"Issues and Personalities in Iran's June 2013 Presidential Elections" with Shireen Hunter
April 8, 2013. Iran is again headed for presidential elections after the controversial presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the last four years. The country is going to the polls at a time of great economic hardship because of international sanctions and the still looming threat of a military attack. At this sensitive time in Iran's national life, what are the key questions that the presidential candidates must answer and who are these candidates? Will Iran's political factions be able to address the country's many problems and challenges and come up with realistic solutions, or will they persist in pursuing their narrow objectives at the expense of national interest? What is likely to be Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's position at this sensitive time?
"Celebrity Evangelists in American Christianity and Islam" with James Wellman and Jonathan Brown
April 3, 2013. The question of charisma in religious figures has become critical in our age because of the rise of modern media that produces overnight celebrities. Many are moved by them and convinced of their sincerity. Others dismiss them as profiteers. Do they matter, and if so, how do they matter? Professor Jonathan Brown and Professor James Wellman, experts in Islam and Christianity respectively, spoke about their recent research on celebrity religious figures, defined charisma, both its positive and negative effects, and examined this phenomenon in its historical and present day condition.
Book Talk: "Iberian Interculturalism: Can it Survive Economic Trauma and New Extremisms?" with Marvine Howe.
March 20, 2013. Cosponsored with BMW Center for German and European Studies. Iberia is a place of historic and symbolic significance to all three of the world's major religions. Myths concerning Islam's origins collide with the story of the Christian reconquista, the subsequent Spanish Inquisition, and the massive expulsion of Muslims and Jews some five hundred years ago. Yet Muslims have made a significant comeback in this region, which now hosts one of Europe's newest Muslim communities. This volume recounts the "retaking" of Al-Andalus by Iberia's new Muslims, which include groups as diverse as students, farm workers, female professionals, and clerics, and their successful integration into a strongly Roman Catholic culture. Marvine Howe shares not only the experiences of Iberia's Muslims but also the reactions of Spanish and Portuguese officials, academics, NGOs, and ordinary citizens, who have found ways to incorporate Muslims and other immigrants into Iberian society despite domestic and European pressure to do otherwise. She also revisits the events of March 11, 2004, when Muslim extremists launched a devastating attack on Madrid's transportation system, and investigates these events in relation to Al-Qaeda's stated intent to reclaim Al-Andalus for Islam. Howe pursues several basic threads, such as whether Iberia's humane immigration policies can be exported to other European contexts and whether the Andalusian spirit of tolerance and diversity will prevail over a troubled economy and heightened radicalism -- in both the Islamic world and the West.
Briefing: "Democracy and Islam: The South African Experience" with Abdulkader Tayob
November 29, 2012. In spite of constituting only 1.46% of the population, Muslim political views are diverse and reflect the diversity of trends in South Africa. On the one hand, ardent democrats support the Constitution without question; on the other hand, certain individuals and groups regard the Constitution as a rival authority to Islamic Law. Michel Foucault’s concepts of utopia and heterotopia are helpful in revealing this complex relationship between South Africa’s constitution and public expressions of Islam. They capture the complexity of Muslim experiences – sometimes reflecting the goals of the constitution (utopia) but also inverting, subverting and often going beyond them (heterotopia). The presentation closely examined some examples to illustrate the diversity and fragility of South Africa’s democracy.
Book Event: The Islamophobia Industry with Nathan Lean
November 27, 2012. Cosponsored with the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS), Georgetown University. Nathan Lean is a second-year Master of Arts in Arab Studies (MAAS) student at CCAS and editor-in-chief of AslanMedia.com. He has dedicated himself to researching the network of writers and activists who have played upon Western anxieties about Islam particularly since the events of September 11, 2001. At Georgetown, his research has focused largely on North African political and cultural systems, Islam, Islamophobia, cultural diplomacy, and American foreign policy in the Middle East. In addition to The Islamophobia Industry, Lean has also co-authored (with Jalil Roshandel) Iran, Israel, and the United States: Regime Security vs. Political Legitimacy (Praeger, 2010).
"What Islam, Whose Islam" with Zainah Anwar
November 19, 2012. Luncheon Briefing: "What Islam, Whose Islam: Creating a Public International Voice of Muslim Women Demanding Equality and Justice in Islam" with Zainah Anwar. Zainah Anwar spoke on the necessity and possibility of reform in the way Islam is understood and used as a source of law and public policy in Muslim contexts. From Sisters in Islam in Malaysia and its ground-breaking work at the national level to Musawah, the global movement for equality and justice, Muslim women activists today are at the forefront in challenging the use of Islam to justify continued discrimination against women and violations of fundamental liberties. They are producing new feminist knowledge, combining Islamic principles, human rights, constitutional guarantees of equality and non-discrimination, and women's lived realities to break the constructed binary between Islam and human rights, and the disconnect between law and reality. They are publicly challenging traditional religious authorities with alternative understandings of Islam in ways that take into consideration changing times and context. Anwar shared the experience of Sisters in Islam and the global movement it initiated, their work and challenges, and the resulting public contestations and hope for change.