BIOS ABDULRAHMAN ALHASHEMI Born in 1974, Abdulrahman ... Born in 1974, Abdulrahman Alhashemi fled with

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  • Dr. Abdulrahman Alhashemi

    The Rev. Marshall Blalock

    The Rev. Canon Michael Wright

    Prof. Herb Silverman

    Prof. John Huddlestun

    The Rev. Vance Polley

    Father John Parker

    The Rev. Joseph Darby

    Rabbi Yossi Refson


    ABDULRAHMAN ALHASHEMI Born in 1974, Abdulrahman Alhashemi fled with his family from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to Kuwait and then Saudi Arabia. In Jordan, he earned a bachelor’s degree in General Psychology with a minor in Philosophy and Islamic Studies, a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, and a Bachelor in Medicine and General Surgery. At the American University in Beirut, he completed his postgraduate studies in Psychiatry with a specialty in Psy- chotherapy. He’s married to an ophthalmologist and has an 18-month-old daughter named Maryam.

    MARSHALL BLALOCK Marshall Blalock is a Charleston native and graduate of Furman University and of Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. Pastor of First Baptist Church for 11 years, he is married to Cathy. The couple has three chil- dren, including adopted 15-year-old daughter Cathryn, who was orphaned as a baby in South America. Marshall

  • says adoption is an important cause his family has taken up, prompting him to serve two terms on the board of Christian World Adoption, a local organization committed to helping children in poor countries.

    JOSEPH DARBY The Rev. Joseph A. Darby is pastor of Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston. A native of Columbia, he has a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina and prepared for the ministry by attending the Lu- theran Theological Southern Seminary. A fourth-generation minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, his congregation is the largest in the church’s 7th Episcopal District. Joseph Darby is the winner of numerous civic and professional awards, and has served in various capacities in the NAACP. He and his wife Mary have two sons.

    JOHN HUDDLESTUN John Huddlestun received his M.A. and Ph.D in Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan, with additional postgraduate work in Biblical/Modern Hebrew, Egyptology, and archeology in universities in Jerusalem, Italy and Denmark. His areas of specialization include Biblical studies, history and religion of ancient Israel, Egyptology, and Jewish history. Prior to his academic career, he was a professional musician. “As a historian of religion,” he has written, “I do not presume to get into the mind of the God of the Bible or speculate about divine motivations aside from what I find in the text. For me, it is the human dimension of the Bible that makes it most appealing as an object of study.”

    JOHN PARKER Fr. John Parker was born at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and raised in Virginia. He earned a BA in Span- ish and minored in German at the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia. He went on to get a Masters of Divinity from Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, and a Masters of Theology from St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York. Fr. John served as curate at Holy Cross Episcopal Church on Sullivan’s Island from March 2001-June 2002. He has served as Priest-in-Charge of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church since June 2003. He says he entered the Orthodox Chris- tian Church as a result of a theological and spiritual journey in search of an institution that teaches and practices what Christians have believed since the time of Christ. He is married to Jeanette, who is preparing for a degree in Nursing. They have two sons, both students at the University School of the Lowcountry.

    VANCE POLLEY Vance Polley is minister Sunrise Presbyterian Church on Sullivan’s Island. He has an undergraduate degree from Davidson College, with a major in Art History and a minor in Studio Art. His father, a Presbyterian min- ister, taught Hebrew Bible at Davidson College for 35 years. Vance Polley received his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary. His doctoral thesis, “Spiritual Windows,” ex- plored the visual arts as a devotional medium. Before joining Sunrise, he ministered at Back Creek Presbyterian in North Carolina and Rye Presbyterian just north of New York City. He’s married 25 years to Deborah, a Tufts University graduate. They have two children: a daughter at Mount Holyoke and a son at Connecticut College.

