News & Events

Islam and Human Rights: A 50-Year Retrospective

Public talk by Nader Hashemi, Associate Professor; Director of the Centre for Middle Studies, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, USA

When: Wednesday, March 15, 2023 — 6:30 PM- 8:00 PM (MST)
Where: Telus Centre, University of Alberta, Room 134

You can register for the event here.

The debate on Islam and human rights is roughly 50 years old. During this time, a vast literature has been produced analyzing the relationship between the religion of Islam, Muslim societies and international human rights norms. What have we learned during this time that can further an understanding of this topic among students, scholars and members of the general public? What analytical framework is optimal? Is the crisis of human rights in Muslim societies a function of internal social conditions and external factors, or are they to be located within the framework of Islamic doctrine, traditions, and the shariah in particular? This lecture grapples with these questions by looking back over the past five decades on the global debate on Islam and human rights.

Dr. Nader Hashemi is Associate Professor of Middle East and Islamic Politics and Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. His publications include Islam, Secularism and Liberal Democracy: Toward a Democratic Theory for Muslim Societies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and Iran’s Struggle for Democracy (New York: Melville House, 2011), edited with Danny Postel; The Syria Dilemma (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013), edited with Danny Postel; Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017); Islam and Human Rights, volume 1 (London: Routledge, 2022), edited with Emran Qureshi; (and Iran’s Green Movement: A Political and Intellectual History (Oxford University Press/Hurst & Co., forthcoming).

Resistance, Social Movements, Democracy: Myth of Middle East Exceptionalism

Book launch and scholarly discussion of middle eastern social movements of the past, present and future; this event features:

Asef Bayat, Professor of Sociology, and the Catherine and Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies at the Department of Sociology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA.

Yasmeen Abu-Laban, Professor and Canada Research Chair in the politics of citizenship and human Rights in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta.

Michael Frishkopf, Professor of music at the University of Alberta and Director of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology.

Mojtaba Mahdavi, Professor of Political Science and the ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies at the University of Alberta.

When: Tuesday, February 7, 2023 — 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Where: Telus Centre, Room 150

Following Professor Asef Bayat Keynote address, there will be a conversation with three University of Alberta experts; Professors Yasmeen Abu-Laban, Michael Frishkopf, and Mojtaba Mahdavi, sharing insights from their contributions to the upcoming book, The Myth of Middle East Exceptionalism: Unfinished Social Movements edited by Mojtaba Mahdavi and published by Syracuse University Press (2023).

More information and Eventbrite registration here.



The Islamic History Month’s Special Virtual Panel:

Multiple Manifestations of Being Muslim

You are cordially invited to participate in the panel of experts sponsored by the ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies, Department of Political Science, and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (MEIS) research group:

When: Wednesday, October 19, 2022, 6:00 PM — 8:00 PM (MDT)
Where: Zoom webinar. Please register HERE.

Panellists and Presentation Titles:
Yasmeen Abu-Laban: History of the Present: Anti-Muslim Racism
Manijeh Mannani (Athabasca University, Modern Languages and Cultural Studies): Mawlānā, Madonna, and Now Ivanka!
Jocelyn Hendrickson: Leaving Iberia: Islamic Law and Christian Conquest in North West Africa
Ann McDougall: Being Muslim Today in‘Islamic West Africa’
Joseph Hill: Islamic Mysticism/Sufism in Africa
Michael Frishkopf: Sounding Edmonton’s Aga Khan Garden: The Language of the Birds in Virtual Reality
Mojtaba Mahdavi: Counter-History of the Present: The Myth of Muslim Exceptionalism

What’s Happening in Iran? “Women, Life, Freedom” (Zan, Zendegi, Azadi)

When: Friday October 14, 2022, 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM (MST)
Where: Online Zoom Webinar. For registration, please CLICK HERE.

Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania, President-Elect of Association for Iranian Studies
Nader Hashemi Associate Professor; Director of the Centre for Middle Studies, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver

In conversation with, and moderated by Mojtaba Mahdavi Professor of Political Science; ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies, University of Alberta

Learn More About the Current Uprising in Iran:

Public Talk by Fawaz A. Gerges
Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics


When: Monday September 26, 2022, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM (Edmonton time)
Where: Online Zoom Webinar. For registration, please CLICK HERE.

