In 2002, I suggested to the
UNC Summer Reading Program committee that Michael Sells' Approaching
the Qur'an: The Early Revelations be the book assigned
to all incoming UNC first-year students. A firestorm of
controversy followed, ignited by attacks on UNC from
extremist religious groups, politicians, and media outlets.
In the end, over 2000 students calmly discussed the book in
a single 2-hour discussion session on August 19.
I have written two short articles
on the subject:
There is now a detailed and thoughtful study of the legal
aspects of this controversy, by Christopher Buck, "The
Constitutionality of Teaching Islam: The University of North
Carolina Qur’an Controversy," in Observing the Observer: The State of Islamic
Studies in American Universities, ed. Mumtaz Ahmad,
Zahid H. Bukhari and Sulayman S. Nyang (Herndon, VA:
International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2012), pp. 110–137
(full text of this volume available here).
A helpful summary of Budk's article has been prepared by Seven
Kolins in a Wikpedia article available here.
Additional sources of information on the controversy are
The 2002 UNC Summer Reading Program
on the Qur'an: A National Controversy