2009-2010 Activities

Sunday, July 4, 2010 – Sunday, July 18, 2010 – “World Leadership Program: Encounters with American and Middle Eastern Values, Cultures and Institutions.” This program was a ground-breaking collaboration between Al-Azhar University in Cairo and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, supported through a generous grant from the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. The participants of the program included a dozen Al-Azhar graduate students in Islamic philosophy, law or religious texts/literature who are at the top of their class and being groomed to become the next generation of Al-Azhar faculty. They were joined by a dozen American graduate students in related fields. Over the course of two weeks, these students met with a variety of top American leaders from the fields of academia, media, government, and religion, with the goal of the program being to expose the Al-Azhar students to a more nuanced understanding of American cultures and values, and to foster connection between emerging Western and Middle East / Muslim scholars.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 and Thursday June 17, 2010 – “Global Leadership Forum 2010: Perspectives on Mission and Partnership.” GLF 2010 featured an honest conversation between Muslims and Evangelicals about their shared values and unique perspectives on mission and partnership. The forum sought to equip participants with a practical understanding of each faith tradition and featured four sessions. The first session explored concepts of faith and identity in each tradition. The second featured a comparison of the Evangelical and Muslim understandings of mission and dawa, with special considerations for the contrasting meaning of “pluralism” when engaging in evangelizing or proselytizing. The third session discussed practical approaches for Evangelicals and Muslims to partner with one another, offering real world examples for how to work together despite deep theological differences. In the fourth and final session, we explored how Muslims and Christians can serve as partners towards reconciliation and conflict transformation. This event was co-sponsored by the ACMCU and the Institute for Global Engagement.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 – “DAM...with DJ Underdog and Special Guest, Omar Offendum.” DAM, the first and leading Palestinian hip hop crew, held a fundraiser performance at the popular Washington D.C. venue, Busboys and Poets. DAM's music is a unique fusion of East and West, combining Arabic percussion rhythms, Middle Eastern melodies and urban Hip Hop. The lyrics of DAM are influenced by the Palestinian struggle for freedom and equality, as well as issues such as terrorism, drugs and women’s rights. All three members of DAM were born and raised in the slums of Lod, a mixed town of Arabs and Jews, 20km from Jerusalem. This event was co-sponsored by the ACMCU, the Georgetown University Students for Justice in Palestine, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee - DC Chapter, and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.

Monday, April 26, 2010 – “Second Generation Islamist Political Parties and the Future of Islam-West Relations.” Dr. Halim Rane, Deputy Director of the Griffith Islamic Research Unit and a lecturer in the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies at Griffith University in Australia, discussed the ideas and policies of second generation Islamist political parties and their implications for Islam-West relations. In particular, he focused on the political and social dynamics between the AKP, the PKR, and the PKS and their respective governments in Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia. He concluded that the second generation of Muslim political parties are Islamic in orientation and identity but base their political programs on universal principles of democracy, social justice, rule of law, human rights, pluralism, and government accountability, rather than crude appeals to implementing punitive aspects of shariah law or creating an Islamic state in the conventional, modern sense.

Friday, April 23, 2010 – “Afghan Women: As Seen From First Hand Experiences.” This event comprised three panel presentations followed by a screening of “Love Letters from Kabul,” a documentary on Afghan couples who graduated from Kabultec's literacy classes. Jyoti Atwal, Professor of History at Jawaharlal University in New Delhi, presented a talk on “Afghan Women from Suffering to Reform,” Elizabeth Ganshert presented “On the Ground with Afghan Women: An Eyewitness Slide Presentation,” and Dr. Susan Andersen, Professor of Social Psychology at NYU, spoke on “The Meaning of Literacy and Education in Developing Countries.” The event was co-sponsored by the ACMCU and Kabultec.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 – “Post-Election Iraq: Prospects for Stability.”Brett McGurk, International Affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former official on the National Security Council focusing on Iraq during the Bush and Obama administrations, discussed Iraq's political dynamics and their implications for the U.S. and the region post March 7th election. He aimed at dispelling popular myths regarding Iraq’s current situation, particularly concerning Iran’s political involvement, the significance of Muqtada al-Sadr and his party, and U.S. presence on Iraqi soil. Moreover, McGurk cautioned that the current security agreement which delineates a timeline for a U.S. withdrawal in 2011 will have to be extended for any prospects for stability in the near future.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010 – “From Washington to Jerusalem: How Can Jewish & Muslim Americans Bring Peace to the Middle East?” Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Jeremy Ben-Ami, Executive Director of J Street, engaged in a wide-ranging conversation concerning the challenges faced by Jewish and Muslim American communities in pursuing Middle East peace and security, particularly in the contested region of the Holy Land. They presented the impediments as well as the possibilities of working together as Muslim and Jewish organizations in hopes of promoting further dialogue on building an American constituency for peace. The event was co-sponsored by the ACMCU, MPAC, and J Street.