In his keynote address, Professor Fawaz Gerges examines the impact of the geostrategic curse on impeding progress in the Middle East, beginning from the Cold War to the post-Arab Spring uprisings. He asks how and in what ways does the strategic curse impede social and political progress in the region. More specifically, the lecture covers geostrategic rivalries in the MENA region as well as the role of the Western powers, particularly the United States. 

Fawaz A. Gerges is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and holder of the Emirates Professorship in Contemporary Middle East Studies. He was also the inaugural Director of the LSE Middle East Centre from 2010 until 2013. Professor Gerges’ most recent books are Making the Arab World: Nasser, Qutb, and the Clash that Shaped the Middle East (Princeton University Press, 2018), ISIS: A History (Princeton University Press, 2016) and The New Middle East: Protest and Revolution in the Arab World (Cambridge University Press, November 2013). He is also the author of several acclaimed books: Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy (Harcourt Press, 2007), and The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global (Cambridge University Press, 2005). His forthcoming book is The Hundred Years’ War for Control of the Middle East: From Sykes-Picot to the Deal of the Century (Princeton University Press).

Graduate Student Virtual Symposium

Rethinking MENA and the Muslim World

The ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies and the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (MEIS) at the University of Alberta will host an interdisciplinary graduate-level online symposium that aims to bring together graduate students from ALL DISCIPLINES to critically examine a variety of topics relating to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the larger Muslim contexts. All Master’s and PhD students with a research project on any aspect of socio-cultural, historical, religious, art and political issues in MENA and Muslim contexts are invited to submit an abstract of their presentation.

Where: Online Seminar. For registration please CLICK HERE.
When: May 31, 2022

For more information please visit the Symposium Website.
Please find the program HERE.

The ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies Prizes for Best Papers

The ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies Prizes for best papers Participants at the symposium have the option to submit their papers two weeks after the symposium on June 15 and participate in the graduate competition for the best papers. The ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies at the University of Alberta is pleased to offer two prizes to the first and second best papers:

                  • First best paper $500
                  • Second best paper $300

Book Talk:

Rethinking China, the Middle East and Asia in a ‘Multiplex World’

Manochehr Dorraj, Professor of Political Science, Texas Christian University, USA
Habibul Khondker, Professor of Social Sciences at Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Mojtaba Mahdavi, Professor of Political Science and the ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies, University of Alberta


Ashley Esarey, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the interdisciplinary program in Taiwan Studies, University of Alberta

When: Thursday, May 26th, 2022, 10:00 am (Edmonton Time)
Where: Online Zoom Webinar. For registration please CLICK HERE.

The editor and chapter contributors of this volume will shed light on the complexities and the nuances of China’s multifaceted expanding ties with the regions and the opportunities and the challenges that await all sides. By providing a synthesis of theoretical observations on the nature of China’s engagement with case study of key countries and regions that are China’s partner in Belt and Road Initiative, they offer thought and insights on the rapid changes surrounding China’s global rise and the regional transformation in context. This edited volume critically examines the changing dynamics of multidimensional relations between China, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Asia in an emerging ‘multiplex world’. It challenges both extremes of ‘Sinophobia’ and ‘Sinophilia’ by studying the real ‘pragmatist’ China. This book, in a foreword, introduction and thirteen chapters, problematises what MENA and Asia means to China in the age of neoliberalism, explores what are the real or perceived pillars of Sino‒MENA-Asia relations, and sheds light on how MENA can benefit from its relations with China while keeping a clear distance from the harms of neoliberal authoritarianism.

Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine: Implications for the Middle East and the Muslim world

Public talk by Juan Cole
Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, USA

When: Wednesday Mar 23 at 6:00 PM (MST)
Where: Zoom webinar. For free registration please CLICK HERE.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has few upsides for the Middle East and the Muslim World. Many states in this region depend on Russian and Ukrainian wheat and other products, and the non-oil states such as Turkey and Egypt will be hit by higher energy costs. Geopolitically, many states [and not necessarily peoples and the public opinion] in this region have attempted to hedge what they have come to see as an over-dependence on an erratic U.S. with stronger relations with Moscow and Beijing, and they are reluctant therefore strongly to take sides in the conflict. For the Iranian state, taking a partisan stand could interfere with the restoration of the 2015 nuclear deal, which would much improve its economy. Each state in the region has its own reasons for continuing to hedge, which will be discussed.

