2011-2012 Activities

May 16, 2012 “Breaking the Impasse Between Iran and the US.” Cosponsored Event with the American Iranian Council. During the last three decades, the United States and Iran, despite continued animosity, have on many occasions tried to negotiate, and at times have even come together on a negotiation table. However, none of these attempts could be sustained and today both countries struggle to engage substantially on the issues that divide them. Why can’t the two sides negotiate and how might the problem be addressed? This panel brought together a number of former American and Iranian officials and experts who discussed the dilemma and offered solutions.


May 14, 2012“Symposium on Religious Freedom and the Rights of Minorities in Islam.” Cosponsored with The Islamic Society of North America. Scholars and academics of Islam discussed the historical legacy of religious minorities in Muslim-majority societies, and how concepts of pluralism and minority rights can be examined in a contemporary context, particularly following the dramatic developments of the Arab Spring. This symposium provided an opportunity for academics, government officials, diplomats, and other experts based in Washington, DC to engage in these discussions.

Video: panel 1 | Video: panel 2

April 30, 2012 - "Women and the Arab Spring" with Nimah Nawwab. Nawwab's engaging talks in countries across the East and West help build bridges of understanding to an often still mysterious realm - that of the women of Arabia - their lives as well as their economic, political, and spiritual challenges. A rare glimpse into these challenges was offered at her talk. Her latest book, Canvas of the Soul: Mystic Poems from the Heartland of Arabia, and her other publications will also be referenced in this interactive lecture event.

April 17, 2012 - "Picturing Muslim Women: From Subjects and Patrons to Artists and Critics" with Dr. Apostolos-Cappadona. This illustrated lecture incorporated a variety of themes beginning with the question of Islamic art and the imaging of Muslim women in both western and non-western art. The motifs of Muslim women and the visual art extends beyond the traditional category of “woman as subject” to include their little-acknowledged standing as artists, patrons, curators, critics, and consumers.

April 15, 2012"Islamic Learning Series: How to Treat the Quran Seminar" cosponsored with Georgetown University Office of the Muslim Chaplaincy.

April 11, 2012 - Luncheon Briefings: "The Regional Implications of Shia-Sunni Sectarian Conflict In The Middle East and South Asia" with Vali Nasr. Professor Vali Nasr spoke about sectarianism and how it has emerged as a major fault-line in Middle East politics. Tensions between Shias and Sunnis have found new meaning in light of the Arab uprisings of the past year to define regional rivalries from the Levant to the Persian Gulf. The conflict in Syria, tensions in Bahrain, Lebanon and Yemen, simmering violence in Iraq and the larger regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia all tell of the growing importance of the sectarian divide.


April 4, 2012 - Panel Discussion Featuring the Political Wing of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. The Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) hosted a delegation from the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political wing of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. The panelists included Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, an FJP member of parliament from Luxor and a member of the Foreign Relations Committee; Hussein El-Kazzaz, a businessman and advisor to the Muslim Brotherhood and FJP; Sondos Asem, senior editor of the FJP's official website and member of the Foreign Relations Committee; and Khaled Al-Qazzaz, foreign relations coordinator for the FJP. ACMCU Founding Director and University Professor John L. Esposito moderated the panel. The four-member delegation discussed a brief history of Egypt prior to the uprisings of 2011 and went on to define their role in the political process leading up to the presidential elections that are scheduled to take place this May. Examining various social, cultural, economic, and political frameworks, the members of the delegation contextualized Egypt in the post-Mubarak era, detailing their vision not only for their party, but for Egypt as well. They then fielded questions from the audience, which spurred a lively and informative discussion.


April 1, 2012 - “Islamic Learning Series: How to Treat the Quran Seminar” cosponsored with Georgetown University Office of the Muslim Chaplaincy.

