March 16, 2017—book talk: "Making Moderate Islam: Sufism, Service and the 'Ground-Zero Mosque' Controversy" with Dr. Rosemary Corbett. Drawing on a decade of research into the community that proposed the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque," this book refutes the idea that current demands for Muslim moderation have primarily arisen in response to the events of 9/11, or to the violence often depicted in the media as unique to Muslims. Instead, it looks at a century of pressures on religious minorities to conform to dominant American frameworks for race, gender, and political economy. These include the encouraging of community groups to provide social services to the dispossessed in compensation for the government's lack of welfare provisions in an aggressively capitalist environment. Calls for Muslim moderation in particular are also colored by racist and orientalist stereotypes about the inherent pacifism of Sufis with respect to other groups. The first investigation of the assumptions behind moderate Islam in our country, Making Moderate Islam is also the first to look closely at the history, lives, and ambitions of the those involved in Manhattan's contested project for an Islamic community center.
March 1, 2017—film screening & Q&A: "Generation Revolution" with Cassie Quarless and Usayd Younis. Generation Revolution brings to screen the powerful story of a new generation of black and brown activists who are changing the social and political landscape in the capital and beyond. This feature-length documentary film follows an exciting new breed of organisations as well as the young Londoners that are part of them.
February 28, 2017—briefing: "Reimagining Solidarity: the 'Allah' Controversy and Interreligious Relations in Malaysia" with Rev. Dr. Sivin Kit. This talk illuminated and discussed the challenges faced by non-Muslims (Christians) living in a Muslim majority where ethno-religious (Malay-Muslim) identity is central through revisiting the controversy over the use of the word 'Allah' by Christians in the Malay language. This talk also highlighted expressions of inter-religious solidarity between Muslims and Christians as both confronted state-led policies governing the practice of Islam in Malaysia.
February 23, 2017—briefing: "Christian-Muslim relations in modern Iraq" with Kristian Girling. The Christian communities of modern Iraq have been obliged to adapt to a wide variety of changing religious, political, social and economic circumstances. From the foundation of the state of Iraq in the aftermath of the First World War through to the overthrow of Saddam Husain the Christians have attempted to deal with often highly challenging circumstances. Nevertheless, for the most part Christians have strongly grounded themselves in Iraqi society and have been net contributors. This talk considered how Christian-Muslim relations have altered over the last one hundred years and reflected on how Christian and Muslim engagements may develop in light of the rise of Da'esh/ISIL and the ethnic cleansing of Iraq's Christian pop.
February 22, 2017—book talk: "Is Islam an Enemy of the West" with Prof. Tamara Sonn. Donald Trump campaigned on promises to keep Muslims out of the U.S. and recently made good on his promises. On January 27, 2017 he issued an executive order suspending entry of refugees to the U.S. for 120 days, barring all Syrian refugees, and blocking entry of citizens of seven Muslim majority countries for 90 days, with exceptions made for Christians. In her recent book, Tamara Sonn addresses the question raised by these actions. She argues that many Muslims oppose the U.S., but not because of religion; like many others worldwide, they oppose U.S. policies that undermine their quest for political rights. The vast majority of Muslims struggle peacefully to protect their rights. They oppose both the strategies of the extremists and the militarism that exacerbates it. In this talk, Professor Sonn will discuss her argument that Islam, therefore is not the problem, and war is not the solution.
February 15, 2017—book talk: “Honour And Violence: Gender, Power and Law in Southern Pakistan” with Dr. Nafisa Shah. After over a decade in the security spotlight, Muslims in the US now find themselves in the cross-hairs of the Trump movement. Islamophobia arguably provides the common thread and rallying call for the various forces that brought the new president to power and for much of the Republican Party. Muslim leaders in the US continue to debate how best to address the challenges of Islamophobia and new policies such as the ban on Muslim immigration. And they continue to debate how and with whom to form alliances. This panel discussed these urgent questions.
February 7, 2017—briefing: “Between Social Conservatism and Progressive Resistance: Muslims in Trump's America” with Dalia Mogahed & Dr. Abbas Barzegar. After over a decade in the security spotlight, Muslims in the US now find themselves in the cross-hairs of the Trump movement. Islamophobia arguably provides the common thread and rallying call for the various forces that brought the new president to power and for much of the Republican Party. Muslim leaders in the US continue to debate how best to address the challenges of Islamophobia and new policies such as the ban on Muslim immigration. And they continue to debate how and with whom to form alliances. This panel discussed these urgent questions.
