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Beth Sorensen
Office of Communications

Reed professor awarded Harvard grant to study history of Muslim community in Portland

PORTLAND, OR (March 5, 2004) - Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, assistant professor of religion and humanities at Reed College, has been awarded a $6,000 grant from Harvard University's Pluralism Project to narrate the history of Muslim built communities, including mosques, Islamic centers, and schools, in Portland, Oregon.

The funding from Harvard's Pluralism Project will underwrite the research of Reed students assisting GhaneaBassiri in interviewing those involved in building Portland's Muslim community and in developing profiles of Portland's mosques for the Pluralism Project. In addition, they will research city records and local newspapers for the larger non-Muslim population's attitudes toward the presence of Muslim communities within the city's built environment. The project will explore how Muslims in Portland have built an actual American Muslim community and will examine the resources and strategies used by Muslims to participate in American public life.

GhaneaBassiri will use his research to write a scholarly history of Portland's Muslim built communities. With the permission of the sources used, he also hopes to archive the interviews and other research attained in the process at Reed College's Eric V. Hauser Library or the Oregon Historical Society.

GhaneaBassiri believes this will be the first scholarly history of a local Muslim built community in the United States. "American social norms, the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion, and regulations governing the building of religious institutions have all contributed to giving a distinctly American character to built Muslim communities in the United States," he notes.

Muslims in Portland
According to conservative estimates, Portland is home to 6,000 to 10,000 Muslims, making it an ideal site for this study. There are approximately eleven mosques or Islamic centers in the greater Portland region, including a twelver Shi'i mosque, a mosque which supports the teachings of Warith Deen Mohammed, an Ahmadi mosque, and at least one Sufi center that brings together members of several Sufi orders. The rest of the mosques or Islamic centers are Sunni of varying ethnic backgrounds.

Despite its small size, Portland's Muslims community has been very active in the larger community. There are several ongoing interfaith dialogue groups in which Muslims regularly participate. Recently, a number of Muslim activists founded the Islamic Social Services of Oregon State to "help provide for the needs of the community." The Muslim Education Trust (MET) of Portland, founded in 1991, administers an Islamic elementary school and organizes monthly outreach events for the larger community. It also establishes and maintains ties between Muslims in Portland and national Muslim organizations by sponsoring lecturers from these organizations. MET also works with local civil rights groups to advance political agendas for the benefit of Muslims in the United States.

Harvard Pluralism Project
Since 1998, the Pluralism Project has offered small affiliate grants (ranging from $500 to $6000) to enable professors and/or departments to involve themselves and their students in researching the changing religious life of their own city or region. Special attention is paid to the new presence of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Afro-Caribbean, Zoroastrian, and other religious communities and the new patterns of religious and inter-religious involvement in American civil society. One of the academic aims of the Pluralism Project is to enable scholars and students involved in the study of religion to become acquainted and engaged with the religious communities of their own region, as an integral part of both research and teaching.

The Pluralism Project is interested in research that will develop and enhance the understanding of contemporary American religious communities, especially those of post-1965 immigrants. For more information on the Pluralism Project, visit .

Kambiz GhaneaBassiri
Kambiz GhaneaBassiri has a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He has taught Islamic studies in the religion and humanities department at Reed College since 2002.

For further press information, please contact Beth Sorensen, Office of Communications, at 503/777-7574 or at .

Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, is an undergraduate institution of the liberal arts and sciences dedicated to sustaining the highest intellectual standards in the country. With an enrollment of about 1,360 students, Reed ranks third in the undergraduate origins of Ph.D.s in the United States and second in the number of Rhodes scholars from a liberal arts college (31 since 1915). Visit for further information.

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