Vanderbilt University last night moved to distance itself from the controversy over a statement made by its Muslim chaplain last week at a campus event.
At a forum entitled "Common Ground: Being Muslim in the Military" on Jan. 25, Chaplain Awadh A. Binhazim responded to a question from student Devin Saucier, vice president of the V.U. chapter of conservative group Youth for Western Civilization, by saying he would have to "go with what Islam teaches" regarding the imposition of capital punishment on practicing homosexuals.
Several Islamic countries, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, are known to have put people to death for homosexual activity.
After accounts of the event and YouTube footage  of Binhazim's comment led to widespread criticism on both conservative and gay-oriented blogs, the university put out a statement  Monday evening noting that the event was part of its "Project Dialogue," a series meant to bring "diverse viewpoints" to campus.
"No view expressed at a Project Dialogue or similar campus forum should be construed as being endorsed by Vanderbilt," the statement said. "The university is dedicated to the free exchange of ideas. It is the belief of the university community that free discussion of ideas can lead to resolution and reconciliation."
The statement went on to reaffirm V.U.'s commitment both to free speech and to non-discrimination.
"There has been some confusion as to Binhazim's role at Vanderbilt," the statement concluded. "He is the Muslim chaplain at Vanderbilt, a volunteer position. He is not a professor of Islam and is not associated with Vanderbilt University Divinity School. He has adjunct associate professor status at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in pathology. This position, which carries no teaching or research responsibilities, is also unpaid."
Binhazim is employed as a professor of pathology at Meharry Medical College.