Juan Ricardo Cole is a public intellectual, prominent blogger and essayist, and the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. An authority in modern and contemporary history of Middle East and South Asia, intellectual & cultural history and religion of Asia and Middle East, Professor Cole is also known for his weblog, “Informed Comment.” He is a prolific writer and researchers, and the author and editor of several books including Peace Movements in Islam: History, Religion and Politics (2021); The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: A New Translation with historical Afterword (2020); Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires (2018); Global Connections: Politics, Exchange, and Social Life in World History, 2 vols (2015); The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East (2014); Engaging the Muslim World (2009); Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (2007); Sacred Space and Holy War: The Politics, Culture and History of Shi`ite Islam (2002), and many other books, artilces and book chapters. He has appeared on PBS’s Lehrer News Hour, ABC World News Tonight, Nightline, The Today Show, Charlie Rose, Anderson Cooper 360, The Rachel Maddow Show, All In With Chris Hayes, The Colbert Report, Democracy Now, and has written widely about Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and South Asia with his command in Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Turkish. A bibliography of his writings may be found here.


Upholding White Supremacy through Anti-Muslim Racism

Public Talk by Sherene H. Razack
Distinguished Professor and the Penny Kanner Endowed Chair in Women’s Studies in the Department of Gender Studies, UCLA

When: Thursday January 27, 2022 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM (Edmonton time)
Where: Online Zoom Webinar. For registration please CLICK HERE.

While much has been written about post-9/11 anti-Muslim racism (often termed Islamophobia), insufficient attention has been given to how anti-Muslim racism operates through law and is a vital part of law’s protection of whiteness. This presentation based on a forthcoming book fills this gap while also providing a unique new global perspective on white supremacy. Tracing how white subjects and majority-white nations in the post-9/11 era have consolidated their whiteness through the figure of the Muslim, Sherene H. Razack examines four sites of anti-Muslim racism: efforts by American evangelical Christians to ban Islam in the school curriculum; Canadian and European bans on Muslim women’s clothing; racial science and the sentencing of Muslims as terrorists; and American national memory of the torture of Muslims during wars and occupations. Arguing that nothing has to make sense when the subject is Muslim, she maintains that these legal and cultural sites reveal the dread, phobia, hysteria, and desire that mark the encounter between Muslims and the West. Through the prism of racism, she argues that the figure of the Muslim reveals a world divided between the deserving and the disposable, where people of European origin are the former and all others are confined in various ways to regimes of disposability. Emerging from critical race theory, and bridging with Islamophobia/critical religious studies, it demonstrates that anti-Muslim racism is a revelatory window into the operation of white supremacy as a global force.

Sherene H. Razack is a Distinguished Professor and the Penny Kanner Endowed Chair in Women’s Studies in the Department of Gender Studies, UCLA. Her research and teaching focus on racial violence. She is the founder of the virtual research and teaching network Racial Violence Hub ( Her publications illustrate the thematic areas and anti-colonial, anti-racist feminist scholarship she pursues. Her recent books include Nothing Has to Make Sense: Upholding White Supremacy Through Anti-Muslim Racism (2022); and Dying from Improvement: Inquests and Inquiries into Indigenous Deaths in Custody (2015).

Muslim Feminisms: In and Against the Islam/Secular Dichotomy

October is Islamic History Month in Canada and you are cordially invited to this year’s lecture sponsored by the ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies, the Department of Political Science, Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities, and the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (MEIS) research group:

Public Talk by Amina Jamal
Associate Professor of Sociology at Ryerson University 

When: Thursday October 21, 2021 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM (Edmonton time)
Where: Online Zoom Webinar. For registration please CLICK HERE.

