Iranian Speaker Advocates Peace Studies

“Understanding Peace in Iran” was the focus of a presentation by Muhammad A. Legenhausen of Qom, Iran, during an “Abraham’s Tent” forum held Friday, July 30.

Dr. Muhammad A. Legenhausen visits EMU
Dr. Muhammad A. Legenhausen speaks and interacts with his audience during an Abraham’s Tent forum at EMU. Photo by Jon Styer

Dr. Legenhausen, who teaches at the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute in Qom, Iran, told his audience that while peace is central to Islam, peace studies are often taught in the jurisprudence context and through the lens of resisting acts which cause harm.

“Individual peace studies courses are taught at both the undergraduate and graduate level, peace studies as a university-focused program has not yet been adopted [in Iran], he said. At the request of the Iranian Ministry of Higher Education, Legenhausen has written a peace studies program curriculum which he hopes to see launched in the coming years.

An advocate of religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue, Legenhausen has written a book, Islam and Religious Pluralism, and serves on the advisory board of the Society for Religious Studies in Qom as well as on the Abraham’s Tent Advisory Council.

For more than a decade Legenhausen has met with numerous Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) learning tours and delegations to Iran and has given high praise for the work towards building interfaith relationships Mennonites have undertaken in Iran.

“Mennonites have tremendous spiritual capital in Iran through these personal exchanges which began in 1996,” he said, recounting a comment an Iranian university student made to an MCC worker: “You people are so nice! How come you aren’t Muslims?” The MCCer replied, “We are here to study Islam to that we can be better Christians.”

“Building personal relationships is key to breaking down barriers of misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims,” said Gretchen Maust, associate director of Abraham’s Tent. The forums EMU’s newly-launched interfaith center is sponsoring “provide an excellent venue for honest conversation with leading interfaith advocates,” she noted.

Originally from New York, Legenhausen holds a PhD in Philosophy from Rice University, where he first became acquainted with Muslims. He converted to Islam in 1983 and has been studying Islam and teaching philosophy of religion and ethics in Iran for 20 years.