Controversy over Required Reading on Islam at University of North Carolina

August 7, 2002

Source: The Washington Post

On August 7, 2002, The Washington Post reported that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill "is asking all 3,500 incoming freshmen to read a book about Islam and [now] finds itself besieged in federal court and across the airwaves by Christian evangelists and other conservatives... The university chose 'Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations'... because of intense interest in Islam since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks...   To the university's faculty and some students, the dispute is about upholding UNC's tradition of academic freedom. To the university's critics, it's about maintaining America's moral backbone in the war on terrorism. And to other schools and educators across the country, it has a double lesson: demand for lectures and courses on Islam is higher than ever, but so is the sensitivity of the topic... The lawsuit against UNC... contends that it is unconstitutional for a publicly funded university to require students to study a specific religion...    In response to the uproar, the university last month amended the assignment... [so that] students who object to the reading can skip it and [write] a one-page paper explaining their objections."