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Renowned scholar Mustafa Akyol gives lecture

Author and intellectual Mustafa Akyol. Akyol spoke on campus Oct. 11 about tolerance and acceptance within and across religions. Photo courtesy of Cato Institute
Author and intellectual Mustafa Akyol. Akyol spoke on campus Oct. 11 about tolerance and acceptance within and across religions. Photo courtesy of Cato Institute

Wofford College welcomed scholar Mustafa Akyol to campus Monday, Oct. 11, 2021, for a lecture in Leonard Auditorium. 

The talk, titled “An Islamic Case for Freedom and Tolerance,” touched on Akyol’s experiences throughout his life as a practicing Muslim and his views on the similarities and differences of reality and perceptions of the religion.

Akyol is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, an American libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. 

Working at the Cato Institute, Akyol focuses on the intersection of public policy, Islam, and modernity while also contributing opinion pieces for The New York Times, since 2013, regarding politics and religion in the Muslim world. 

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He has authored several books, including his new release, “Reopening Muslim Minds: A Return to Reason, Freedom, and Tolerance.” In addition, “Prospect Magazine” named Akyol as one of the world’s top 50 thinkers.

As well as strong attendance by students, faculty, and Spartanburg community members, the lecture was broadcasted on YouTube and advertised outside of the Spartanburg community, leading to a stellar turnout for a guest lecture event. 

Some courses at Wofford, including Introduction to Islam and Newer Religions of the World, incorporated the lecture into the class, either as a mandatory class event or an extra credit opportunity.

Mims Weldon ’22 is currently in Intro to Islam and was in attendance as part of a class assignment. “I really enjoyed the lecture by Akyol and learned a lot about tolerance within Muslim traditions,” said Weldon. 

“The diverse group in attendance also improved the experience for all because we were coming from different backgrounds to learn about the same topic,” Weldon continued.

Associate Professor of Religion Phillip Dorroll described the lecture as “an exercise in understanding” and “a chance for us as a college to provide to our students, and to anyone else who wants to come, some insight and understanding we might not otherwise be exposed to.” Dorroll also described Akyol as one of the most famous public intellectuals in the world. 

During Akoyl’s talk, the renowned author and scholar talked about his work and what he has done throughout his career. 

Prior to the Cato Institute, Akyol worked for two Turkish newspapers until they became pro-government propaganda outlets. 

Eighteen months ago, he gave a talk in Malaysia about apostasy, which led to him being detained for a while by the Malaysian Religion Police.

“Listening to his experiences was really eye-opening for me,” said Rebecca McCoy ‘23. “The variety of experiences and the stories that he shared with us showed his commitment to doing this work and spreading awareness about Islam.” 

“Absolutely,” said McCoy when discussing the possibility of her attendance at future lecturers in the field coming to speak at Wofford. “The field of theology and religion is fascinating and encourages me to think more deeply about subjects that I usually would not.”

During the talk, Akyol spoke in-depth about the topic of abrogation, which means that a rule implemented by a verse of the Qur’an is replaced by another rule, or a general rule is made more specific. 

The talk was followed by a time for questions from attendees to Akyol and then a small reception on the steps of Old Main. 

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