BETHANY, W.Va. – Dr. Rebecca Denova, Renner Visiting Professor in Religious Studies, will present four informational lectures on "Understanding Islam" this semester on the Bethany College campus. Topics will include, "Out of the Desert: The Emergence of Islam," "The Crusades Through Arab Eyes," "Women in Islam," and "What is Islamic Fundamentalism?" Each lecture will be held at 7 p.m. in Weimer Lecture Hall and are free and open to the public. A question and answer session will follow each lecture.

"After the attacks on 9/11, interest in Islam, particularly in academics, was increased. Yet, the American public at large remains uneducated in the basics of the world's fastest-growing religion. As the war rages in Iraq, most Americans are aware of the attacks by "insurgents," but actually know very little about what constitutes Sunni Islam from Shi'a Islam, nor the history of the relationship between these two elements," Denova said.

The first lecture, "Out of the Desert: The Emergence of Islam," is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 28. This lecture chronicles pre-Arabian culture, the changes introduced by Muhammad, the revelation of the Quran and the basic precepts of a religion that would soon sweep through the Middle East and Africa.

"The Crusades Through Arab Eyes" will be presented on Wednesday, Oct. 26. The lecture will seek to understand the Crusades from a Muslim point of view and the legacy of this historical period as a metaphor of Christian-Muslim relations.

On Wednesday, Nov. 16, a lecture entitled, "Women in Islam," is planned. The status of women in Islam has become a crucial focal point in differences between Western and Islamic nations, particularly as efforts are made to modernize traditional cultures. This lecture seeks to answer questions about women's rights and duties according to the Quran.

The final lecture in the series, "What is Islamic Fundamentalism?" is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 14. This lecture will discuss the role of Shari's, or Islamic law in various countries, and trace the development of the concept of "fundamentalism" in recent decades. An important aspect of this lecture will be the integration of "religion" and "politics."

Donova, who holds degrees from Bethany College and the University of Pittsburgh, is also a visiting lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh. She has served as an Associate Professor in Bethany College's Department of Religious Studies, an Adjunct Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, a Visiting Professor at Boston University, and an Instructor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Donova has authored numerous publications and papers and has presented many public lectures and community seminars on religious topics.