February 6, 2017—briefing: “Visionaries: Second Sight and Social Change in Islamic West Africa” with Rudolph Ware. This talk explored—in the context of Islamic West Africa—these two primary (and inter-related) senses of the meaning of the word ‘visionary’: a person who experiences ‘visions’ in dreams, trances, and waking states and a person who provides inspirational leadership for social change. In short, it is an examination of the relationship between the ‘extra-sensory’ sensorium of religious experiences and social action in the Islamic tradition of the African West. For visionary African Muslims, 'visions' were often more real than reality itself and thus had the capacity to transform it. But these visions were not limited to seeing; they were also experiences of sound and smell, touch and taste. The English language—which favors sight among its five culturally constructed senses—offers no better word to describe such all-encompassing sensory experiences than ‘vision.’
February 1, 2017—briefing: “Unpredictable Futures: Islam, Citizenship, and Political Possibility in France” with Mayanthi Fernando. This talk examined how Muslim French – i.e. those committed to practicing Islam as French citizens and practicing citizenship as pious Muslims – negotiate a social and political world in which they are imagined, a priori, as always already not-French because they are Muslim. It explored how this impasse is not only lived but also challenged by a post-immigration generation of Muslim civic activists. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with these activists, the talk reflected on new forms of public religiosity, national citizenship, and political possibility.
January 25, 2017—book talk: “Has Religion Become the Most Influential Factor in International Relations?” with Shireen Hunter. In the last two decades, the role of religion in international affairs has become more prominent, and has attracted the academia’s and publics’ attention. However, many questions regarding how and why religion influences international relations remain unanswered. Is religion a motivation for action by state and non-state actors or merely a justification? Which actors are more influenced by religion? In what ways does religion influence international relations? In her latest book God on Our Side: Religion in International Affairs Dr. Shireen Hunter looks into these questions and tries to explain why and how religion affects international relations. By using three case studies-Russia’s Policy towards the Bosnia War, Turkey’s Policy towards the Bosnia War, and the European Union’s policy towards Turkey’s membership in the EU, Dr. Hunter demonstrated how, why, when and through what channels religion most influences international relations.
December 7, 2016—briefing: “The Civil Rights of Muslim Americans: A Casualty of the War on Terror” with Arjun Singh Sethi. Co-sponsored with the Bridge Initiative. Innocent Muslim Americans are a casualty of the war on terror. They are regularly targeted by abusive and overreaching counter-terrorism programs including countering violent extremism initiatives, watchlists, and suspicious activity reporting. They likewise endure disproportionate surveillance and profiling by national intelligence agencies and law enforcement. We spy on the many to catch the few. We target based on faith, not evidence of wrongdoing. This talk explored these abusive practices and discussed efforts underway to curb them.
December 1, 2016—briefing: "ISIS & The Future of Islam" with Ovamir Anjum. This talk argued that it is crucial to understand and critique the phenomenon of ISIS from within Islamic tradition, and explored its meaning for the history and future of Islam. This requires us to mobilize the disciplines of usul al-fiqh, theology, and history, and to dismantle simplistic but widespread answers that cloud meaningful understanding and response.
November 14, 2016—briefing: "Approaching Jesus in the Qur'an: Christian and Muslim Perspectives" with Mouhanad Khorchide and Klaus von Stosch. Co-sponsored with the Department of Theology and the Berkley Center. The position of Jesus in the Qur’an is among the most contentious areas in Muslim-Christian dialogue. Many Christian scholars think that the verses on Jesus in the Qur'an are not acceptable and show that the Qur'an cannot be the word of God. Many Muslim scholars think that Christian adoration of Jesus is idolatrous. Khorchide and von Stosch, part of a research project on the subject sponsored by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Association), argue that a close reading of the verses of the Qur'an in their historical setting can help Christians and Muslims appreciate each others’ positions.
October 26, 2016—briefing: “Muslims in Australia: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives” with Dr. Nahid Afrose Kabir. Co-sponsored with the Center for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies. Muslim contact with Australia can be traced to before European settlement. In the seventeenth century Macassarese people from Indonesia formed trade links with Indigenous Australians. British-European settlement on the Australian continent occurred when British and Irish convicts were transported there between 1788 and 1868. A few Muslim convicts from the British colonies arrived in Australia. However, Muslim settlement in Australia in notable numbers commenced with the arrival of the Afghans from the 1860s when they were introduced to assist with exploration. Other early Muslim ethnic groups included Indians, Malays, and Javanese. Under the Immigration Restriction Act 1901, European Muslims such as Albanians migrated to Australia. In 1973, when multiculturalism became government policy, Muslim (and non-Muslim) migration to Australia commenced in large numbers. It reflected the increasing cultural, linguistic and religious diversity in Australia.
