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University of Iowa News Release

June 2, 2006

Institute For Teachers Explores Religion, Conflict In Contemporary Europe

Last fall, a Danish newspaper sparked worldwide riots after it published a series of cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed -- images Muslims viewed as blasphemous. As the controversy grew, with more newspapers in Europe and the United States reprinting the cartoons, the University of Iowa's International Programs Outreach staff and some local K-12 teachers decided the topic of religion and conflict in Europe would be appropriate for the 2006 International Programs Summer Institute for Teachers.

From June 12-16, K-12 teachers will delve into the dynamics of modern conflict, focusing on the religious element of violence and the tension between religious and political identities in present-day Europe. The workshop, which will be held in C121 Pappajohn Business Administration Building (PBAB) on the UI campus, will be from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day.

Though the workshop is open to up to 30 K-12 teachers, registration is required by Friday, June 9. The cost to attend is $996 for graduate credit and $639 for undergraduate credit. Housing and tuition grants are available, and the deadline to apply is Monday, June 5. To inquire about grants contact Blythe Burkhardt, International Programs Interim Outreach Coordinator, at or 319-335-3512.

The workshop is offered through the Center for Credit Programs and can be taken for three semester hours of either graduate or undergraduate credit. UI International Programs National Resource Center and the Center for Credit Programs support the course. Teachers can register by contacting the Center for Credit Programs at 319-335-2575 or 1-800-272-6430 or by e-mail at

Ralph Keen, UI associate professor of religious studies, will teach the course, which will be divided into morning and afternoon sessions of about three hours each. Keen, a theologically trained historian, stressed the topic's importance in his proposal.

"Terrorist attacks, a resurgence of anti-Semitism, and continuing tension -- diplomatic and military -- in the Middle East and Europe have made the present decade fearsomely ominous," he said.

In highlighting the workshop's benefit for the district's social-studies program, Keen noted constitutional separation guidelines have kept the religious element of global controversy out of public school classrooms, in effect omitting some of the foundations of contemporary international hostility. By sharing strategies to teach religion objectively within the high school curriculum, course participants will learn to incorporate religious strife as a topic in their lessons.

Coursework will include lectures on the academic understanding of religious life, practice and identity, presentations by other UI faculty, readings of current scholarship on religious and political conflict, and a film screening of "Hiding and Seeking: Faith and Tolerance After the Holocaust," which features the children of Holocaust survivors who take an emotional trip to Poland to visit the family who hid their grandfather during the Holocaust. Teachers enrolled in the course will also take field trips to religious communities in the area such as the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids.

UI International Programs consists of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the associate provost and dean of international programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and the community and promote global scholarship, research and teaching.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Center One, Suite 371, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Lois Gray, 319-335-2026,; Program: Blythe Burkhardt, International Programs Interim Outreach Coordinator, 319-335-3512,; Writer: Erika Binegar