Feature: Aloha for Islam

UH Mānoa faculty teaching in the new Undergraduate Certificate in Islamic Studies Program include, from left, Elton L. Daniel (History), Ned Bertz (History), Paul Lavy (Art History), James D. Frankel (Religion) and Tamara Albertini (Philosophy).
UH Mānoa faculty teaching in the new Undergraduate Certificate in Islamic Studies Program include, from left, Elton L. Daniel (History), Ned Bertz (History), Paul Lavy (Art History), James D. Frankel (Religion) and Tamara Albertini (Philosophy).

Half a world away from the Arabian desert where the Prophet Muhammad established his teachings in the seventh century, and seemingly distant from contemporary affairs in the Middle East, is Hawai`i a place to engage in the study of Islamic religion, culture and history? Definitely, says Philosophy Associate Professor Tamara Albertini, who established a new Undergraduate Certificate in Islamic Studies in the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa in 2010.

Albertini believes the 50th State can be a springboard for the study of Islam in the Pacific and to the east. And she is not the only believer. The new undergraduate certificate program has gathered an impressive mélange of faculty members, ranging from History Professor Elton L. Daniel to Religion Assistant Professor James D. Frankel to Art History Assistant Professor Paul Lavy. They are united by the recognition that Hawai‘i’s strategic location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean naturally promotes Islamic interests in the east. And Islam is the largest religion practiced in Asia, drawing a billion followers or about 25 percent of the continent’s total population. More than 60 percent of the world’s Muslims live in Asia, with Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh having the four largest Muslim populations in the world.

“Islamic civilization permeates Asia, and because Hawai‘i could be profoundly affected by developments in Muslim Asia, UH Mānoa is in a good position to teach the importance of Islam in places like Fiji and Southeast Asia,” said Daniel, who leads classes such as Introduction to Islam, Making of the Modern Middle East, and Crisis and Conflict in the Modern Middle East.

To earn the certificate, students must earn nine core credits in History, Religion, and Philosophy and six credits from a list of elective courses that can include the Arabic language, and a research project. Internships are also available to those who want to immerse themselves in Islamic art collections at storied Shangri-La estate, the Islamic-style mansion built by heiress Doris Duke near Diamond Head. Nestled in East O‘ahu, Shangri-La is owned by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art in cooperation with the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

Whether cultivating an appreciation for the Islamic culture via art or academia, the need for understanding never falters. In fact, it increases as more Americans are affected by international relations issues—whether due to military involvement in the Muslim world, or the effects of political unrest in Islamic countries and their impact on gas prices. As awareness grows, so too will course offerings for the Undergraduate Certificate in Islamic Studies. “Hawai‘i is in a unique position to promote a fair and balanced understanding of Islamic religion and values,” says Albertini. “Here, individuals of different religious convictions not only live side by side, but also interact with one another on a daily basis and, as a result, participate in each other’s celebrations.”

For more information on the Undergraduate Certificate in Islamic Studies, call James Frankel at (808) 956-4202 or email him at jamesdf@hawaii.edu.

Top photo: The qur`an is the central religious text of Islam. ~crystalina~/Flickr

Feature: A study in peace

“Hiroshima and Peace” students engage in a group discussion at Hiroshima City University.

Summer usually signifies the start of fun, sun and a break from school.  But, for a group of select university students from over a dozen countries, a sliver of their “time off” is devoted to studying one of the most horrific memories in modern-day history.  Every summer, on the ten days leading up to the annual commemoration of the August 6, 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, 25 college students from Japan and 25 counterparts from around the world meet at Hiroshima City University for an intensive two-week course.

Titled “Hiroshima and Peace,” the course has hosted dozens of University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa students who, since 2004, enroll for class credit in Japan but end up reliving history.  They participate through the Hiroshima and Peace Summer Study Program offered by the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution.  This summer, four UH Mānoa students—with majors ranging from Asian Studies to Dance & Peace Studies to Secondary Education—will travel to Hiroshima, and totally immerse themselves in the Japanese culture by living with host families.

The goal of the brief but intense stay is to provide enrollees with a general understanding of the nature and attributes of war and peace, by illuminating aspects of wartime experiences, including the historic atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  At the same time, they explore contemporary issues related to world peace in an era of globalization.  Supplementing the class lectures and activities will be outings including a visit to the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, which has been studying the effects of radiation on the hibakusha (the survivors) since 1945; a trip to the Peace Museum, where belongings left by the victims, photos, and other materials that convey the horror of the bombing on Hiroshima can be viewed; and attendance at a Peace Park ceremony on the morning of August 6.  Considered the emotional highlight is hearing testimony from one of the hibakusha, who go back in time when recounting their experiences from that fateful day.  “The calmness of the hibakusha’s voice retelling their personal story of that August day makes atomic bombings both more real and less real at the same time,” recalls Brien Hallett, associate professor and academic advisor at the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution.

