Interview with Rafiqur Rahman, Edmundite Graduate Fellow
JPII Leader Rafiqur Rahman (Cohort IX), current Doctoral Candidate of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America, has just been selected to be one of two inaugural Edmundite Graduate Fellows at St. Michael’s College. He will be representing both Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) and the Catholic University of America (CUA) as a Black Catholic scholar at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont, USA. We are very proud of Rafiqur and we connected with him to hear more about this prestigious appointment:
It is a teaching fellows program that seeks to attract African American scholars to complete their doctoral studies at Saint Michael’s College (a predominately white institution) and, by so doing, advancing the rich tradition and history of the Edmundites and the College serving underrepresented black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities and scholars.
What will you be doing as a Fellow?
I will be expected to teach one class and host one lecture each semester as I finish writing my dissertation entitled, “The Role of Race in Two Muslim Communities in Cleveland.” My assigned first-semester course will be a Survey Course on Islām that situates the scholarly examination of Islam in America from a BIPOC perspective and, by so doing, formally positions the faith tradition of Muslims within the broader academic purview and context of modern-day US religious studies.
What are you most excited about in this upcoming experience?
I am really excited about the chance I will have to cognitively embolden my undergraduate students to first, reexamine their understanding, awareness, preconceptions and illiberality with respect to normative constructions of conventional religious traditions, thoughts, practices and worldviews. Second, conscientiously survey the religio-racial, theo-historical and socio-religious politics embedded within our nation’s prejudicial social imaginary through the noetic gaze of race, religion, culture and ethnicity. Third, discern and deduce how African American faith traditions and practices have flipped the membership, community, consciousness and identity-politics script regarding religion. And finally, theorize all religious traditions from the margins through the ethos, scenery and vista of the Other.
What do you think will be most challenging?
Motivating white students to reimagine their Weltanschauung is an arduous task because to think critically about inequality, injustice and oppression in America without getting mired in guilt, depression or despair necessitates the dislodgement of insidious societal blinders that keep us from seeing our own privileges and, more importantly, often subtly impede us from then apprehending how those very same advantages we possess harm Others.
How has your Russell Berrie Fellowship experience helped you prepare for the challenges ahead of you?
The Russell Berrie Fellowship experience has rooted within me a BIPOC scholarly commitment to familiarize oneself with 1) alternative multi-cultural tableaus that posit a subaltern “history from below” perspective, 2) investigate multi-religious panoramas that incrementally disrupt dominant and regnant Eurocentric ideologies and 3) familiarize myself with resistance literature that is hermeneutically nonconformist in its socioreligious, sociocultural and sociopolitical alignment, scope and disposition.
Congratulations again to Rafiqur; we are very excited for you and we pray for success in this amazing opportunity!
Interview by Elyse Brazel, January 2021