Imam Shane Atkinson awarded ‘Islam on the Edges’ research grant

The associate chaplain for Muslim life, Atkinson received the grant for his work researching waning forms of vocal and spiritual worship.

Associate Chaplain for Muslim Life Imam Shane Atkinson has been awarded a grant from the “Islam on the Edges” program at The Center For Islam In The Contemporary World at Shenandoah  University. The grant is intended to help fund research on the diverse facets of Islam and the Muslim community including geography, doctrine, culture, language, history and civilizations.

Imam Atkinson performing at the Princeton Mawlid at the Princeton University Chapel

Atkinson’s project “Where the Mountains Meet: The Devotional Arts of Sacred Harp and Sufi Dhikr” will focus on the overlap between “sacred harp,” a style of Appalachian gospel music, and the Sufi chants of the Qadiri Sufi order of the Caucasus. In the project, Atkinson will explore the unique characteristics and shared traits of these vocal and spiritual worship forms while promoting their preservation and modern reconfiguration through a self-composed piece utilizing elements of both styles.

“I am passionate about exploring what Islamic devotional music sounds like, from people that live in and grew up in the deep south,” Atkinson said. “My whole exploration into religion has been having to navigate being from a cultural background that is steeped in the South, and navigating being a Muslim.”

Atkinson said that he feels that this project is a natural expression of what it means to be a Muslim from the Deep South, and is honored and excited to be chosen for the grant.

“It’s very encouraging that the broader society is having a more nuanced understanding of who Muslims are,” Atkinson said. “We are not a monolith.”

In addition to his research and work at Elon, Atkinson has been featured in the Harvard University Pluralism Project and starred in the documentary “Redneck Muslim” directed by Jennifer Taylor. The film shares Atkinson’s story as a convert to Islam while staying true to his southern identity and combatting white supremacy.

To experience one of Atkinson’s original works, visit the link here.