In many Western societies including Canada, Muslim women are seen to be perpetually trapped in a conflict between Islamic oppression versus Secular emancipation. This is a systemic form of Islamophobia that not only restrains Muslim women’s rights and access to services but may also motivate random acts of violence against Muslim bodies and the spaces that they inhabit. In this talk I want to draw attention to the scholarly, political and affective implications of framing Muslim women’s identities and political struggles within rigid and exclusionary constructions of religious/secular. Like all social actors, Muslim women negotiate with a heterogeneity of discourses of power, multiplicity of feelings and contending desires that constitute the very texture of Muslim lives and of their faith. I draw upon my interviews with Muslim feminists in Pakistan, India and Canada to argue that Muslim women’s collective politics and individual self-construction are responses to both disciplinary forms of secularism and bureaucratic constructions of faith. In particular I discuss Muslim women’s Feminism as an affectively lived and embodied activism that operates both In and Against the Islam/secular dichotomy to challenge Islamophobia, racial and gender oppression, as well as patriarchal dominance.

Amina Jamal is Associate Professor of Sociology at Ryerson University, Toronto. She has authored a monograph, Jamaat-e-Islami Women in Pakistan: Vanguard of a New Modernity? She writes in the areas of women, Islam and modernity, transnational and postcolonial feminism, violence against women and Muslim women’s struggles in Pakistan and Canada. Dr. Jamal ‘s research highlights the new types of citizen-subjects that are emerging from the complex interplay of gender, race, religion and sexuality with changing global economic, political and cultural relations. She is presently investigating the dilemmas of feminist and progressive Muslim politics and poetics in South Asia which are threatened by diverse hegemonic discourses and multiple forms of violence emanating from local, national and global interests.


The U.S. War on Terror: Lessons Learned Twenty Years After 9/11

Public Talk by Fawaz A. Gerges
Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics

When: Wednesday September 8, 2021 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM (Edmonton time)
Where: Online Zoom Webinar. For registration please CLICK HERE.

On the 20th anniversary of 9/11 attacks, it is worth asking what if America had acted radically and imaginatively eschewing imperial overreach? Instead of launching a War on Terror, the greatest strategic disaster in America’s modern history, US leaders could have used 9/11 as a catalyst to bring about a more tolerant, peaceful and prosperous world, the anti-thesis of Al-Qaeda’s worldview? Imagine if America’s leaders had invested a small fraction of $5.9 trillion cost of the Global War on Terror in helping to promote transformative change, including eradicating abject poverty and supporting a Marshall Plan for the Muslim world. As the United States abruptly ends its war in Afghanistan, the Taliban has returned with a vengeance, and Afghans feel betrayed. America promised security and freedom, but the Afghanistan it leaves behind is broken, on the brink of civil war and state collapse. The War on Terror has fuelled the very groups it was designed to destroy. It was a war of choice, not necessity, and it has been costly in blood and treasure. While we cannot turn back the clock, as we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, part of America’s national conversation should be to reflect on what went wrong. There is a need to hold the “terrorism industry” that emerged in the wake of the attacks accountable for peddling fear and distorting reality.

Fawaz A. Gerges is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and holder of the Emirates Professorship in Contemporary Middle East Studies. He was also the inaugural Director of the LSE Middle East Centre from 2010 until 2013. Professor Gerges’ most recent books are Making the Arab World: Nasser, Qutb, and the Clash that Shaped the Middle East (Princeton University Press, 2018), ISIS: A History (Princeton University Press, 2016) and The New Middle East: Protest and Revolution in the Arab World (Cambridge University Press, November 2013). He is also the author of several acclaimed books: Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy (Harcourt Press, 2007), and The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global (Cambridge University Press, 2005). His forthcoming book is The Hundred Years’ War for Control of the Middle East: From Sykes-Picot to the Deal of the Century (Princeton University Press, 2021).

Islam and the Experience of Toleration: The Past and the Future

Public Talk by Arash Naraghi, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion; Chair, Department of Philosophy, Moravian College, USA

When: Saturday, March 27, 2021, 10 AM-12 noon  (Edmonton time)
Where: Online Zoom Webinar. For registration please CLICK HERE.

