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National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations sends APSU prof to Saudi Arabia

Long before the attacks of 9/11 and the resulting escalation of tension between the United States and the Middle East, an Austin Peay State University professor was planting seeds of peace through understanding during his visits to the region, traveling under the auspices of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

For the third time since 1993, Dr. Albert Randall, APSU professor of philosophy and religion, is being sent abroad by the National Council. During March 2006, he will spend 10 days in Saudi Arabia participating in a study visit.
Long before the attacks of 9/11 and the resulting escalation of tension between the United States and the Middle East, an Austin Peay State University professor was planting seeds of peace through understanding during his visits to the region, traveling under the auspices of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

For the third time since 1993, Dr. Albert Randall, APSU professor of philosophy and religion, is being sent abroad by the National Council. During March 2006, he will spend 10 days in Saudi Arabia participating in a study visit.

Others consider Randall an expert on the cultures and religions of Middle Eastern countries, but he calls himself “a student of Islam.” He spent the summer of 1993 traveling to Kuwait and Syria through a grant from the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and the Joseph J. Malone Foundation in Arabic and Islamic Studies. He went to Yemen with the National Council on U.S-Arab Relations in 1995. Additionally, Randall has traveled to other countries, such as Jordan, through other sponsorships.

Greg Kaufmann, director of APSU's Institute for Global Security Studies, said, “Dr. Randall's expertise continues to be validated by his selection for this extremely competitive program. The IGSS will benefit from his knowledge of the region, its religion, culture and mores as we move to build the Global Security Studies program at Austin Peay.”

In his letter of invitation to Randall, Dr. John Duke Anthony, president and CEO of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, said the visit to Saudi Arabia is designed to expose visitors to the kingdom's rich culture and heritage, provide the delegation with privileged opportunities to meet prominent Saudi Arabians involved in the ongoing people-to-people relations between the two countries and introduce delegates to a variety of sites of historical and economic significance.

In summary, Anthony said the purpose of the visit is to bring interested Americans and Saudi Arabians together to discuss issues of common concern, need and interest.

According to Anthony, Randall and the delegation will be provided opportunities “to delve into matters that relate to strategic, economic and political issues, as well as to take the pulse as to where the country and its citizens are with relation to such matters as education, religion, culture, commerce and defense.”

Randall, who has traveled to the Middle East many times and has studied the Muslim doctrine of peace intensively, has spent much time since Sept. 11, 2001, providing insight into why the United States was attacked by terrorists who were disciples of Saudi exile, Osama bin Laden.

Repeatedly, Randall has cautioned against condemning millions of Muslims for the actions of extremists who distort the teachings of their holy book. “At the heart of the ‘Qur'an' is the search for peace,” Randall said.

To help departing soldiers understand the unique nuances in the culture and religion of Muslims, Randall conducted several sessions on Islam and Arabic cultures for various brigades of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, prior to redeployment in Fall 2005.

In January 2006, Randall's newest book, “Strangers on the Shore: The Beatitudes in World Religions,” was released by Peter Lang Publishers. He wrote the book to encourage respect for all belief systems by exploring spiritual values shared by the world's great religions.

Randall is the author of scores of published articles and two other books: “Theologies of War and Peace Among Jews, Christians and Muslims” and “The Mystery of Hope in the Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel.”

Randall and the rest of the delegation will spend time in three primary areas of Saudi Arabia: the Najd, home of the capital of Riyadh; the Eastern Province, which is the site of Saudi Aramco, the world's largest integrated oil company; the Rub' Al-Ahali, the world's largest desert; and Jeddah, a center of commerce often called the bride of the Red Sea.

Asked if he has any concerns about visiting Saudi Arabia at this volatile time in history, Randall said, “I'm not a brave person. I'm going to study because I believe that knowledge is the first step toward learning to live together and search for that elusive wonder called peace.”

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations was founded in 1983 as an American non-profit, non-governmental, educational organization whose mission is to improve American knowledge and understanding of the Arab world.

For more information about Randall's trip or to issue an invitation for him to speak to your organization after his return, telephone Randall at (931) 221-7479 or contact him by e-mail at randalla@apsu.edu. -- Dennie B. Burke