August 21, 2002
Carolina in the News
Summer Reading Program Coverage
National Broadcast Highlights
ABC-TV, "Good Morning America"
Chancellor James Moeser and two Carolina students were featured this morning
in a live segment from the Old Well. Anchor Charles Gibson discussed the Qur'an
controversy with the chancellor and freshman Carmen Harris from Seabrook,
Md., and Brentley Tanner, a junior from Autreyville, N.C. Harris discussed her
positive experience in Monday's small group discussion. Tanner voted against a
Student Congress measure supporting the program and explained those views.
To view the transcript, please scroll to the bottom of today's Carolina in the News.
ABC-TV's "Nightline" is still scheduled to air an in-depth story about the reading
program tonight. Hosted by Ted Koppel, the program airs at 11:30 p.m. and is
expected to include portions of an interview with Chancellor Moeser, among others.
PBS-TV's "Religious and Ethics News Weekly" --- among the national networks
visiting Chapel Hill on Monday -- will feature an interview with Carl Ernst, religious
studies, and footage of his class and campus. Moeser and others from UNC may also
appear in the piece scheduled to run nationally on Thursday (Aug. 22). This program is
not shown on WUNC-TV.
Big pols on campus (Editorial)
The Israelis and Palestinians have shown some signs in recent days that they can
lessen tensions and try to reach some common understanding. Too bad the same
can't be said for the North Carolina legislature. The North Carolina House last
week moved to cut off public funding for the summer reading program for new
students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The right decision on a book (Editorial)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The religious right runs some Muslim nations, which harbor neither academic freedom
nor religious tolerance - virtues that members of America's religious right tried to dilute
at the University of North Carolina. They failed, thank goodness...
Teaching Islam: A Controversy (Letters to the Editor)
The New York Times
To the Editor: In "Required Reading" (editorial, Aug. 19), you defend the University
of North Carolina's decision to require entering freshmen to read a book about Islam.
Indeed, this may not go over well with everyone, but one of the great things about our
democratic society is that it permits a wide range of views to be heard...
(Note: The New York Times published five letters to the editor about the summer
reading today. To view all letters, click on the above url and scroll down the web
page or scroll down to the bottom of today's Carolina in the News)
Holy Hypocrisy (Letter to Editor)
Los Angeles Times
"No Blinders on Education" (editorial, Aug. 17) is hypocrisy at the extreme...
Besides these stories, Carolina continues to remain in the international and national
spotlight. Recent reports from the National Associated Press and other wire services
have resulted in coverage in outlets such as the Seattle Times, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
and The Guelph Mercury (Canada). The Press Trust of India featured an article yesterday
that quoted Chancellor Moeser prominently. To read the complete article, please scroll
down to the end of today's edition of Carolina in the News.
Other National Highlights
Newcomers reshaping rural life, sociologists say
For the nation's rural sociologists meeting here over the weekend, a trip to Chicago
brought its own special scares. "Tell me," asked one, over a sudden roar, "are there
always jets flying this low over Grant Park?"... Adults can find themselves adrift as
well, according to a panel on community building, led by Glen Elder Jr. of the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In N.C., Improving Worker Health -- and Cutting Costs
The Washington Post
When Bill Wilmer was diagnosed with diabetes 10 years ago, he didn't have the time
or money to fight the deadly disease. Besides, Wilmer figured, with no cure in sight,
why bother pricking himself with a syringe several times a day?... In medical terms,
the results are impressive, said Carol Cranor, a pharmacist who analyzed the Asheville
data for the University of North Carolina.
A taste for 'living' - raw, that is - food
When psychotherapist Judy Landon suddenly developed joint pains six years ago, she
explored an unconventional remedy... "There is a huge interest in raw-food diets," said
Suzanne Havala Hobbs, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina's
school of health policy who is also a nutrition adviser to the Baltimore-based Vegetarian
State and Local Highlights
Quran classes go prime time
Chapel Hill News
If there was calm at the center of Monday's cyclone of media interest in the university's
summer reading assignment, it was in Room 103 of Bingham Hall where religious studies
professor Carl Ernst and 17 new students gathered for a two-hour seminar.
Lawsuit on Quran reading in limbo
A day removed from a failed attempt to halt UNC’s summer reading program, attorneys
for the five plaintiffs suing the university are unsure whether their lawsuit will continue.
UNC board to reconsider bungled vote
Chapel Hill Herald
Embarrassed by the perception that it placed political pressures ahead of support for a
core academic principle, the UNC system’s Board of Governors this week will try to
make a statement in support of academic freedom.
Test your religious knowledge (Commentary)
The debate over UNC Chapel Hill's assignment of a book on the Quran as summer
reading for incoming freshman is a reminder that, although religion is one of the most
powerful forces shaping world affairs, many Americans know little about any religion
other than their own.
