Past Event

A Conversation with Eboo Patel

The 21st century will be the century of the faith line—a line that does not divide Christians and Muslims or Hindus and Jews, but religious pluralists and religious totalitarians—argues Eboo Patel, the Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core. In his new book, Acts of Faith: The Story of An American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, Patel offers a compelling theory of the growth of religious totalitarian movements and reflects on how people come to choose one side or the other. This new memoir—which Bill Clinton has called “a beautifully written story of discovery and hope”—chronicles Patel’s journey to forge his identity as a Muslim American and discusses why he believes pluralism is critical to achieving a healthy civic environment.

But will the defining struggle of the 21st century be faith-based? What is the future of secular democracy in our increasingly global world? What do religion and faith tell us about poverty, war, torture, police brutality, or gender violence? What is the role of pluralism in today’s social movements, and how do we even define it? Join us for lunch as Lisa Lee–founder of The Public Square and director of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum–leads a lively conversation on these questions and Patel’s intriguing personal journey.

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be served.

Space is limited. Reservations are required. Reservations can be made online, by e-mail, or by calling 312.422.5580.

This Artists, Activists and Authors After Hours (AAAH) event is co-sponsored by the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Interfaith Youth Core, and the Chicago Cultural Center.

Events in The Public Square at the IHC‘s AAAH program series are intimate, informal discussions over meals that allow for meaningful exchanges among people who share some connection to the work of a visiting artist. Since coalition building is one of the cornerstones of social change, AAAH programs are structured to give individuals a chance to meet others engaged in similar struggles and projects.


Growing up outside Chicago, subject to a constant barrage of racist bullying, and unsure of what it meant to be Muslim, Patel had a gut-wrenching feeling of being excluded from mainstream society. In high school he rejected everything about his Indian and Muslim heritage and excelled in academics in an attempt to be like the white Americans around him. In college, this illusion came undone as Patel discovered the liberatory power of identity politics—and a deep rage at the inequities and hypocrisies of America.

He soon learned that anger is not an identity. As the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Atlanta Olympics bombing, and 9/11 occurred, Patel saw how religious extremists recruited young people with similar raw emotions and manipulated them into becoming hate-filled murderers. He, on the other hand, was encountering a set of people and ideas that illuminated a different understanding: an America striving to achieve its core value of openness to all; an Islam seeking to return to its primary teachings of mercy and reconciliation; an India with diversity woven into its original fabric. Patel‘s most important discovery was not about his relationship with his past but about his concrete responsibility to make the best part of that past—the possibility of pluralism—a reality in the contemporary world.

Acts of Faith is a hopeful and moving testament to the power and passion of young people, and to the notion that we find the fulfillment of our identities in the work we do in the world.


Dr. Eboo Patel
is the founder and Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based international nonprofit working to build mutual respect and pluralism among young people from different religious traditions by empowering them to work together to serve others. Eboo holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship. He serves as an online panelist for the “On Faith” blog, co-hosted by The Washington Post and Newsweek Magazine and is the author of upcoming book Acts of Faith, to be released by Beacon Press in June 2007. Eboo also serves on the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations, the National Committee of the Aga Khan Foundation USA, and the Advisory Board of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center and has written for The Chicago Tribune, The Journal of Islamic Law and Culture, and The Harvard Divinity School Bulletin. He is a sought after speaker, delivering the Keynote Speech at the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Forum and the Baccalaureate Service Address at the University of Pennsylvania in 2005. Featured in Islamica Magazine as one of the leading young Muslim visionaries in America, Eboo is an Ashoka Fellow, part of a select group of social entrepreneurs whose ideas are changing the world.

Dr. Lisa Yun Lee is currently the Director of the Jane Addams Hull House Museum. She is also Co-Founder, former Director, and current Advisory Committee Co-Chair of The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council. She received her doctorate in German Studies from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and is the author of Dialectics of the Body: Corporeality in the Philosophy of Theodor W. Adorno. She also teaches at the School of the Art Institute Chicago in the Department of Critical and Visual Studies and serves on several local and national Boards, includingthe Chicago Humanities Festival, WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Young Chicago Authors, Bryn Mawr College, and the Ms. Magazine Advisory Board.

For more information, please call 312.422.5580.