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PRESS PHOTOS COURTESY RGSRespect Graduate School President Suleyman Eris addresses guests attending the school’s opening convocation Aug. 30. PRESS PHOTOS COURTESY RGSRespect Graduate School President Suleyman Eris addresses guests attending the school’s opening convocation Aug. 30.
State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, R-134th, attended the convocation ceremonies at Respect Graduate School in Bethlehem. State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, R-134th, attended the convocation ceremonies at Respect Graduate School in Bethlehem.

Islamic studies graduate school opens in Valley

Thursday, September 24, 2015 by MOHAMMED KHAKUSpecial to The Press in Local News

The opening convocation of the Respect Graduate School in Bethlehem took place at the end of August.

The opening ceremony featured a tour of the school.

Attending the event were state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, R-134th, and Dr. Frank Crouch, dean of Moravian Theological Seminary.

Dr. Ehat Ercanli, chairman of the board of trustees, presided over the ceremony and also offered some remarks as to the importance of the convocation.

“While every school’s opening convocation is important, today’s event is the first of what we anticipate is the start of many future openings,” Ercanli said.

The campus recently welcomed an inaugural class of 20 students.

The Islamic Studies Program at RGS is dedicated to furthering the scholarly study of Islam and disciplines relating to Islam.

RGS offers a library, online resources, area studies centers and research initiatives.

In addition to academics, RGS will concentrate on areas of Muslim culture, such as art, poetry and architecture and conduct lectures series, conferences, workshops, arts performances and other events to encourage an understanding of the broader Islam.

In the future, RGS wants to establish Ph.D. programs, student exchange and study abroad programs.

Central to its academic and scholarly objectives, RGS seeks to bridge gaps in understanding between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.

RGS has developed as an evolution of the longstanding relationship with local academic institutions such as Moravian Theological Seminary and Lutheran Theological Seminary.

“Respect Graduate School will be a responsible and valuable partner in education and service not only to the local area but also in the global world,” Ercanli said.

RGS President Suleyman Eris also spoke at the event.

“We would like to provide students in our program with an unmatched library holding the largest collection of books on Islamic civilization in Lehigh Valley,” Eris said. “Understanding Islamic civilization is a critical part of a 21st century education and RGS aims to open new doors, new perspectives and new thinking for students.

“What we’re doing here is really distinctive.

“We’re breaking the mold of the academic study of Islam.”