John Cole editorial cartoon
Carolina, the Quran and independent thinking (Commentary)
Chapel Hill News
My hero of the week is John Witherspoon. Witherspoon was the only clergyman to
sign the Declaration of Independence. But that is not the reason he is my hero today.
Until 1768, Witherspoon was an evangelical Presbyterian preacher in Scotland.
Global lessons (Letter to the Editor)
Wilmington Morning Star
EDITOR: Universities thrive on controversy, as UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor James
Moeser rightly puts it. But the uproar over assigning first-year students to read and
discuss a book about Islam - a religion embraced by one-fifth of humanity - is just
(Note: J. Alston Gardner is chairman of the UNC Advisory Board for International
and Area Studies. This letter was also signed by the other 23 board members. The
Wilmington Morning Star publishes all letters to the editor on the same web page.
To view this letter, please go to the above url and scroll down the web page.)
Supports decision to make Islam book required reading (Letter to the Editor)
UNC was established to educate our young people, preparing them to be informed
and intelligent participants in all the obligations of good citizenship...
Struggle for tolerance (Letter to the Editor)
Why does The Herald-Sun object to portraying Islam “in its best light” (“Comedy of
errors from the get-go,” Aug. 18)? Although Sunday’s editorial raises good points
about UNC Chapel Hill’s handling of challenges to the not-quite-required reading of
“Approaching the Qu’ran,” the editorial tries to discredit the book by resorting to tired
anti-liberal bias and an unfair standard.
(Note: The Durham Herald-Sun published four letters to the editor about recent
summer reading program coverage. To view all letters, go to
Israel's hopeless curfews (Opinion-Editorial Column)
News and Observer
None of us think twice about traveling from one part of the Triangle to another. But for
more than 700,000 Palestinians who live in the Occupied Territories, the simple acts of
going to work or school, having lunch with friends and returning home haven't been
(Note: Matthew N. Smith is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of philosophy )
America must learn about its enemies (Letter to the Editor)
Greensboro News and Record
The study of the Quran should be on every required reading list, as well as a foreign
language course -- preferably one of a Middle Eastern language.
(Note: The Greensboro News and Record published two letters to the editor today
about the summer reading program. To view both letters, go to the above url and
scroll down the web page.)
Issues and Trends Affecting Carolina
ACT Average Scores Drop Slightly After 2 States Require All 11th Graders to
Take the Test
The Chronicle of Higher Education
The average ACT score slipped for the first time in 13 years, to 20.8 out of a possible
36, for high-school students who graduated in 2002.
Easley casts rating as hint to assembly
News and Observer
Gov. Mike Easley on Tuesday seized on the state's loss of its prized triple-A credit
rating to pressure the General Assembly to find new revenue -- particularly a lottery
-- to improve the state's finances.
The pork buffet (Editorial)
News and Observer
Some legislators' pet projects show up in the state budget even in a horrible budget
year -- no way to do the public's business... Basnight says the school would be a
good thing, which may be the case -- although the UNC system's Board of Governors
preferred a cooperative arrangement by which ECSU pharmacy students would
work with UNC-Chapel Hill...
Note: If you have any questions about Carolina in the News,
please call Cathleen Keyser or Mike McFarland at News Services,
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"Good Morning America" Transcript
August 21, 2002
CHARLES GIBSON, co-host:
The University of North Carolina has been a sort of battleground this week over
free speech and the meaning of Islam. Incoming freshmen were told to read a book
interpreting the Koran in time for group discussions that were held on Monday. A
conservative Christian group went to court to stop the classes, but a federal Appeals
Court rejected the lawsuit just hours before those discussion groups were due to
begin. (Visual of the book "Approaching the Quran: The Early Revelations")
Joining us now from Chapel Hill, a freshmen at the University of North Carolina,
Carmen Harris, who said she was delighted to read the book; junior Brentley Tanner,
who fought the assignment--he's part of the school's student Congress and he voted
against the assignment--and UNC Chancellor James Moeser.
And it's good to have all of you with us. Chancellor Moeser, let me start with you.
Did you realize the kind of controversy that you were gonna touch off when you made
Chancellor JAMES MOESER (University of North Carolina): Charlie, I don't think
we did. It--it became really a tempest in a teapot. But the--the whole purpose of
this exercise was to give our first-year students a common reading experience around
which would grow a vigorous and robust discussion representing lots of points of view,
and that's exactly what happened. I was tremendously proud of our students on
Monday. They really acquitted themselves well.