Muslims have experienced at least two models of toleration throughout their history: The Othman Model and the Akbar Shah Model. Arash Naraghi, in this presentation, offers a philosophical analysis of the foundations of these two models and suggests how the Akbar Shah Model can inspire contemporary Muslims to construct a renewed conception of toleration as a virtue of public life within the context of Islamic law, ethics, and theology. The virtue of toleration, in this renewed version, can provide a religious and moral foundation for peaceful coexistence on the basis of mutual respect among the diverse members of civil society. It would function as an alternative to the reactionary violence that has been prescribed by the zealous advocates of religious fundamentalism.

Arash Naraghi is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Global Religions at Moravian College in Pennsylvania, the US. He received his Ph. D. in Philosophy (focusing on Ethics and Philosophy of Religion) from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Naraghi’s field of expertise includes Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Islamic mysticism, and contemporary Shi’ism in Iran. Arash Naraghi’s selected publications are as follows: “Divine Command Theory: Al-Ghazali’s Version”, in The Bloomsbury Handbook of Islamic Ethics, Jafar Mahallati (ed.), Bloomsbury Publishing, forthcoming. “Randomness and Providence: Defining the Problem(s)” with Aaron Griffith, in Abrahamic Reflections on Randomness and Providence, Kelly James Clark and Jeffrey Koperski (eds.). Palgrave, forthcoming. “The Problematic of (Male) Homosexuality in the Context of Contemporary Iranian Shi‘ism”, Iran Namag, Vol. 3, No. 1, Spring 2018. and “The Qur’an and Human Rights of Sexual Minorities”, in The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community of Iran: Examining Human Rights from Religious, Social, Legal and Cultural Perspectives, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, 2015.

Book launch on International Women’s Day (IWD):

A White Lie: Women’s Voices from Gaza Series

Speaker: Dr. Ghada Ageel, Department of Political Science, University of Alberta

When: Monday March 8 2021, 12 noon-1:00 PM (Edmonton Time)
Where: Online Zoom Webinar. For registration please CLICK HERE.

The Women’s Voices from Gaza Series honours women’s unique and underrepresented perspectives on the social, material, and political realities of Palestinian life. In the first volume in this series, Madeeha Hafez Albatta chronicles her life in Gaza and beyond. Among her remarkable achievements was establishing some of the first schools for refugee children in Gaza.

Palestinian refugees in Gaza have lived in camps for five generations, experiencing hardship and uncertainty. In the absence of official histories, oral narratives handed down from generation to generation. These narratives maintain traditions, keep alive names of destroyed villages, and record stories of the fight for dignity and freedom.


U.S. Middle East Policy in the Post-Trump Era

Public Talk by Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Professor and Director of School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech, USA

When: Wednesday, February 24, 2021, 6:00-7:30 PM (Edmonton time)
Where: Online Zoom Webinar. For registration please CLICK HERE.

During the last four years, United States policy in the Middle East and North Africa revolved around pursuing ever closer ties with Israel and conservative Arab states, exerting maximum pressure on Iran, distancing itself from the war in Libya, fighting ISIS. How will the Biden Administration deal with these same issues plus the war in Yemen considering the current political polarization in America?

Mehrzad Boroujerdi is Director of the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech and was previously a professor of Political Science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs for over two dozen years. He is the author/editor of four books and has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on the Middle East. Dr. Boroujerdi has also been a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and UT-Austin, a visiting scholar at UCLA, President of the Association for Iranian Studies, a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute (Washington, D.C.), and a fellow of the American Council on Education.

Tribute to Maestro Mohammad Reza Shajarian

Mohammad Reza Shajarian (1940 – 2020), Iran’s legendary vocalist and master (Ostad) of Persian traditional music is widely considered one of the greatest Iranian artists of all time. One of his signature songs “Bird of Dawn”– a rhythmical classical piece – best encapsulates how he became “the voice of Iran.”

Bird of dawn, start your lament, relight my anguish
Break this cage with your scintillating sighs and turn it upside down
Wing-tied nightingale, emerge from the cage corner
And sing the song of human freedom
O God, O Heavens, O Nature, turn our dark night into morning!

Watch the event HERE.