March 26, 2012Panel Discussion: "Preparing for Egypt's Presidential Elections and the Transition to Civilian Rule." This panel discussion, co-sponsored by the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU), the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association (EARLA), and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS), explored the political and legal implications of Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections and forthcoming presidential elections. The discussion brought together experts who analyzed post-revolution legal reforms and election laws, specifically asked how these laws affected minority groups and parties, and offered recommendations for future reforms to help ensure free, fair, and accessible elections. Panelists also examined the results of the parliamentary elections: why did the Muslim Brotherhood and Nour party win such a large majority while the secular and liberal parties performed so poorly? Finally, panelists considered the elections’ impact on democracy in Egypt and relations with the United States, with special attention paid to U.S democracy-promotion efforts in the country.


March 24, 2012 –  “Nowruz 1391.” Annual Nowruz celebration cosponsored by ACMCU, Iranian Cultural Society, and the Georgetown University Student Association.

March 22, 2012 - Book Event: “When Mystic Masters Meet: Towards a New Matrix for Christian-Muslim Dialogue” with Syafaatun Almirzanah.This book is a study of the role mystical discourse and experience can play in Christian-Muslim dialogue as a subset of interfaith dialogue in general. It concentrates on the work of two great medieval mystic masters, one Muslim, the other Christian. The Christian is a German Dominican mystic, Mesiter Eckhart. The Muslim is Muhyi al-Din al-Arabi, a Sufi teacher known as the Greatest Master. It tries to articulate conversation points between the two discourses which might serve as nodes for a possible new matrix for Christian-Muslim dialogue.

March 21, 2012Briefing: “Saudi Arabia and the Gulf: Looking for the Arab Spring” with Natana DeLong-Bas. In the midst of the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia alone seems to have escaped public protests over corruption, authoritarianism and the quest for more equitable sharing of benefits. This impression masks the realities of life and reform within the Kingdom. Dr. DeLong-Bas’s presentation explored some of the ways in which Saudi Arabia is working to address the challenges of the Arab Spring from a long-term perspective, offering analysis of areas of both stability and uncertainty for the future.


March 18, 2012“Islamic Learning Series: Hadith and Sunnah Seminar.” Imam Yahya Hendi discussed the science of how to assess the authority of sunnah and hadith. This event was cosponsored by ACMCU and the Georgetown University Office of the Muslim Chaplaincy.

March 15, 2012Book Event: Hamas: From Resistance to Government with Paola Caridi. Journalist and historian Paola Caridi discussed the Palestinian Islamist movement's political strategy from the participation in the 2006 elections up to the Second Arab Awakening. Caridi contributed to the founding of the press agency Lettera22 and has worked with several Italian dailies, weeklies, and reviews. Hamas: From Resistance To Government, her second book, was published in Italy in 2009 and in Palestine in March 2010.


March 13, 2012 Islam in South Africa and America with Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool. Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool is South Africa’s Ambassador to the United States of America. Before joining the Embassy, his most recent positions have included Member of Parliament in the National Assembly, Special Advisor to the State President of the Republic of South Africa and Premier (governor of the Western Cape Province). Ebrahim Rasool has a long history of involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle starting at High School and including leadership in the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the African National Congress (ANC).


February 23, 2012 “Iran: Parliamentary Elections under the Shadow of War” with Shireen Hunter and Hooshang Amirahmadi. In this panel, the speakers discussed some of the key forces competing for power in Iran’s upcoming parliamentary elections. The March 2012 elections for the ninth parliament since the Islamic Revolution in Iran will take place under the shadow of international sanctions and the threat of war. Therefore the ruling elite, although highly divided, is looking for large-scale participation in the elections as sign of popular support for the Islamic system. Meanwhile, the reformist camp is officially absent from the scene and aims at discrediting the elections as useless by claiming that the results are determined not by the people, but by powerful elements of the regime. Yet the elections will be hotly contested because of the deep splits which have emerged within the conservative ranks and the strong likelihood that some reformists will take part in the elections under the banner of some of the more moderate conservatives. The forthcoming elections are also significant because their result will indicate which tendency is more likely to win the next presidential elections to be held in 2013.

February 22, 2012 Briefing: “Between Moral Absolutism and Relativism: Religious Discourses on Gender in Turkey” with Visiting Researcher Onder Kucukural. In this briefing, Istanbul-based PhD candidate Onder Kucukural shared his research about gender in Turkey. Kucukural is a PhD candidate in the political science program at Sabanci University, Istanbul and a researcher at the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, currently working on his dissertation thesis on “Religious Reasoning and Pluralism in Turkish Society.” His areas of interest include sociology of religion, deliberative democracy in Muslim majority countries, political psychology of Islamism, religion and public sphere. He has a double major degree in psychology and sociology at Middle East Technical University, Ankara.