GIBSON: So even knowing the--the controversy that was touched off, you'd do it
Chancellor MOESER: Absolutely. We--the controversy, in fact, validated the
purposes of this assignment, which was to--to--to really give our first-year students
on the day before class, in a non-credit experience, a taste of what a r--rigorous,
robust academic life is all about. We succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.
GIBSON: Brent--Brentley, I know the student Congress, of which you are a part,
had a resolution in front of it endorsing this assignment, and you voted against the
assignment. How come?
BRENTLEY TANNER (University of North Carolina Junior): Well, I don't want to
label it, but there's two reasons. Basically, first, it goes against the wishes and the--the
values and beliefs of the taxpayers of North Carolina, and they're the ones who fund
the school. Recent polls have shown that a majority of North Carolinians oppose the
selection of the Koran as summer reading program. And the General Assembly itself,
in a bipartisan effort, condemned the book. Furthermore--
GIBSON: But--but the s--but stu--I'm sorry, go ahead.
Mr. TANNER: And furthermore, you shouldn't single out one religion. It's kind of
unfair to just have it as--as Islam even though you look at the situation. Let's just say,
for instance, if you'd say approaching the Bible, you can just imagine the controversy
that would've ar--ar--arisen from certain groups like it has in the past.
GIBSON: Well--well, that's an interesting question. If--if--if the assignment had
been a book that interpreted the Bible, would you have objected then?
TANNER: Yes, because you shouldn't single out any religion.
GIBSON: What--what if the assignment had been to read the Koran itself as opposed
to a book that interpreted the Koran?
TANNER: If--if you're gonna overlook the actual singling out of religion, I think,
when you present something, you need to present in its entirety. The book that they
use, "Approaching the Quran" by Michael Sells, it--it loses some portions that
terrorists used in 9/11 to justify their attacks.
TANNER: It only dis--displayed the positive parts.
GIBSON: So you're--I'm not sure what your answer is then. So you're telling me that
if the Koran itself had been assigned, you wouldn't have objected, as opposed to a
book they interpreted?
TANNER: I'm saying if--if--if they--if they really must use a book on religion, if they
have to use a book on religion, I'd rather it be the text itself and not someone's slanted
or own biased view on it.
GIBSON: But students, I understand, could opt out. If they didn't want to read this
book, they could just write a short essay, why they wanted to opt out, and it would be
TANNER: Well, that's true, but if you look at the--the--the packet that was passed
out on the previous Monday, it still had `required' in bold. And a lot of students may
have felt that even though they said it was optional, if--if it says required, then it holds
you to a degree. And I've talked to a lot of freshmen, and they said they felt that if
they opposed it in their papers, they were gonna be called out and attacked during
GIBSON: Carmen, tell me about your dis--Carmen, tell me about your discussion
group. What kinds of things were discussed?
CARMEN HARRIS (UNC Freshman): Well, in my discussion group we actually
came to pretty much a consensus that although we would've liked to learn more about
Islamic culture and perhaps the way it relates to current events, this book was definitely
better than not reading anything at all, and it provided some insight into Islam, Muslim
life and the background of Mohammed, which I think was a great thing, and I think all
of the students in my discussion session did as well.
GIBSON: So you think it worked very well?
HARRIS: I do.
GIBSON: Yeah. And--and what did you say in the discussion group? I'm sort of
HARRIS; I basically said that in a discussion group where you have people of mixed
faith, there's always gonna be some tension discussing one religious text. But I think that
when people are open-minded and they are devoted to promoting understanding, then
nothing bad can come of that, no matter what the religious text, the religion, what have
you. I think that it was a beautiful thing and I think that the university has definitely
done the right thing...
HARRIS: ...seeing as--seeing as--the times we're in.
GIBSON: All right. And Chancellor Moeser, I only got 15 seconds left, but you led
one of the discussion groups, right?
Chancellor MOESER: I did, and I'm sorry Brentley couldn't be there. We had a
vigorous discussion, really a comparative religion discussion for first-year students talking
about Christianity, Islam, Judaism, the--the relationships, the--of these faiths.
GIBSON: All right.
Chancellor MOESER: It was a great experience.
GIBSON: All right. Chancellor Moeser, I appreciate you being with us. And Brentley
Tanner and Carmen Harris, all the best to you.
TANNER: Thank you.
HARRIS: Thank you.
GIBSON: Thank you both for being with us. Interesting controversy.
New students discuss introduction of book on Quran.
The Press Trust of India Limited
Washington, Aug 20 -- A day after an American court refused to halt small-group
discussions about a book on Quran in University of North Carolina , over 4,000 incoming
freshmen and transfer students Tuesday debated the introduction of the book in their
Students are allowed to either write a page on the book - "Approaching the Quran: The
Early Revelations" by Michael Sells - or a page on why they refuge to read the book
that had been assigned as a summer reading programme.
