Previous Local Discussion Series (2014-2019)



Karuna Center partnered with Critical Connections to facilitate small-group discussions, paired with the expertise of guest speakers, to promote dialogue on critical national and international issues within our local Western Massachusetts community. These are some of our past discussion series:

Rehumanizing and Restoring Relationships

This local event series with Critical Connections took place in Western Massachusetts between 2018-2019, using guest speakers and small group discussion to generate reflection on the factors that lead us to dehumanize other groups of people, and examine our own patterns of thinking. Topics included:


A Documentary about Cultural Survival and Stolen Children, at Amherst Cinema, with Anthony Melting Tallow, Bo’taan’niis And Mishy Lesser/Upstander Project

Righting Wrongs:

The Role of Apologies and Reparations for Slavery, with Dr. Theodore Johnson, Dr. Ali Aslam, and Dr. Amilcar Shabazz, moderated by Kent Alexander

Confronting Our Past:

 The Role of Memorials and Memorialization, with Professor James Young

Not In Our Name:

 Civilian Casualties in American Wars, with John Tirman

Less Than Human?

Perceptions of Immigrants, Refugees, and Muslims, with Dr. Linda Tropp And Dr. Emile Bruneau

How to be a Muslim:

An American Story, with Haroon Moghul

Transforming This Moment

In response to concerns about the emerging policies of the Trump administration concerning immigrants and Muslim-Americans, we worked with Critical Connections in 2017-2018 to convene a series of community education and discussion events focused on protecting civil rights and promoting civic engagement. This series evolved to look more broadly at bridging our divides and examining our collective responsibility to each other. Topics included:

Combatants For Peace:

A Conversation with Palestinian and Israeli Activists

US Foreign Policy in the Middle East:

 Trends and Trajectories in the Trump Era, with UMass Professor David Mednicoff and Osamah Khalil

The "Me Too" Movement and Minority Voices

With Shaheen Pasha and Gina Beavers

Secrecy, Surveillance, & National Security:

 A Conversation about Government Accountability, with Professor Sudha Setty

Political Polarization to Dynamic Dialogue:

Lessons from the Lab, with Dr. Peter T. Coleman

From Radicalization to Reform:

A Conversation with Mubin Shaikh

Freedom and Justice for All?

Civil Rights in the Age of Trump, with Professor Sudha Setty

Understanding the Resurgence of White Power:

A Conversation with a Former White Supremacist, with Christian Picciolini

Divided By God:

Understanding America’s Religious-Secular Divide, with Dr. Sudha Setty and Dr. Peter Gottschalk

Muslims in America

Between 2014 and 2016, we worked with Critical Connections to convene event series: Muslims in America: Dialogues Across Divides and U.S. Policy in the Muslim World. This series was along two tracks: events to facilitating dialogue and understanding among Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States, and discussion to promote critical thought and more nuanced understanding of US foreign policy in the so-called Muslim World. Topics included:


  • Jihad vs. Just War: A Multi-Faith Perspective, with Dr. Sohail Hashmi and Rabbi Justin David
  • US Policy in the Middle East: A Post-Election Discussion, with Dr. Muqtedar Khan
  • American Heretics: Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and the History of Religious Intolerance in America, with Dr. Peter Gottschalk
  • Islam, Pluralism, and Homophobia, with Professor Mehammed Mack
  • Understanding Violent Extremism in America, with Haris Tarin, Daryl Johnson, and David Schanzer
  • Revolt, Reform, and the Arab Uprisings: US Policy Options Five Years On, with Dr. Muqtedar Khan
  • The Mosque in Morgantown: Film Screening and Discussion
  • Is there an Islamic Threat? Perceptions, Realities, and the Way Forward, with Sayed Ammar Nakshawani
  • Dagh Dagh Ujala: This Stained Dawn, a theater performance/lecture demonstration, with The Voices of Partition Project and Theatre Wallay
  • There is Another Way: Reflections from Israeli and Palestinian Members of Combatants for Peace
  • The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Addressing Political and Humanitarian Dimensions, with Basileus Zeno
  • Ending the Syrian Conflict: Regional Recalibrations and U.S. Policy Options, with David Mednicoff and Omar Dahi
  • Charlie Hebdo Attacks: Is Your Free Speech My Hate Speech? with Muqtedar Khan, David Mednicoff, and Raza Ahmad Rumi
  • Wham! Bam! Islam! Film Screening and Dialogue
  • Just War vs. Jihad: Understanding Armed Struggle in the Islamic Context, with Dr. Sohail Hashmi
  • Beyond 2014: Afghanistan, Nation-building and U.S. Foreign Policy, with Matt Waldman, Scott Smith, and Ambassador Omar Samad
  • Public Dialogue: Do Muslim Women Need Saving? with Professor Nadya Sbaiti and Professor Falguni Sheth
  • Between the Sacred and Profane: The Future of Political Islam, with Dr. David Mednicoff and Dr. Natana J. DeLong-Bas

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