2013-2014 Activities

April 29th, 2014- Luncheon Briefing: “Christian-Muslim Relations: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” with Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali. Co-sponsored with Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs. Christian-Muslim (and Jewish) relations have existed for as long as Islam has been on the scene of history. There have been periods of fruitful cooperation and dialogue, as well as times of serious conflict and struggle. There is much to learn from the past as we address contemporary issues and also as we try and identify what the future holds for us. Will those who want division and mutual isolation triumph over those who wish informed conversation and friendship, whilst maintaining the distinctives of each faith? The lecture covered these and other topics.

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April 27, 2014 - Co-sponsored event: “Sin, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation: Christian and Muslim Perspectives with Veli-Matti Kärkäinnen (Fuller Theological Seminary) and Jonathan Brown (ACMCU Georgetown University).” Sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown College, School of Foreign Service, Catholic Studies Program, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Mortara Center for International Studies, ACMCU, and campus ministry. The opening session of the thirteenth Building Bridges Seminar, an annual dialogue of Christian and Muslim scholars, featured lectures on this year's seminar theme, "Sin, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation: Christian and Muslim Perspectives." 

The nature of human sin and divine forgiveness has often been a point of contention between Christians and Muslims. The Muslim critique of Christian positions on these topics raises some very important points—posing questions, particularly about “original sin”—that Christians themselves often ask. Christians have some questions about sin and redemption to put to Muslims as well. The purpose of the seminar was not to arrive at agreement, but rather to make sure that each has understood the other's concerns.

April 23, 2014 – Luncheon Briefing: “Vying for Allah’s Vote: Rising Political Islam, Causes and Consequences” with Haroon Kaleem Ullah. Religion, politics, and policy are inextricably linked in Pakistan, and together tied to Pakistan's relationship with the United States. Pakistan embarked on its first democratic transition of power last year. The success of this experiment will hinge on how well Islamic parties-who are showing their strength within the political landscape-can contribute to civilian rule, shun violence, and mobilize support for political reform. However, these parties are diverse in their policy goals and political intentions and cannot be painted with a broad brush, as often occurs in the United States. Dr. Haroon Ullah provided a look at the rise of political Islam in Pakistan and in the Arab Spring and how understanding these internal dynamics can help shape better bilateral relations.    


April 9, 2014 – Luncheon Briefing: “Understanding American Muslims Using Survey Data” with Dr. Besheer Mohamed. In recent years there have been a number of efforts to survey the American Muslim population. This presentation highlighted some of the questions that this sort of data can answer and some new questions the existing research raises.


April 2, 2014 – Luncheon Briefing: “The Endangered Promise of Pakistan: Democracy and Islam in the first Islamic Republic” with Shahan Mufti. In 1956, nine years after it appeared on the world map as a nation state, Pakistan passed its first national constitution that declared the country an “Islamic republic.” It was the first state in the world to take on that title. The constitution described the country as a “democratic state” that would be guided by “principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated by Islam.” Six decades later, this Pakistani promise to bridge and reconcile the ideals of Islam and western democracy appears more imperiled than ever, at a time when the United States’ involvement in the country is deeper and more complex than ever before. Shahan Mufti addressed this political autoimmune disorder in the context of his reporting from post-9/11 Pakistan and focused on the period since 2007, when the former President Pervez Musharraf began to lose his grip on power.

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March 31, 2014 – Briefing: “Understanding Islamic Law, its Historical and Cultural Relevance, and Alternative Dispute Resolution in Muslim Diasporic Communities” with Dr. Mohamed M. Keshavjee. The concept of Shari'a which is a set of ethical principles outlined in the Quran which includes, Islamic law and equity, have been mischaracterized in the media and misunderstood by most non-Muslims. With millions of Muslims in North America, it is important for policy makers, academics and the judiciary to have a better understanding of what Shari'a embodies, how it is viewed by Muslims and others and its historical evolution and application. 

