The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Religion discussed at forum

By Max Loos

The third annual Macalester Civic Forum took place on Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing student and faculty scholars together to discuss the topic of “Religion in the American Public Square.”The event opened Tuesday night with a keynote address from Dr. Linell Cady, a professor of Religious Studies at Arizona State University, titled, “Choosing Our Better History – Religion, Secularism, and American Public Life.” Jim Laine, chair of Macalester’s Religious Studies department, then delivered a response to Cady’s presentation.

Professor Ahmed Samatar, dean of the Institute for Global Citizenship, said that the student presentations were the real focus of the Civic Forum.

“The main event is the quality of the students,” he said. “You would think, ‘Oh, they are young faculty members.'”

Four Macalester students presented papers throughout the day on Wednesday, an opportunity for which they were nominated, applied and had been working for since June. Faculty members gave responses to each of the presentations, and then the audience was invited to ask the students questions about their papers.

In the morning, Aurora Sekine ’09 presented a paper about the role of religion in public schools, and Andy Ver Steegh ’09 presented his, “The Second Opinion: Religion, Democracy, and Community.” The afternoon saw Liza Baer ’09 speak about how Islamic culture adapts to new surroundings in a Somali school in the Twin Cities, and a presentation by Sher Afgan Tareen ’11 on moderate Muslim identity in the United States.

The Civic Forum, hosted by the Institute for Global Citizenship, began with the goal of creating a space to discuss issues of public society and leadership in an academic yet open manner.

President Brian Rosenberg, in his opening remarks, said that the civic forum revolved around three main concepts: engagement with the world’s relevant issues, independent student scholarship at the highest level and thoughtful exchange of differing points of view.

Tareen found the Civic Forum to be worthwhile, but only if it created a conversation that extended beyond the event itself.

“If it’s only about spending two hours in this room, I don’t think it’s a great idea,” he said.

Samatar did not share Tareen’s worries. “The world is made of these rooms,” he said. “You don’t solve problems without thinking through them.

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