Islamic developments in architecture, the arts, sciences and theater will be the topics of a federally-funded conference at the University of Minnesota, which starts today and runs through Saturday.

“Shared Cultural Spaces,” presented by the university’s religious studies program, will look at humanities and sciences in Islamic civilization and reveal the connections between the Islamic and western worlds. One purpose of the conference is to highlight the interactions of civilizations throughout history.

Professor Nabil Matar, one of the conference organizers, says, “At a time when other parts of the world were in their ‘dark ages,’ in Islamic civilizations there were artists, scientists, writers and architects who created a world of imagination, openness (as they included Christians and Jews as well) and brilliance. The conference will show how Islamic cultural imagination continues to enrich contemporary life.”

In conjunction with the conference, the U of M is presenting “Journey,” a stage adaptation of a medieval piece, Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy ibn Yaqzan. Translated into English in the 17th century, it’s been dramatized by director Mohammed B. Ghaffari for its premiere at the conference. Performances take place at Rarig Center on the university’s west bank.

“Shared Cultural Spaces” is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and conference sessions are free and open to the public. They will take place at locations on the University of Minnesota’s west bank campus, including the Carlson School of Management, Wilson Library and Rarig Center.

Complete conference details, including bios of the 17 speakers and session schedule, are at