Monday, April 12, 2010 – “Muslims Today: A Radical Reform, featuring Tariq Ramadan.” In his first Washington appearance since the U.S. government allowed him to enter the country, prominent Islamic scholar, Tariq Ramadan, joined ACMCU Founding Director John L. Esposito in a conversation exploring the challenges of confronting the status quo and promoting radical reform in Islam and the Muslim world. Ramadan emphasized the need for contextual understanding of Qur’anic text in order to advance his envisaged goal of intellectual and transformative reform. This event comprised an extensive question and answer session followed by a closed session with the media.

Thursday, April 8, 2010 – Salman Ahmad: Concert and Discussion. Salman Ahmad, one of South Asia’s most influential cultural figures, is a musician, physician and United Nations goodwill ambassador. With his band Junoon, Ahmad popularized a blend of Western rock music and Eastern/Islamic music, “Sufi rock,” which has been hailed as a cultural bridge within South Asia and between the East and West. He has faced death threats and harassment from religious extremists and government forces, but Junoon’s sweeping melodies and driving guitars led it to become known as “the U2 of South Asia.” Salman’s performance and discussion was co-sponsored by the ACMCU, the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, the Mortara Center for International Studies, the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, the Georgetown University South Asian Society, the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, and ML Resources Social Vision.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 – “The Essence of Islam: Truth, Love, and Justice.” Dr. Robert Crane, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and personal adviser to President Richard Nixon, discussed the dynamic nature of the “essence of Islam.” He shared that the essence is the search for truth in response to infused love as a motivation for the search. The result is the set of eight universal principles of justice, known as the maqasid al shari'ah. Essentially, he concluded that the essence of Islam is found in Islamic Law as interpreted by the active and engaging dialogue among Muslim scholars who search to revive, not reform Islam by upholding these universal principles.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 – "US and Iran: After the End of Engagement, What Next?" Dr. Flynt Leverett, a Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation, Director of its Iran program, and a professor of International Affairs at Penn State University analyzed the current state of affairs between the US and Iran. Dr. Leverett said that despite hopes raised by the Obama administration for better US-Iran relations based on engagement rather than confrontation, US-Iran relations have further deteriorated under President Obama, and in the last several months the focus of the Obama administration's Iran policy has shifted to the imposition of more sanctions as well as leaving the option of a military strike on the table. Dr. Leverett attributed this situation to the fact that the Obama administration never really tried the option of engagement seriously. Consequently, it did not offer the kind of encouragement which would have made a broad based understanding between Iran and America possible. Part of this failure, according to Dr. Leverett, was the fact some senior members of the Obama administration opposed a policy of engagement toward Iran. This event was moderated by Dr. Shireen Hunter from the ACMCU.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 – “Muslims in Europe, a German Perspective.” Ambassador Klaus Scharioth, German Ambassador to the United States, presented the historical, social, and political considerations guiding Germany in its attempts to accommodate the rights and needs of its citizens as well as address those of foreign residents, especially Muslims. While acknowledging that Germany had been slow to address the problems presented by its large guest-worker populations, Amb. Scharioth emphasized the many positive steps taken since the early 1960s to meet their needs and help them become better integrated in German society as well as to gain citizenship. The event was co-sponsored by the Georgetown University BMW Center for German and European Studies.

