Press Release for Monday, September 15, 2003

Expert on Islam Starts Distinguished Voices Lecture Series




(904) 620-2140


JACKSONVILLE -- The 2003-04 season of the University of North Florida’s Distinguished Voices Lecture Series begins with one of the nation’s most prominent experts on Islam.


 Dr. Michael Sells, a professor of religion at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, will speak Tuesday, Sept. 23, at 7:30 p.m. in the Robinson Theatre. His lecture, and all lectures in the Distinguished Voices series, are free and open to the public. No tickets are required for this event.

Sells will discuss “Islam: A Religion of Peace.”


This is the inaugural year for the Distinguished Voices Lecture Series. The series is designed to bring experts from diverse fields to campus for interaction with faculty, staff, students and the general public.

Sells has taught for 17 years in the areas of Islam; Islam and the West; comparative religions; religion and violence; and Islamic and comparative mysticism.

His 1999 book, Approaching the Qur'an, has been praised by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars. It is considered a breakthrough in discussing the Qur'an in a way that allows the non-Muslim to find a better understanding of the Qur'an and those qualities of the Qur'an that make it so important to Muslims.

Sells is the author of seven books and more than 60 articles. Most recently, he has co-edited and contributed to the forthcoming book The New Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy. This book looks at the rise of anti-Islamic sentiment in the West and its relationship to anti-Western anger in the Islamic world.

Sells was also a consultant and participant in the 2001 PBS series Islam: Empire of Faith, the first in-depth presentation of classical Islamic civilization to reach a worldwide television audience.

He has researched the fundamentalist and militant versions of Islam. He has examined how well-funded fundamentalist missionary groups have succeeded in dominating not only the image of Islam in the West, but among Muslims. He says it is a domination that is only now beginning to be understood and resisted effectively by Muslim communities.

Sells is also an activist. In 1993, he co-founded the Community of Bosnia, a nonprofit organization dedicated to resisting religious persecution, racism and genocide. He has developed one of the most extensive Internet sites on human rights and war crimes in the Balkans.

His honors include the Guggenheim, Fulbright and National Endowment of the Humanities fellowships, the Columbia Arabic-English Translation Prize and two American Academy of Religion book awards.