A total of 150 professors and administrators were sitting down with the students on
Chapel Hill campus, debating the introduction of the book, media reports said.
One of the study group leaders, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill Chancellor
James Moeser, said that the discussion group spent a lot of time talking about religious
Moeser said that several students, who came from small towns across the Bible Belt,
told him that they had been "harassed for going to a university that would make them
read this book. They were appalled by the lack of understanding of this project."
A deeper knowldge of Islam, Moeser said, "helps us from demonising a whole group
of people who are associated with being an enemy simply by practising the same religion"
as the September 11 terrorists.
A Federal Appeals Court in Richmond Monday rejected a bid by a conservative
Christian group, Family Policy Network, to halt the University from conducting small-
group discussions about the book, saying the Network had "failed to satisfy the
requirement" for halting the programme.
The Appeals Court decision upheld a lower Federal Court ruling in Charlotte last week
allowing the University to use the book on Quran.
The lawsuit over the book has sharpened debate between conservative Christians who
believe that their religion provides the only salvation for humankind and civil libertarians
who fear a chilling effect on teaching on college campuses if teaching is confined to one
Family Policy Network officials said that using the book uncritically was "indoctrination."
They had questioned why Sells, a professor at Haverford College outside Philadelphia,
had ignored passages in Quran that they contended could be viewed as inciting violence
against infidels. The author had replied that Quran does not preach violence and that
only Jihadis not in the mainstream of Islam claim that it does.
The New York Times
August 21, 2002
Letters to the Editor
Teaching Islam: A Controversy
To the Editor:
In "Required Reading" (editorial, Aug. 19), you defend the University of North Carolina's
decision to require entering freshmen to read a book about Islam. Indeed, this may not go
over well with everyone, but one of the great things about our democratic society is that it
permits a wide range of views to be heard.
But it would be really newsworthy if universities in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia undertook to
better understand American society. After all, we were the ones attacked, not the other
way around. It's the Islamic world that needs to develop a wider view of the world.
THOMAS E. PAJUSI
Ridgewood, N.J., Aug. 19, 2002
To the Editor:
Re "Required Reading" (editorial, Aug. 19):
Ignorance of religious traditions, not the academic study of them, is the danger to our society.
For the vast majority of the world's population, religion is not just a private matter, but a
pervasive cultural and political force that shapes entire societies. To be an educated person
in the modern world, one must understand the power of religion in contemporary cultures.
To this end, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in assigning the book
"Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations," was merely trying to foster an understanding
of Islam among its incoming freshmen. Now, more than ever before, Islam must be understood.
Carlisle, Pa., Aug. 19, 2002
The writer is an associate professor of religion at Dickinson College.
To the Editor:
On your Aug. 20 front page near "Talk, and Debate, on Koran as Chapel Hill Classes
Open" is a poignant photograph of a mother sentenced by a Nigerian Islamic court to be
stoned to death for having sex out of wedlock.
The University of North Carolina students assigned to read a book about the Koran, and
students elsewhere, should consider the claims of politically correct Western academics
about the benign nature of Islam in light of the barbarity Islam is perpetuating around the
world, especially against women.
It would be more instructive for college students to live under Islamic law, or Shariah, for
a day, and to learn what it means to be held in the grip of a religion that does not allow for
the separation of church and state, than to read some sanitized text.
Salisbury, Mass., Aug. 20, 2002
To the Editor:
Re "Required Reading" (editorial, Aug. 19):
The University of North Carolina's decision to require the reading of a book about the
Koran is not about controversy or disregarding the separation of church and state. Rather,
it is to clarify a culture that has been thrust into an unfair spotlight and has swept our country
into a tidal wave of hasty accusations and ignorant pointed fingers.
By suggesting this book, the university has taken the first major step in bridging the gap
between the understood and the misunderstood.
In an institution that is nurturing tomorrow's leaders, shouldn't open-mindedness be
encouraged rather than restrained?
Basking Ridge, N.J., Aug. 19, 2002
To the Editor:
Re "Talk, and Debate, on Koran as Chapel Hill Classes Open" (front page, Aug. 20):
Conservative Christian groups are correct to use separation of church and state as the
argument against mandatory reading about Islam at the University of North Carolina. But
I doubt that groups like the Family Policy Network would have objected if the assignment
had been a similar book about the Bible.
Any call for mandatory Bible reading is wrong, too.
A basic understanding of Islam is vital in today's world, but such study in a state university
must be elective, not required. Still, we should all come to know that most of the world's
Muslims are not the radical terrorists who have corrupted and compromised their faith,
any more than most Christians in this country subscribe to the overzealous beliefs of the
STEPHEN M. REPKO
Ypsilanti, Mich., Aug. 20, 2002