Friday, March 19, 2010 – “Georgetown Diplomacy and International Security Conference.” Over 20 eminent policy experts from around Washington DC joined nearly 300 students at the Georgetown Hotel and Conference Center for a keynote and series of panel discussions on a range of important issues in international affairs. The second panel entitled “Islam and the West: Religion, Culture, and Politics” featured ACMCU professors John Voll and Shireen Hunter, who were accompanied by Mark Siegel from Locke Lord Strategies and Merve Kavachi, Professor at George Washington University and former member of the Turkish Grand National Assembly. This event was co-sponsored by the ACMCU, the Georgetown International Relations Association, the Mortara Center, the Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies, the BMW Center for German and European Studies, the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, the Asian Studies Program, the African Studies Program, and the School of Foreign Service Deans Office.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 – “Common Cultural Heritage and Alliance of Civilizations: Challenges and Perspectives.” Dr. Abdulaziz Altwaijri Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) in Morocco elaborated on his idea of inter-civilizational alliance and discussed issues related to Muslim-Christian understanding, the vision of coexistence in Islam, and how dialogue among civilizations and religions can be a dynamic to enrooting values of peace and justice.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 – “Recovering a Forgotten World Hero: Why Emir Abd el-Kader Matters Today.” John W. Kiser, author of Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader (1808-1883), reflected on the life story of Emir Abd el-Kader as one placed in the context of the “clash” of civilizations during his confrontation with French colonialism in the 1830s and 40s. Essentially, Kiser presented Emir Abd el-Kader as a model of true jihad to be emulated today by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Thursday, January 28, 2010 – “American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute.” The American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute (AMCLI) is housed at the University of Southern California's Center for Religion and Civic Culture and works in partnership with the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim Christian Understanding (ACMCU) at Georgetown University. This event aimed to empower emerging American Muslim civic leaders between the ages of 25 and 40 to engage their communities and organizations in effective civic participation and to bring their community organizations into broader coalitions. The program included lectures by scholars, experts, and practitioners from across the country in the areas of civic participation from an Islamic perspective (crcc.usc.edu/initiatives/amcli/).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 – “Common Ground: Islam, Christianity, and Religious Pluralism.” Professor Paul L. Heck of Georgetown University’s Department of Theology discussed the study of religious pluralism as a theological and social reality. He emphasized the need for religious pluralism as an alternative to simple comparison between Islam and Christianity and presented discursive tools for such pluralism, as found his new book, Common Ground: Islam, Christianity, and Religious Pluralism.

Thursday, January 21, 2010 – “One Year Later: Commemorating the Israeli Invasion of Gaza.” After one year since the end of Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s offensive strike on the Gaza Strip, Tamim al-Barghouti, visiting Georgetown professor, Ghassan Tarazi, United Palestinian Appeal, and Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA) joined together in a panel discussion on the repercussions of the invasion and current efforts for humanitarian and political progress. This event was co-sponsored by the ACMCU, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the Muslim Students Association.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 – "Abdurahman Wahid: Muslim Democrat, Former President of Indonesia, and Islamic Activist" Abdurahman Wahid won the first contested presidential elections in Indonesia following the overthrow of the regime of Suharto. He was long an advocate of an inclusive interpretation of Islam and had been the leader of Nahdlatul Ulama, one of the largest Muslim organizations in the world with around forty million members. This panel discussed his religious and political views and their impact on politics and faith in the Muslim world.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 – "Israel's Separation Wall: Barrier to Peace." A panel discussion on the unfolding humanitarian, diplomatic, and legal situation in Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories, this event featured Chris Toensing, Editor of the Middle East Report, providing news analysis, commentary, and in-depth coverage of the region and Noura Erakat, Adjunct Professor of International Law at Georgetown University. Co-sponsored by The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies and the Program for Justice and Peace.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 – "Feminism in Islam: Secular and Religious Convergences” By Margot Badran, Moderated by ACMCU Founding Director John L. Esposito - Margot Badran, historian of the Middle East and Islamic societies and Senior Fellow at the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, discussed her newest book- Feminism in Islam: Secular and Religious Convergences, which traces the history and intersection of secular and Islamic feminism in Muslim societies. The book demonstrates how religion has always been integral to feminisms-- including secular feminisms--in Muslim societies and how Muslim and Christian women have joined forces to promote gender justice.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 – "Morocco: Towards a Multi-religious Society?" Dr. Mohsine El Ahmadi discussed the situation of religions and the nature of religious pluralism in Morocco. He analyzed the cases of those who recently converted to Christianity and Shi’ism and those who publicly claimed the right to not respect the fasting of Ramadan in order to put this contentious issue into historical and sociological context.