February 15, 2012Paper Presentation: “Politics of Informality: On the Power of the Public Spheres of Egypt” with Heba Raouf. While politics has long been studied from a modernist systemic approach, sociology has been trying to relate the form to relations of power, and ideologies have addressed power and thought as being in a dialectical multi-dimensional relation. Yet even the shift from old to new social movements did not grasp the emergence of a new rationale of political agency. Informality is a concept that needs to be introduced here to allow better understanding of the political in its different manifestations and transformations. Dr. Raouf discussed how the Egyptian revolution can be approached through the lenses of informality, how the old social movements paved the way to new ones, and how the moment of change crystallized through informal actions.


February 14, 2012 Luncheon Briefing: “Guantanamo: The rule of law or the law of ever changing rules?” with Nancy Hollander. In her discussion about Guantanamo Bay, internationally renowned criminal defense lawyer Nancy Hollander provided an update on the pending military commission cases, pending habeas cases, and the continuing flexibility of the rules that apply in those cases.


February 13, 2012 Briefing: “Establishing a New Political Party in Egypt: A First Hand Account” with Ahmed Abou-bakr and Tayseer Fahmy. Dr. Abou-bakr spoke about he and his wife’s (actress Tayseer Fahmy) experiences as protestors during the revolution, Tayseer's decision to run for the Maglis al-Shaab (People’s Assembly), their joint decision to establish a party (making her the first woman to lead a political party in Egypt), the challenges creating a new party presented, and their experiences during the elections. This event was co-sponsored by ACMCU and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies.


February 9, 2012Panel Discussion: “One Year Later: Has the Arab Spring Lived Up to Expectations?” One year has passed since protestors took to the streets across the Arab World. The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding and the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding hosted an engaging panel on what progress has been made on the ground and where the revolution will go from here. Panelists included John L. Esposito, Heba Raouf, and Radwan Ziadeh, with moderator Farid Senzai.

February 8, 2012Book Event: “Islam Through Western Eyes: From the Crusades to the War on Terrorism” with Jonathan Lyons. In Islam Through Western Eyes, Jonathan Lyons unpacks Western habits of thinking and writing about Islam, conducting a careful analysis of the West's grand totalizing narrative across one thousand years of history. He observes the discourse’s corrosive effects on the social sciences, including sociology, politics, philosophy, theology, international relations, security studies, and human rights scholarship. He follows its influence on research, speeches, political strategy, and government policy, preventing the West from responding effectively to its most significant twenty-first-century challenges: the rise of Islamic power, the emergence of religious violence, and the growing tension between established social values and multicultural rights among Muslim immigrant populations.

January 30, 2012 Luncheon Briefing: “Arab Spring: A View from Libya” with Tamara Sonn. One of the three North African countries that recently freed itself from dictatorship, Libya shares many characteristics with its neighbors Tunisia and Egypt. But its history of Italian colonial rule, followed by a brief monarchy and the protracted dictatorship of Mu`ammar al-Qadhdhafi, make it unique. Professor Sonn shared insights gathered on a recent trip to the former Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya.

November 30, 2011Book Event: Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era with Arsalan Iftikhar. With the tragic rise of extremism and global racism around the world today, the sociopolitical philosophy of 'Islamic Pacifism' is a humanitarian ethical platform rooted within the general concepts of nonviolence and basic Muslim ethical teachings of mercy and compassion towards all of humanity. From the global Muslim response to September 11 to analyzing the concept of 'The Golden Rule' within Islamic tradition to highlighting the contributions of historical Muslim pacifist giants from our recent past, this book 'Islamic Pacifism' shall offer young girls and boys of all colors and religions around the world a nonviolent antidote to many of our shared social and political issues affecting our globe today.