Talk by
Professor Rob Simms, University of York
Majid Derakhshani

Performance by
Barbad Ensemble: Mehdi Rezania (Santur) and Abtin Ghaffari (Tombak)

For more information, please visit:
Nahid Siamdoust, Shajarian, The “Voice of Iran”
Rob Simms, In Memory of Ostad Shajarian

Islamic Liberation Theology as Critique:
Critical Islamic Political Thought in the Age of Systemic Racism and Exclusion

Public Talk by Farid Esack, Professor in the Study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa

When: Saturday November 28, 2020, 1:00-2:30 PM (MST)
Where: Online Zoom Webinar. For registration please CLICK HERE.

Islamic liberation theology is a critical expansion of both Islamic political thought and liberation theology in terms of the preferential option of the oppressed. In this presentation, I will speak about the history and principles of Islamic liberation theology by focusing on themes such as the preferential option for the oppressed, praxis over doxy, pluralism, post-essentialism,  and the mediation of social analysis and theology. One of the key projects of social analysis in contemporary Islamic liberation theology is the reconceptualization of race as the power to critique the world. A decolonial approach to the power of race is central to the social analysis of contemporary Islamic liberation theology. I will argue that that the approach to racism has shifted between the postcolonial theory and decolonial theory which in turn is based on a shift towards coloniality as a world system connected to the history of modern racism as an all-encompassing power. The power of racism is not only connected to the western and northern world. It is also internalized and entrenched in the social and political life of the global south. A decolonial critique proposed by Islamic liberation theology takes this challenge seriously by offering a critique of racism both within and outside Islam.

Farid Esack is a Professor in the Study of Islam in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Johannesburg – South Africa and a South African Muslim liberation theologian. He studied in Pakistan, the UK, and Germany and is the author of Qur’an, Liberation, and PluralismOn Being a MuslimAn Introduction to the Qur’an, and with Sarah Chiddy, the co-editor of Islam, HIV & AIDS –Between Scorn Pity & Justice (all by Oxford: Oneworld) He has published on Islam, Gender, Liberation Theology, Interfaith Relations, and Qur’anic Hermeneutics and currently works on the Qur’an and socio-economic justice and in developing a niche at UJ for the Study of Islam, Decolonization and Liberation. Esack served as a Commissioner for Gender Equality in South African and has taught at the Universities of Western Cape, and Hamburg, the College of William & Mary and Union Theological Seminary (NY), and at Xavier University in Cincinnati. Before his appointment at the University of Johannesburg, he served as the Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Professor of Contemporary Islam at Harvard University.

Can Islam Provide The Antidote To Racism in North America?

Public Talk by Dr. Muqtedar Khan, Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware, USA

When: Wednesday October 7, 2020, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM (MDT)
Where: Online Zoom Webinar. For registration please CLICK HERE.

This lecture will explore Islamic sources and traditions that inspire Muslims to transcend tribalism and identity politics. Dr. Khan will explore the verses that identity diversity as a divine purpose, prophetic traditions that teach pluralism and inclusivity and introduce the audience to the idea of Fanaa (self-effacement) which he argues in his book Islam and Good Governance, can help reduce intolerance and discrimination based on racism, religion, and nationality.


Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware. He researches and teaches Islam, Governance and International Relations. He earned his Ph.D. in International Relations, Political Philosophy, and Islamic Political Thought, from Georgetown University in May 2000. He founded the Islamic Studies Program at the University of Delaware and was its first Director from 2007-2010.

He is the author of Islam and Good Governance: A Political Philosophy of Ihsan (Palgrave, 2019). Islam and Good Governance has been recognized as an all time best books on political philosophy. He also authored American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom (Amana, 2002), Jihad for Jerusalem: Identity and Strategy in International Relations (Praeger, 2004). He has edited Islamic Democratic Discourse (Lexington Books, 2006) and Debating Moderate Islam: The Geopolitics of Islam and the West (University of Utah Press, 2007).

Iran’s Post-Islamist Democracy? Challenges and Opportunities

Public Talk by Mojtaba Mahdavi, ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies and Professor of Political Science at University of Alberta

Convenor and Introduction by Jairan Gahan, Assistant Professor of History & Classics/Religious Studies at University of Alberta

When: Thursday, 12 March 2020, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Where: Room 1-5, