MSU officials plan on providing diversity training on Islam-related subjects to interested members of the university in response to an e-mail an MSU professor sent to the Muslim Students' Association, or MSA, in February.
The initial request for the training came from the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, after Indrek Wichman, a mechanical engineering professor, wrote an e-mail to the group in response to controversial cartoons that portrayed Muhammad, the prophet and founder of the Islamic religion, as a terrorist.
In the e-mail, Wichman insisted that Muslims should return to their ancestral homeland if they don't "like the values of the West." He also generalized them as "dissatisfied, aggressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Moslems."
"As a tenured professor who literally can influence the academic future of Muslims, we felt that the statements were inappropriate and can intimidate Muslim students of the engineering school," said CAIR Executive Director Dawud Walid. . .
The MSA and MSU administrators worked together to organize diversity training for MSU faculty, staff and students. The meetings won't be mandatory for anyone, but both organizing parties are hoping the topics discussed will attract a wide range of people, said Paulette Granberry Russell, senior adviser to the president for diversity and director of the Office for Affirmative Action Compliance and Monitoring for MSU . . .
"The MSA calls it diversity training, but that's not a good name for it," Granberry Russell said. "They are educational opportunities. Some of their concerns extend beyond a one- or two-day training seminar."
Both MSU and the MSA hope these programs will create a better understanding of Muslims by providing those who attend the classes with a better education of Islam, Walid said.
"We have a saying in our religion that people are the enemy of that which they don't know," Walid said. "So we're hoping that some professors who may have uneasy feelings about Muslims and carry those feelings into the classroom can have some of those feelings abated."