November 17, 2011 Trends in 21st Century American Muslim Women's “Feminist” Activism. The first decade of the 21st century witnessed the emergence of a newly exuberant and dynamic American Muslim “feminist” activism. Reminiscent in some ways in its liveliness of the American feminist movement of the 1960s and 70s, this contemporary movement appears to be occurring above all among American Muslim women and thus in relation specifically to Islam. Outlining some of its most notable developments through this decade, Dr. Ahmed also described some of the historical and social conditions contributing to the emergence of this newly invigorated American Muslim “feminist” activism.


November 15, 2011 Music in Oman: Politics, Identity, Time, and Space in the Sultanate. ACMCU partnered with the Sultan Qaboos Center (SQCC) and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies to host a colloquium on music in Oman. The presentations included “Mozart in Muscat: Politics, Performance, and Patronage in Oman” by Nasser Al-Taee, Director of Education and Outreach, Royal Opera House, Muscat; “African Identities, Afro-Omani Music, and the Official Constructions of a Musical Past” by Majid Al Harthy, Assistant Professor of Music/Musicology/Ethnomusicology, Sultan Qaboos University; and “The Musical Design of National Space and Time in Oman” by Anne K. Rasmussen, Associate Professor of Music and Ethnomusicology and Chair of the Department of Music, College of William and Mary. The event was moderated by D.A. Sonneborn, who is an Associate Director at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Smithsonian Institution.


October 31, 2011 Briefing: “Yes to Palestine” with HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal. Former Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States and Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal visited ACMCU to reiterate his full support of a Palestinian state. HRH is a Trustee of the Oxford Islamic Center at Oxford University and the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) at Georgetown University. He is also a Commissioner at the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. HRH received an honorary PhD. in Philosophy from the University of Ulster in 2010 and is a visiting Distinguished Professor at Georgetown University.


October 27, 2011Building Bridges Award: Honoring Patriarch Michel Sabbah and Dr. Fathi Osman. The Annual ACMCU Building Bridges of Understanding Award recognizes individuals who have dedicated their life’s work to fostering greater understanding between faith groups. The first recipients were Professors Hans Kung and Sulayman Nyang. This year, the award honored two remarkable figures, Patriarch Michel Sabbah and the late Dr. Fathi Osman, whose efforts to promote interfaith relations, peace-building and social justice have been extraordinary. Through their tireless work and often in the face of adversity, Patriarch Sabbah and Dr. Osman devoted their lives to furthering the most basic of human rights: justice and equality for all people. The event also featured a presentation by Dr. Ghada Osman on her book A Journey in Islamic Thought: The Life of Fathi Osman.

October 25, 2011Colloquium: “Orality and Oral Performance in Judaism and Islam.” This one-day colloquium on ‘Orality and Oral Performance in Judaism and Islam’ was cosponsored by ACMCU and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. The colloquium sought to start a productive conversation between experts from Rabbinic and Jewish scriptural studies, Islamic legal and scriptural studies, and respondents specializing in issues of orality and written text in the Christian tradition.

October 20, 2011Briefing: “Arab Spring: Challenges and Prospects in Transitioning from Dictatorship to Democracy” with John L. Esposito. Informed by discussions at an ACMCU workshop in Istanbul featuring political activists and leaders from Egypt, Tunisia, Gaza and Syria, with leaders of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Tunisia's Ennahda, and academic and government experts, as well as Gallup data, John Esposito addressed the hopes, obstacles and challenges to democratization.

October 13, 2011Book Event: The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists with Charles Kurzman. Cosponsored with Security Studies. In the months after 9/11, many Americans wondered whether the world was entering a new era of spiraling terrorism and civilizational conflict. Ten years later, Charles Kurzman examined why these nightmares have not come true.


October 11, 2011“Can Muslims be Good Dutch Burghers?” with Nelly van Doorn. How could it happen that a substantive number of citizens in the Netherlands, a country once famous for its progressive image, accepted the anti-Islamic, ultra-conservative rhetoric of Geert Wilders and made him one of the most popular and feared politicians? Part of the attraction seems to be that he is one of the few who has managed to address the question about what it means to be "really" Dutch. The rest of the population is still trying to figure out how Dutch they are and if being Muslim and Dutch can be an acceptable identity.


