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FairfaxEducationMason honors benefactor by renaming Islamic-studies center

Mason honors benefactor by renaming Islamic-studies center

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George Mason University has announced a $3 million gift to its Center for Global Islamic Studies, which will be renamed the AbuSulayman Center for Global Islamic Studies in recognition of the donation.

The commitment was made by the Mirza Family Foundation, headed by Yaqub Mirza, a current member of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) Dean’s Advisory Board and a former George Mason University Foundation trustee. The AbuSulayman Center for Global Islamic Studies is housed within CHSS.

“This gift helps solidify the center’s position as a global resource for the study of Islam. This will advance scholarship and the public’s understanding of this global religion that touches so many,” Mason president Gregory Washington said at the event announcing the gift. “The center and its relationship with the Mirza Foundation is a testament to Mason’s commitment to diversity of thought and its growing reputation in Islamic Studies globally.”

Abdul Hamid AbuSulayman, who died in August 2021, was an early advocate for the study of Islam from a global perspective. Called “a giant among giants” by Mirza at the celebration, AbuSulayman’s doctoral thesis, “Towards an Islamic Theory of International Relations,” published in 1993, was seen as revolutionary in its counter to a traditional, Eurocentric view of the field, which had often overlooked the impact of Muslim countries and cultures.

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AbuSulayman was chairman of the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Herndon. The organization is a hub for scholarship and research that advances education in Muslim societies.

“This partnership with the Mirza and AbuSulayman families will propel and expand the impact of the center’s work, and we are immensely grateful for this new philanthropic collaboration,” said CHSS dean Ann Ardis. “The collaboration underscores what is at the heart of the center – faculty from many different disciplines focusing on Muslim communities and their connection to each other around the world.”

The center is already exploring connections with centers in Malaysia, Indonesia, Bosnia and South Africa.

The AbuSulayman family has close connections to Mason. Several other AbuSulayman family members are studying at or have graduated from the institution, and Abdul Hamid AbuSulayman’s daughter, Muna AbuSulayman, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English, was honored as one of 50 high-achieving alumni at the Alumni Association’s 50th anniversary celebration.

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