at Hope College, which will begin with a keynote address Tuesday evening, Oct. 4, and continue throughout the day on Wednesday, Oct. 5, featuring a variety of presentations across campus. 

The public is invited to all of the events.  Admission is free. 

"Delving into the multi-layered diversity of Islam's core beliefs and practices, 'Exploring Islam' will embody the college's commitment to open inquiry and civil discourse about differing beliefs and traditions," said Alfredo Gonzales, who is associate provost and dean for international and multicultural education, and is co-chair of the event's planning committee.  "In 'Exploring Islam,' the Critical Issues Symposium Planning Committee seeks to enhance discernment, understanding and interfaith cooperation for all constituencies of Hope College about a topic of vital importance to our global society." 

This year's symposium will feature two keynote addresses; two blocks of concurrent focus sessions; and several department-sponsored sessions before, during and following the symposium. 

The symposium events open on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel with a keynote address by Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions. In addition to being president and CEO of Aslan Media Inc, the Iranian-born Aslan now lives in Los Angeles, where he is associate professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and the Pacific Council on International Policy. Aslan serves on the national advisory board of the LevantineCulturalCenter, working to build bridges between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world. Aslan is the author of "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam," which has been translated into 13 languages and named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade.  A reception and book-signing will follow the address. 

The symposium will continue on Wednesday, Oct. 5, beginning at 9 a.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel with a keynote address by Asma Barlas, professor of politics as well as the director of the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity at Ithaca College. Her research interests engage with the epistemologies and practices of violence; relationship between sexual/ textual/ religious violence; the violence against Muslim women that results from patriarchal readings of Islam's scripture, the Qur'an; and Western polemical and epistemic violence against Islam and Muslims. Her books include "Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia," "'Believing Women' in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur'an," and "Islam, Muslims and the U.S." 

The morning concurrent focus sessions on Wednesday, Oct. 5, will begin at 10:30 a.m. Topics will include "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Islam and Muslims But Were Afraid to Ask," by Reza Aslan; "Above the Fold and Beyond The Veil: Media Depictions of Muslim Women," by Nahed Eltantawy, assistant professor of journalism at High Point University; and "Islam and Christianity: Building Bridges of Understanding Through Learning About Each Other," by Imam Muaz Redzic of the Bosnian Cultural Center, with the Rev. David Baak. 

There will be screenings of the documentary film "Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think" which focuses on the issues of gender justice, terrorism and democracy, on Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 11:30 a.m. in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall. 

The afternoon concurrent focus sessions on Wednesday, Oct. 5, will begin at 1 p.m. Topics will include "Reading Scripture: Creating (Religious) Meaning," by Asma Barlas; "Above the Fold and Beyond The Veil: Media Depictions of Muslim Women," by Nahed Eltantawy; "Muslim Contributions to the American Dream: From Early Explorers to Present-Day Elected Officials," by Imam Muaz Redzic; and "Promoting Christian-Muslim Dialogue: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High," by Nadyne Parr and Soraya Deen. 

The department-sponsored sessions scheduled in conjunction with the symposium will allow speakers to focus on a more specific aream. Concurrent sessions will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 2:15 p.m, including sessions sponsored by nursing and pre-medical/pre-health professions, the Phelps Scholars Program, dance, social work and philosophy. 

The college's Critical Issues Symposium, first held in 1980, was established to stimulate serious thinking about current issues, and to provide a forum in which the Holland community, students and faculty may all engage in discussion with experts. The college cancels classes for a day to provide an opportunity for the event. 

Past topics have included "Genocide," "The Middle East," "World Hunger," "The Family," "Energy," "Civil Rights," "The Quest for Justice: Christian Voices," "Lifeboat Earth: Decisions for Tomorrow," "The Columbus Legacy, 1492-1992," "Race and Social Change in America," "What Future Is in our Genes: Freedom from Disease, Good Investment, Manufactured Humans?," "Sport and American Life," "Feminism and Faith: Implications for Life," "Gold Rush and Ghost Towns: Living with the Internet," "Earth Matters: Daily Decisions, Environmental Echoes," "Putting Science in Its Place: Discovery and Responsibility," "Race and Opportunity: Echoes of Brown v. Board of Education," "Immigration: Shaping and Reshaping America," "Global Health:  From Catastrophe to Cure," "At Water's Edge:  Complacency, Thirst, Action" and "Good Food for the Common Good." 

Dimnent Memorial Chapel is located at 277 College Ave., at College Avenue and 12th Street.  Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., between 10th and 12th streets. 

Additional information about the symposium, including locations and other details concerning the blocks of concurrent focus sessions and departmental sessions, will be available in the printed program distributed during the symposium, and may also be found through the college's website at www.hope.edu/cis.