Thursday, November 17, 2009 – “Islam and Liberal Democracy: How Tradition Matters” Featuring Featuring Abdullahi An-Na'im, Sherman Jackson, Ebrahim Moosa, and ACMCU Founding Director John L. Esposito Moderated by Jane McAuliffe - This event was a wide-ranging discussion of how the Islamic tradition - including the Qu'ran, the life and sayings of the Prophet, and diverse legal schools - relates to the idea of a liberal democratic state. Co-hosted by the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009 – ACMCU Luncheon Briefing: "Outlook for Women's Rights in Afghanistan featuring Malalai Joya” ACMCU hosted a luncheon featuring Malalai Joya. Often called the "most famous woman in Afghanistan," dissident parliamentarian Malalai Joya returned to the US, this time to share her new political memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice, which was co-written with Derrick O'Keefe. There was extensive Q&A following the talk.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 – "Nonviolence and Peace Activism in Iraq" Abdulsattar Younus, of Erbil, Iraq came to ACMCU while traveling and speaking in the U.S. after having received the Fellowship of Reconciliation's Pfeffer Peace Prize on behalf of the La'Onf nonviolence network. Mr. Younus spoke about the forces that have motivated the activists of Iraq to organize La'Onf, a network of social groups committed to peace building, and about the challenges they face in Iraq today.

Wednesday, October 7- Thursday October 8, 2009 – “A Common Word Between Us and You: A Global Agenda for Change” Georgetown University’s Office of the President and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, together with the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought of Jordan hosted a major international conference entitled A Common Word between Us and You: A Global Agenda for Change. A Common Word was a two-day conference focused on the message of the Common Word Initiative, whose mission is to promote peace between Muslims and Christians. This was the fourth conference of the Common Word Initiative. Past conferences were hosted by Yale University, the University of Cambridge, and Holy See at the Vatican City. A Common Word between Us and You underscored Georgetown’s dedication to advancing peace and reconciliation between Muslim and Western societies by bringing together global political and religious leaders, scholars, members of the media, and community representatives to address our most pressing issues. The two-day conference was kicked off with a panel featuring former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik¸ Former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia Anwar Ibrahim, Founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding Dr. John L. Esposito, Grand Mufti of Bosnia Mustafa Ceric, and moderator Riz Khan, host of the Riz Khan Show on Aljazeera English.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 – Talal Asad and Abdullahi An-Na'im - "Islam, Human Rights, and the Secular: A Conversation" Can one ground universal human rights in the Islamic tradition? How do secular notions of human rights -- and those derived from other religious traditions -- compare with Islamic perspectives? Does the secular and democratic state pose a threat to Islam? Or might it in fact provide the best possible guarantee of the rights of Muslim citizens?. Two leading Muslim scholars, Talal Asad and Abdullahi An-Naim, discussed these questions with Jose Casanova, Professor of Sociology and Senior Fellow in the Berkley Center. This event was co-sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

Monday, September 28, 2009 – Talal Asad "Reflections on the Origins of Human Rights" The enormous academic interest in human rights is reflected in several excellent histories. Although there has been some disagreement over the origins of human rights, most scholars acknowledge their modern European provenance. In his talk, Talal Asad took it for granted that their origins do not make human rights inappropriate to non-European cultures. Through a discussion of two recent contributions -- John Headley's The Europeanization of the World; On the Origins of Human Rights and Democracy, and Lynn Hunt's Inventing Human Rights-- he explored two concepts generally regarded as central to human rights: "humanity" and "sympathy. This event was co-sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 – "Elections in Iran, Lebanon, and Indonesia: Implications and Future Developments" ACMCU hosted a panel discussion of three experts focusing on these important elections. Augustus Richard Norton, currently Professor of Anthropology and International Relations at Boston University, discussed Lebanon; Shireen Hunter, Visiting Professor at ACMCU, discussed Iran; and Imtiyaz Yusuf, Malaysia Chair of Islam in SE Asia at ACMCU, discussed Indonesia. The event was followed by an extensive Q&A.