The latest speaker for the Ali Vural Ak Spring 2011 Lecture Series, Zain Abdullah of Temple University, will give a lecture on topics discussed in his recent book “Black Mecca: The African Muslims of Harlem” April 7 at 3 p.m. in Conference Room D3AB in Mason Hall.

“He’s taking a close look at the West African immigrant Muslim community in Harlem,” said Ezzat Shehadeh, a program associate at the Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University.

“It’s an interesting look because it’s a marginalized community that find themselves stuck between prejudice from the American residents of the community and trying to find a balance with their new identity with their old traditions from their own societies in West Africa.”

Shehadeh said the lecture series has focused on people conducting relevant research.

“Dr. Abdullah falls in line with a young generation of scholars who are pushing their research and scholarship into the forefront,” Shehadeh said. “[The six guest lecturers in the speaker series are] not all young, but they’re all producing pretty notable scholarship.”

Shehadeh said the Center for Global Islamic Studies wants to promote discussion, enhance understanding and engage the community in a way that is productive and stays away from negativity and an emotional debate rather than an informed one.

The two speakers following Abdullah are Nerina Rustomji on April 14 and Ghada Osman on April 26.

Rustomji will talk about the contemporary debate surrounding theology and what the concept of the virgin entails in her lecture, “The ‘Virgins’ of Paradise: From Qur’anic Interpretation to Contemporary American Media.”

“She’s putting a lens and a focus on all of the theology surrounding that and how it’s made its way into the contemporary discussion surrounding the Islamic world and the beliefs and scripture,” Shehadeh said.

Osman will talk about the history of the Arabic language and how it expanded throughout the world.

“It should shed some light on the history of Arabic language and the dynamic of its expansion,” Shehadeh said.

The Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies started in 2009 with a grant from Ali Vural Ak, a businessman from Istanbul, Turkey.

In addition to the speaker series, the center has hosted a number of cultural events, including a poetry reading and a musical performance co-sponsored by the School of Music that featured classical Persian instruments.

“Largely people on campus are interested in politics and history, culture and art and all of these realms coalesce at Mason to produce some kind of good dialogue,” Shehadeh said. “That’s where we focus our energy — to enhance that dialogue on campus.”

A trailer for a film related to Abdullah’s work, “Dollars and Dreams: West Africans in New York,” can be viewed at