Photo by Michaela Hahn
Written by Erin Moore, Associate Director of Communications, Office of Community Engagement

In Spring 2018, Ball State religious studies professor Elizabeth Agnew partnered with the Islamic Center for her Virginia Ball Center seminar “Muslims in Muncie.”  Assisted by Ball State’s Center for Middletown Studies, eleven students from eight majors worked with Islamic Center members to explore the personal narratives and communal history of Muslims in our local community.

The project resulted in a 55-minute documentary that details the 50-year history of Muslims in Muncie. The film features 22 life-narrative interviews representing multiple nationalities, ages, races, ethnicities, and sects.

Members of the Islamic Center participated in all aspects of the process, including 18 months of planning and defining mutually-beneficial goals. Relationship building was a key priority for both Ball State and the Islamic Center. During the project, Islamic Center members hosted student visits to the mosque, provided home-cooked meals, contributed hours toward the interview process, and served on an advisory council. They engaged in semester-long discussions about faith, family, war, refugee status, stigma and discrimination.

Over the course of the seminar, students discovered the Islamic Center’s notable unity amidst ethnic diversity, its uncommon sectarian inclusivity, its active and well-received presence in Muncie, and its progressive stance on women in leadership.

The documentary will be shown at the Midwest meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Spring 2019 and will soon be available through Ball State’s Digital Media Repository and on YouTube. The interviews and transcripts are rich resources for historians, journalists, and researchers.

In the words of Professor Agnew: “Members of the Islamic Center of Muncie have cultivated partnerships with religious, educational, non-profit, and governmental leaders in Muncie for decades. My eleven Ball State students and I were honored to be entrusted to document a half-century of the Islamic Center’s presence in—and contributions to—the city of Muncie and beyond.”