“‘Hiroshima and Peace’ is a course unlike any other,” said Hallett.  “Each summer, it brings together students from all over the world from different backgrounds to confront the great tragedy of the atomic bombings and a selection of other security and social justice issues.”  Added Jase Chun of Kaua‘i, who participated in the program in August 2008 and graduated this past semester, “I’ve taken many courses during my five years at UH Mānoa, but the one that will always stand out is ‘Hiroshima and Peace.’  It was life-changing, to say the least, and placed you at the site of the greatest tragedy ever to befall mankind.”

For more information on “Hiroshima and Peace,” and the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution, contact Brien Hallett at (808) 956-4236 or bhallett@hawaii.edu.

Top photo: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Dome located at Peace Park.

Lantern Floating Hawaii
A Lantern Floating ceremony at Ala Moana Beach Park every Memorial Day in May honors those who gave their lives in conflict, allows for reflection on the memories of loved ones and dedicates prayers for a peaceful and harmonious future. Photo courtesy of Lantern Floating Hawaii, officiated by Shinnyo-en Buddhist Order. www.lanternfloatinghawaii.com

Feature: Reenergizing the Energy House

Volunteers help transform what was originally a septic tank into an aquaponic fish tank at the Energy House.

In the 1970s, long before sustainability became a modern buzzword, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s School of Architecture built a model home where people could learn about sustainable living, local style.  The Energy House, located at the end of East-West Road on the Mānoa campus, included elements that would help reduce or minimize the need for energy use and promote an eco-friendly lifestyle.

Its sustainable features were decades ahead of their time. They included durable materials used to build the house, notably redwood; solar panels; a rainwater collection, filtering and pumping system; a septic tank to utilize grey water for irrigation; a wind turbine to generate electricity for an electric car; and an energy monitoring system.  The Energy House was not only a model of energy conservation and production, but also featured landscaping that consisted entirely of edible or usable plants.

More than three decades from their implementation, these features are now in need of updating with newer, energy-efficient technologies and sustainable systems that would signal a new era in sustainable building.  Mary Martini, psychologist and professor of Family and Consumer Sciences at UH Mānoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), licensed carpenter James Estrella, and a team of dedicated volunteers have been spearheading efforts to restore and revitalize the old Energy House.  “I’d like to see it become a model house and urban garden highlighting the sustainable practices of today,” said Martini.

Since February 2010, Martini and her team have made significant progress at the Energy House.  Their work has included restoring 1) the natural conditioning of the inside air; 2) original, natural, building materials; 3) rain-water harvesting system; 4) pv solar electricity system; 5) sustainable gardens with help from staff and youth groups; and 6) the use of edible and useful plants as borders and wind diverters.

New features promoting sustainable food choices have also been introduced.  Working with CTAHR faculty, a sustainable urban garden featuring hydroponic and aquaponic systems was installed.  It includes a 500-gallon fish tank, an aquarium for rooting plants, and a fish nursery and two hydroponic grow tables for tomatoes and lettuce. Martini hopes to disseminate information to the public in the form of a sustainable lifestyle plan that includes instructions on how to install these features, plant and harvest gardens, and prepare meals using the garden produce.

Other programs introduced at the Energy House include a training curriculum in these emerging sustainable trade areas for various youth groups and a cooking program featuring child-friendly recipes using food found in the gardens.  “By developing and providing these training programs at the Energy House, we hope to help transition intermediate and high school students into CTAHR undergraduate programs in the future,” said Martini.

While there is still much to do for the Energy House to reach its full potential, progress has been made.  A new front porch, heat-reflective paint on the roof, sidewalk to the handicapped entry, and rainwater catchment and irrigation system, among other improvements, will be completed in the next few months.  Future plans include converting the garage to a workshop for youth and others to complete sustainable gardening and carpentry projects. 

“I want so much to work with others in sustainability,” said Martini. “We are just getting to meet those around campus and in the community who have similar interests.  With our efforts combined, it won’t be long before we are close to completion and getting the house where we would like it to be.”

For more information about the Energy House, contact Mary Martini at (808) 956-2249 or martini@hawaii.edu.

Top photo:  The newly renovated Energy House at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.