Islam, Sharia and Alternative Dispute Resolution: Mechanisms for Legal Redress in the Muslim Community, by Mohamed M. Keshavjee LLM. PhD. (London), is a pathbreaking new book that skillfully takes the reader through the foundations of Sharia and its differing interpretations, and illustrates its ethical principles through application by an extra judicial body, called the Muslim Law Sharia Council (MLSC) dispensing justice under the public laws of the United Kingdom – established a quarter century ago to address issues of family law raised by diasporic Muslims with a particular focus on fairness, equity and gender justice this body has mediated in family law disputes with cultural sensitivity to traditions the parties wish to respect through their voluntary participation. Cases discussed include issues raised regarding divorce, separation, inheritance and matrimonial rights and obligations generally.

March 26, 2014 – Briefing: “Fard Muhammad in Historic Context” with Fatima Fanusie. The legacy of Fard Muhammad, founder of the Lost Found Nation of Islam, has perplexed scholars of the Nation of Islam and Islamic development in Twentieth Century America. Fatima Fanusie approached the understudied intellectual heritage and missionary activism of the Lahore heirs of Ghulam Ahmad’s Ahmadiyya movement as the critical link to understanding Fard Muhammad and the Nation of Islam in America. The dominant Islamic missionary group operating in America at the time of the development of the Nation of Islam was the Ahmadiyya movement.  Between 1888 and 1975 Ahmadiyya intellectuals conceived of and implemented multi pronged strategies for affecting American religious development and cultivating Islam in American society. Dr. Fanusie argued that the Nation of Islam was but one aspect of strategic Ahmadiyya efforts to cultivate Islam in America.  

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March 5, 2014 – Briefing: "The Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai" with Dr. John Andrew Morrow. The Monastery of St. Catherine at Mount Sinai boasts one of the greatest libraries in the world. One of the most important documents in its collection is the famous "Achtiname of Muhammad," a covenant concluded between the Prophet Muhammad and the monks from the monastery. Is it authentic? Is it a forgery? Dr. Morrow examined the pros and cons of this controversial patent of protection. 

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February 26, 2014 – Briefing: "Khutba vs. Khutzpa: Islamophobia on the Internet" with Daniel Varisco. Cyberspace is a potent breeding ground for Islamophobia, giving voice to extremists and a range of negative representation of Islam and Muslims.  The Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik posted his anti-Islamic manifesto on the Internet, including a Youtube video. Numerous websites are devoted to attacking Islam, at times claiming only to be against “extremist” Islam, such as “Jihad Watch” by Robert Spencer.  As an anthropologist who has conducted ethnographic research among Muslims in Yemen, Egypt and Qatar and as a historian of Islamic history, Daniel Varisco offered his suggestions on ways to counteract the cyber “khutzpa” of Islamophobia. He discussed the online journal CyberOrient, which he founded in 2006, as an academic forum to assess the role of the Internet and social media in the contemporary world.   

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January 29, 2014 – Conference: "Egypt & The Struggle for Democracy."  Events in Egypt during the last year have been as controversial as they have been crucial, both to Egypt's future and that of the Middle East.  Egypt's political path since its first free and fair democratic elections in 2012 has been tumultuous: popular protests against an elected president, his ousting by the army and the subsequent bloody crackdown on those who have opposed the coup.  This conference took up the question of how these developments unfolded and what lay ahead for Egypt.  It drew on noted experts on Egypt from the US and Europe as well as political activists and analysts from Egypt.   

Opening and Session 1: Critical Stages of the Egyptian Revolution: Was the Coup Inevitable?
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Session 2: The Current Status of Democracy, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law
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Session 3: The Role of the Youth Movements and NGOs After the Coup
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Session 4: Restoration of Democracy and the Rule of Law in Egypt: The Roles of the Pro-Democracy Groups and the International Community
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November 21, 2013 – 20th Anniversary Conference: "Muslim-Christian Relations in the 21st Century: Challenges & Opportunities." All day conference, which included an exploration and critical discussion of the contemporary challenges facing religious pluralism and Muslim-Christian relations. This conference commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU). Founded in 1993, the Center has spent the last two decades building stronger bridges of understanding between the Muslim world and the West, as well as between Islam and Christianity.

