Professor Nasr receives the Gittler Prize
Published: Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2011 23:05
Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a world-renowned scholar on Islamic science, religion and philosophy and a current professor at George Washington University, was awarded Brandeis' second Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize last Tuesday in the Rapaporte Treasure Hall and subsequently gave a lecture titled "Re-evaluating the Meaning of the Other in Our Lives."According to its website, the Gittler Prize was created in order to recognize "outstanding and lasting scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic and/or religious relations."
The award consists of a prize of $25,000 and a medal, both of which were presented to Nasr at the ceremony on Tuesday. The prize was first given out in 2008 to a philosophy and human rights professor from Princeton University.
University President Jehuda Reinharz opened the event, explaining that there were 2,500 nominees who came from very different countries.
Reinharz said that the committee "did not take long to realize that Nasr was the proper person for the award." On the website for the prize, Reinharz is quoted as saying that "Professor Nasr's life's work testifies to the personal values and highest scholarly contributions that the Gittler Prize seeks to acknowledge."
Following Reinharz's introduction, Prof. Joseph Lumbard (NEJS), one of Nasr's former students, praised Nasr's "unique blend of expertise" and said that he is "one of the most influential thinkers of the past 50 years."
According to Lumbard, Nasr exemplifies the "peace, unity and justice that the Gittler prize embodies."
Nasr started his lecture by saying that he was "very grateful for this prize."
He then continued to provide background to his life and interests, saying that he has always been concerned with Jewish-Islamic relations and that he wishes Brandeis would work more with this field in the future. "We need a direct discourse about [the relations] in this country," Nasr said.
Following the award ceremony, Nasr gave a lecture about how people are now very concerned with what he termed the "other" and how everyone needs to re-evaluate their priorities in relation to the "other." Nasr said that cultures are beginning to lose their quality of sameness due to the effects of modernism. Nasr said that answering who the other is in the world has become very difficult in this time because of the fact that even within cultures people are becoming very different from one another.
Nasr said that the most important factor in identifying the self is religion. "There is not one religion that does not have teachings in unselfishness . religion is a practice in transcending the self."
In the same vein of thought, Nasr stated that he "has problems with how people say others will be damned [for their beliefs]. That power is God's, and people should let that [power] stay purely with him."
Nasr also spoke of nature, which he explained is a type of "other" whose importance is often diminished. He warned that if "we do not focus on it, we are facing a choice of life and death," because the environment is what sustains us. "It makes me sad that environmental issues take a back burner when economic issues come up," he said.
He reminded the audience that some of the "greatest transformations in the world, . such as the scientific revolution, came about because a minority made an effort toward [supporting the cause], not a majority."
Joshua Kaye '13 said in an interview with the Justice after the event that he "really liked [Nasr's] message of interfaith cooperation and also the fact that you can learn more about your own faith by learning about other people."
Kaye used the example that Nasr had spoken of earlier, where he said how he had gotten students more involved with their own faiths by seeing his devotion to Islam. He also said that he enjoyed seeing the connections Nasr drew between Judaism and Islam.