This semester, Professor Zaid Eyadat is teaching a course entitled “Islam and Human Rights.” Professor Eyadat is a Professor-in-Residence of Political Science and Human Rights at the University of Connecticut. He comes to us from the University of Jordan, where he is the founding Dean of the Prince Al-Hussein School of International Studies. Eyadat has also founded various master’s degree programs through this school, including one on human rights and human development (the only one in the Middle East region). Eyadat states that the goal of these academic programs is to use human rights as an all-encompassing framework for addressing issues within the field of International Studies. He has also founded three Research Centers at the University of Jordan, including a Center of Latin American Studies, the Al-Farabi Center for Ethics, Culture, and Politics, and the Center for Democracy and Human Rights.
In addition to having created these important institutes and programs, Professor Eyadat is also a prominent scholar in the field of Middle East Studies. His scholarly work concerns issues of global justice, understanding the “Arab political mind,” reforming Islam, and minority rights. He is dedicated to educating the world about Islam, in addition to reforming Islam itself. Through reframing the international perceptions of Islam, combined with understanding the “Arab political mind,” Eyadat aims to challenge the extremist and fundamentalist views of Islam used to justify acts of horrible violence. Like Christianity or Judaism, perceptions of Islam are distorted by fundamentalist stereotypes. As a result, many in the global community believe that Islam (as a whole) cultivates and promotes violence.
One way that Professor Eyadat strives to challenge perceptions of Islam on UConn’s campus is through the Islam and Human Rights course he has developed. Professor Eyadat has “a moral commitment to demystify Islam, as it is subject to a unique distortion.” The course is meant to be an introduction to the texts of Islam, provide examples of how Islam is applied in international contexts such as Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East, and then finally draw parallels between the human rights paradigm and Islam to find overlap and points of complementarity as influential moral frameworks. “I see this course filling a gap in current courses being offered at the University of Connecticut,” Eyadat noted, pointing also to the small amount of coursework offered on any of the world’s religions.
In connecting his course specifically to the Human Rights program at UConn, Eyadat aims to make students more aware of Islam generally, so they can better resist the political rhetoric in ongoing conversations about Islam and violence. “I want students to be more aware and to have more information, so they are better prepared to critically think about the information they receive from the media,” Eyadat said. This course will be important in broadening the content of the Human Rights program at UConn. Given his experience and important scholarly work in many fields of human rights, global justice, and analyzing Islam from a critical perspective, Eyadat serves as a valuable resource for UConn students.