Calling all heretics! Got religious questions? Author and Professor Anouar Majid has a potentially revolutionary thought: ask them. A couple dozen interested students turned out to a book reading held on campus on April 23 to hear Majid talk about his book, “A Call for Heresy: Why Dissent is Vital to Islam and America.” The event, which was sponsored by the Associated Student Government Student Diversity Council, featured both a lecture and an hour-long discussion session.
Majid’s theory, explained in “A Call for Heresy,” is that we must all exercise our right to free thought. An English professor and Director of the Center for Global Humanities at the University of New England, Majid believes that we have grown intellectually stagnant. We defer our questions to others in authority rather than pondering them ourselves.
Majid therefore believes America needs more heresy.
“As a nation, as a culture, [what are we to do] if people do not question the basic assumptions of their belief systems, and do not engage in activities like this,” Majid said.
“We need free thinkers in society,” Majid said. “We need heretics.”
According to Majid, we should reject our “culture of obedience”and think for ourselves. For Majid, this means questioning how the Bible became a published book or why God allegedly spoke to only a handful of prophets.
“All belief systems…have to be open to investigation,” Majid said. “We need people to question the assumptions that guide our lives.”
Majid was raised Muslim, but now proclaims that he is “culturally a Muslim, theologically not.”
He was not shy in expressing his views to an interested audience, however controversial his opinions may be.
“Who needs religion?” asked the audience at one point, sparking a heated debate.
The event organizers said that they hoped to stimulate thoughtful discussion, and bring diverse people together.
“Students get an opportunity to think, engage in a productive dialogue, and consider viewpoints that are not their own,” said Saddleback Director of Student Development Audra DiPadov, who advises ASG.
“The goal is to open people’s eyes and minds to different cultures and faiths,” said Matt Douraghi, 21, history, event co-chair. “I hope people walk away more educated, and…better understand that we are all the same, regardless of faith or anything.”
Attendees definitely picked up on this theme of intercultural dialogue.”It’s cool that Saddleback has cultural events like this to broaden the diversity on campus,” said ASG Vice President Connor Ames, 20, English. Ames claimed to thus be “super-stoked” to have the chance to attend.
For Abdulazize Sanni, 26, sociology, it was also chance to broaden his horizons. “[It gave me] insight into what we should be doing and what we are our lives.” doing,” Sanni said.
“It was a great discussion,” said Whitney Florian,18, philosophy. “It sparked a lot of dissent.”
Majid was also enthusiastic about the experience.
“I love to engage students,” Majid said. “I try to explain to them why I wrote the book and why it is important, especially for anyone who cares about the future of humanity. I really enjoyed [the event].”