November 15, 2013 – An International Response to a Global Crisis: A Conversation with Baroness Warsi on Religious Freedom. The UK’s first ever Minister for Faith, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, made the case for an international response to religious persecution. Drawing on the British government’s strategy to promote religious freedom at home and abroad, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Warsi offered forward in tackling the persecution of Christians and other minorities—something she has dubbed a ‘global crisis’. The Religious Freedom Project's Tom Farr moderated. This event was co-sponsored by the Berkley Center, the Berkley Center's Religious Freedom Project, and the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

November 14, 2013 – Briefing: “What is Progressive Islam and its lived out realities?” with Ani Zonneveld. Progressive interpretations of Islam are often talked about as if they are a pie-in-the sky, an ideal that is not attainable. Ani Zonneveld spoke about real lived out examples of what it means to be a progressive Muslim in America, in the 21st century, and the religious and cultural form that is taking root here in America, Canada and elsewhere. She weaved her presentation with spiritual Islamic songs that she herself has composed.

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November 6, 2013 – Briefing: “Researching without prejudice: how is this possible with Islam and the modern world?” with Alison Scott-Baumann. Securitization within politics has entered the research community in Britain and Europe and creates a powerful ideology of fear about radicalization and Islam. Attempts to bring communities together can thus be seen as, at best, irrelevant and at worst, a direct threat. This has been a significant factor in Prof. Scott-Baumann’s experience of undertaking research on Muslims for the British government and other related bodies. She touched on related projects that include interesting work on Arabic, and demonstrate how she uses both pure and applied philosophy to keep a sense of balance.

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November 4, 2013 – “Libya: From Revolutionary Legitimacy to Constitutional Legitimacy” with Libya Ambassador to the UAE Dr. Aref Ali Nayed. Cosponsored with CCAS event. This lecture was a philosophical/political reflection on the situation in Libya today. Exploring architectonic and structural sources of tension that have led to a multiplicity of crises, it explored a set of possible remedies and solutions. The notions and realities of 'revolutionary' and 'constitutional' legitimacy are approached theoretically and pragmatically. The lecture concluded with an outline of a 'Libya Disaster Recovery Plan' aimed at stabilization and national thriving.

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October 24-25, 2013 – “God’s Century: Assessing the ‘Clash of Secular & Religious Trends in the Middle East and North Africa.” Cosponsored by the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, the Center for International and Regional Studies, and the School of Foreign Service in Qatar. The conference featured expert observers of the region from the GU main campus and from the School of Foreign Service in Qatar, as well as invited scholars from other institutions. The papers addressed a variety of themes pertaining to the development of secular & religious trends in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), focusing on different countries and sub‐regions, and highlighting the impact of these trends on education; gender relations; family, clan and tribal bonds; print and electronic media; occupational and professional careers; religious beliefs and behavior; as well as political attitudes, political party affiliations, and electoral behavior. They examined numerous and diverse causal roots, ranging from demography to globalization, and their major consequences, both violent and non-violent, for the political and social evolution of all these states.

October 10, 2013 – Briefing: “Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Accept the Islamic Republic of Iran" with Hillary and Flynt Leverett. As Washington hopes for a breakthrough on the Iranian nuclear issue with Iran's new President Rouhani, the Leveretts argued that change really needs to come from Washington. This will require a thorough reassessment of American grand strategy in the Middle East, enabling Washington finally to accept the Islamist governance and foreign policy independence of one of the world's most important civilization states--just as, in the 1970s, Washington finally accepted the People's Republic of China, another civilization state with a revolutionary commitment to strategic independence.

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