Diversity of Views and Religious Beliefs on the American University Campus

June 22, 2003

Source: The Washington Post


On June 22, 2003 The Washington Post reported that "On the first full day of the Iraq war, Abdul Aziz Said stood before an overflow crowd inside the domed sanctuary of American University's Kay Spiritual Life Center, a unique place in the life of AU, both in its form and function. Perched among gray rectangular buildings, the circular Kay Center has the distinction of being one of the first interfaith houses of worship in the nation, serving at least 17 different denominations. Its white roof is topped by a striking 16-foot 'flame' of gold leaf, symbolizing the eternal light, or Christ as light of the world, or perhaps just the human spirit... Similarly, Abdul Said himself is a singular institution on this internationally diverse campus. The Syrian-born professor of international relations has been a fixture at AU for five decades, promoting social justice and peace, regardless of circumstances. More than 40 years ago, he championed the rights of a handful of Jewish students who were being blackballed by fraternities and he helped them found their own frat. 'I believe I am the only Arab who has a Jewish fraternity scholarship named after him,' Said says with a deep laugh... More recently, with the Palestinian intifadas, the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11th terrorist attacks, Said stepped forward to lead campus teach-ins aimed at promoting a message of academic and personal understanding... Now, another war, another teach-in for Said at Kay Chapel. Even before the invasion finally started, the intellectual battle had begun at AU, in classrooms, in dorm rooms and lounges, at peace vigils, a cacophony of conflicting analyses and passionate speeches. On the main campus quad in Northwest Washington, there were antiwar demonstrations, pro-war counter-demonstrations and voices raised to shouting. Outside the teach-in that night, March 20, a small contingent of conservative students who supported the Iraq invasion were singing patriotic songs, chanting slogans against Saddam Hussein and waving flags."