October 6-7, 2011“Transitioning Dictatorship to Democracy: Workshops in Best Practices & Insight Sharing.” The Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and the Turkish Prime Minister’s Office of Public Diplomacy co-hosted a conference in Istanbul, Turkey to discuss the prospects for democratic transitions after this year’s historic Arab uprisings. The conference, titled “Transitioning Dictatorship to Democracy: Workshops in Best Practices & Insight Sharing,” brought together leading figures from the Arab Spring, including Egyptian, Tunisian, and Palestinian activists, politicians, and scholars. They were joined by a diverse array of participants from Turkey, Europe, and the United States. More information on this conference can be foundhere.

September 23, 2011“Standing Up to Stereotypes: How Comedy Took on Islamophobia and Took the Arab World by Storm.” Fresh from his "The Muslims are Coming!" comedy tour of the southern U.S., Dean Obeidallah talked about the role of stand up comedy in debunking stereotypes and increasing understanding across cultures. Dean has appeared on Comedy Central and is the co-founder of the NY Arab-American Comedy Festival and is Executive Director of the Amman Stand Up Comedy Festival. Obeidallah also discussed the stand up surge in the Arab world. Presented by ACMCU, BSFS Culture & Politics Major, and the Mortara Center for International Studies.

September 21, 2011 I Speak for Myself book launch with Hadia Mubarak, Asma Uddin, Yusra Tekbali, and Saliqa Khan.  I Speak for Myself is a collection of 40 personal essays written by American Muslim women under the age of 40, all of whom were born and raised in the US. It is a showcase of the true diversity found in American Islam. The book has already caught the attention of prominent thought leaders including Deepak Chopra, Muhammad Yunus, Her Majesty Queen Noor, Jim Wallis, Eboo Patel, Soledad O'Brien and many more.


September 14, 2011 “The Role of Islam in the New Egypt” – Heba Raouf, and Jonathan Brown. Discussant: Samer Shehata. Co-sponsored with CCAS. The events of the Arab Spring have brought Islamist groups in Egypt to the forefront, both as participants in the country’s revolution and now as influential voices in shaping Egypt’s future. Today Islamist groups of varied stripes are competing with more secular voices in Egypt over the proper place of Islam in the state’s functioning and the nation’s identity. What are the visions for the role of Islam in the new Egypt, how would these visions be implemented, and what impact would they have on Egypt domestically and internationally? This panel event addressed these important questions.


September 13, 2011Book Event: God’s Century with Monica Toft and Timothy Shah. Is religion a force for good or evil in world politics? How much influence does it have? Despite predictions of its decline, religion has resurged in political influence across the globe, helped by the very forces that were supposed to bury it: democracy, globalization, and technology. And despite recent claims that religion is exclusively irrational and violent, its political influence is in fact diverse, sometimes promoting civil war and terrorism but at other times fostering democracy, reconciliation, and peace. Looking across the globe, the authors explain what generates these radically divergent behaviors. In a time when the public discussion of religion is overheated, these dynamic young scholars use deeply original analysis and sharp case studies to show us both how and why religion’s influence on global politics is surging. Finally they offer concrete suggestions on how to both confront the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities posed by globally resurgent religion.


September 8, 2011 Conference: “Religion and the American-Muslim Community Post - 9/11” with Karen Armstrong, John Esposito, David Cole, Linda Moreno, and Arsalan Iftikhar. The ten years following the attacks of September 11 have profoundly affected global and domestic politics from the impact of the Bush administration-led war on global terrorism and regime change in Iraq to continued attacks by transnational and domestic terrorists. The fallout also ushered in a new era in American and European domestic policy in which established notions of freedom, security, and civil liberties have been challenged and threatened, specifically affecting the American-Muslim community. This program sought to answer such questions as: What lessons can we learn from the past decade as we embark on a new way forward? What impact has post 9/11 had on American perceptions of Islam and Muslims and on Muslim freedoms and civil liberties? How have these affected American Muslim attitudes, hopes and fears? And what can people of other faiths learn about their own practice and traditions in the wake of this tragedy?

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