October 19, 2016—briefing: “Islamophobia as Ideology of Empire” with Arun Kundnani. Is Islamophobia a form of racism? If so, how does it relate to the broader history of racisms? Drawing on the work of Frantz Fanon and Stuart Hall, Islamophobia is here analyzed as a lay ideology that offers an everyday “common sense” explanatory framework for making sense of mediated crisis events (such as terrorist attacks) in ways that disavow those events’ political meanings (rooted in empire, racism, and resistance) and instead explain them as products of a reified “Muslimness.” Thus Islamophobia involves an ideological displacement of political antagonisms onto the plane of culture, where they can be explained in terms of the fixed nature of the “Other.” This maneuver is also an act of projection in the psychoanalytic sense: the violence upon which US-led capitalism depends cannot be acknowledged in a nominally liberal society so it is transferred onto the personality of the Muslim and seen as emanating from “outside” the social order.
October 12, 2016—briefing: “Only Women Understand Women!” – Muslim Female Preachers Claiming Religious Authority in Contemporary Malaysia" with Norbani Ismail. During the past two decades, Malaysian Muslim female preachers have gained access to opportunity and spaces in preaching Islam to the public. Their preaching activism, both through the mass media and the public podiums, is seemingly an indication of a shift in knowledge construction and diffusion, and the meaning of religious authority in contemporary Islamic discourse in Malaysia. They have gained trust from the public and become authoritative voice of Islam through acquired knowledge in fundamental texts of Islam. To claim the spaces in preaching, the female preachers have mastered the skills such as Arabic language, memorization of religious texts and public speaking. Just like the men preachers, they have dedicated their works towards creating a sound moral and ethical society based on Islamic framework. They preach to the public on various issues: moral-spiritual endeavors, socio-religious advices and practices, marital and family relations, and on events based on Islamic calendar. Nevertheless, the female preachers have to navigate their activism within the confines of expected social norms and of the highly-bureaucratized religious authority and administration. By adhering to social expectations and religious orthodoxy, the female preachers are able to continue preaching to the public, as well as to build the trust with both the established religious authority and the public.
September 21, 2016—briefing: " Al-Shabab’s Media: The Evolution and Strategic Role of Al-Shabab's Narrative Production and Insurgent Media Operations, 2007-2016" with Chris Anzalone. Since it emerged fully independent from the ashes of the Islamic Courts Union coalition in 2007, Al-Shabab's leadership has been busy establishing a bureaucracy of power designed to exercise regional and local nodes of governing authority and control. As part of its broader strategy, Al-Shabab recognized the need for a sophisticated, multi-directional media operations apparatus capable of reaching multiple target audiences at the domestic, regional, and international/global levels. These media continue to form an integral part of Al-Shabab's overall strategy of governance, survival, and expansion as an ideologically-driven insurgent organization, despite mounting battlefield, territorial, and personnel losses. Al-Shabab has also utilized its media machine in tandem with its formidable internal security apparatus to crack down on internal dissent including, thus far successfully, on attempts by Islamic State to establish and expand a strong foothold in Somalia and East Africa. This talk discussed the history and evolution of Al-Shabab's media operations and narrative production capabilities and their integral role in the insurgents' broader strategy of territorial control and rule.
September 19, 2016—briefing: "Faith in the Face of Empire: Within and Beyond the Wall" with Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb. Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb's presentation was on his latest book Faith in the Face of Empire along with updates on the current situation in Palestine and the implications faced living under occupation.
September 14, 2016—briefing: “How to Create a Sitcom about Muslims - Very Carefully" with Zarqa Nawaz. Co-Sponsored with the Bridge Initiative. Zarqa Nawaz, the creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie, talked about her journey as an artist of Muslim faith, from short films to documentary to television show to memoir.
September 14, 2016—panel event: "Defending Human and Civil Rights in a Growing National Security State". Co-Sponsored with the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms. Speakers included Sue Udry, Shannon Erwin, Dr. Maha Hilal, Ramah Kudaimi, Katherine Hawkins, Daniel J. Jones, and Glenn L. Carle.
September 9, 2016—briefing: "Conceptual Fault Lines in Contemporary Liberalism" with Andrew March.
Liberalism” is often taken by both its proponents and its enemies to encode a single set of commitments: perhaps to individual rights and freedoms, limited government, a mixed economy and secularism. In contentious public debates over policy issues, “liberalism” is often seen by its adherents as calling for a single right answer and by its opponents as the primary cause of enduring social and cultural conflicts. And, yet, with some exceptions, almost all of our present legal and political conflicts in Western countries take place under the broad canopy of what can be called “liberalism.” How can this be true, and if it is, does liberalism lack a coherent conceptual core? Is it an essentially contented concept? Or is it a field of argumentation over the proper weight that should be given to a wide, but finite, number of common values and commitments? This talk addressed these questions as they are illuminated in a few important contemporary public policy disputes.
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