    YOSSI REFSON Rabbi Yossi Refson came to South Carolina in 2007 to establish Chabad of Charleston and the Low Country. Chabad is dedicated to serving all Jews unconditionally, without regard for background or affiliation. Its goal is to foster a deeper sense of pride and appreciation in Jewish heritage and to ensure the continuity of the Jewish people. Raised in Leeds, England, Rabbi Refson studied in England, the United States and Israel. He is married to Sarah, his co-director of Chabad and has a 5-year-old son, Mendel. HERB SILVERMAN Herb Silverman was born in Philadelphia, received his undergraduate degree from Temple University, and his Masters and Ph.D in Mathematics from Syracuse University. He has been a Professor of Mathematics at

  • the College of Charleston since 1976 and is a recipient of the Faculty Distinguished Research Award. He is a founder of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry and faculty advisor to the College of Charleston student group, Atheist-Humanist Alliance. He is President of the Secular Coalition for America, consisting of nine national nontheistic organizations, whose mission is to increase the visibility and respectability of nontheistic viewpoints.

    MICHAEL WRIGHT The Rev. Canon J. Michael A. Wright was ordained in his home Diocese of Ontario in 1984. He is a fourth generation priest in the Anglican (Episcopal) tradition. Since his ordination, Michael has served in parishes in the Diocese of Algoma and Toronto in Canada. In 2006, Michael accepted the call to become the Tenth Rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston. Michael holds degrees from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario and Trinity College (University of Toronto). Choral music and hymn writing are among his particular interests. He is married to Margriet de Zeeuw, a social worker and Ph.D candidate. They have two daughters, Julian and Abigail.


    ADAM PARKER, MODERATOR What did you think of the movie? Did you think it questioned belief legitimately? ABDULRAHMAN ALHASHEMI I just moved here four months ago, so allow the language barrier, I might be not fluent enough for you to under- stand. For me, I think it is a shock and a shake for those who claim they have faith. From my own point of view I am a believer. I’m a Muslim. But from my own point of view I would thank him for such a particular item, which is shaking people to see if they do believe or they don’t. Stop and rethink of what you have been raised on. That’s my own point of view other that that it is full of negative […] MODERATOR But there is this one positive element, in that it got you thinking about your own faith. ALHASHEMI It is a very important positive. HERB SILVERMAN I have a question about the ground rules. I was a little disturbed by what I saw you say in The Post and Courier on Sunday, and that is we will do what Mark did not, talk respectfully about religion. Now I certainly respect all the people on the panel, but what my concern is, and I think what Bill Maher was trying to point out in part is that why is it wrong to challenge religious views when it’s OK to challenge political views, and should we but religion on that high pedestal. My view, as well as Maher’s, is, yes, we should be able to critique religion, or holy books, just like we do any other books. I think he did raise some important questions. And as is mentioned, just examine your own beliefs and the value of having doubt. Because I think Bill Maher was really hitting against this certainty that people have, where they’re born into a religion and never question. And I guess his philosophy was more what, he didn’t mention Clarence Darrow, but Clarence Darrow once said that doubt is the beginning of wisdom and fear of God is the end of wisdom. And I think that’s the point of view. MODERATOR

  • But Herb, what do you think of the manner in which he then argued his points or discussed, in other words, he raised the question, and as Abdulrahman said, that’s good and he appreciated that. What about what then fol- lowed. SILVERMAN I think he probably did not choose the right kind of people to have an elevated debate. I think some of the reli- gious people on this panel, I would have preferred to have a discussion with, instead of somebody who thinks he’s the Messiah and kind of fringe people and making fun of televangelists which I think most reasonable people would likely do. I think he portrayed a particular fundamentalist branch of religion without having the wider spectrum that I would have preferred. JOHN HUDDLESTUN I just saw it last night so it’s very fresh, […] and I’m still reeling from the apocalyptic bang at the end. Which is quite an interesting turn of the way he used that, saying religious zealotry would wind up producing this apoca- lypse rather than the way it is normally portrayed. I agree actually with what has been said, in terms of saying he has a knack for finding — we’ll call them interesting people. But yet it does raise issues for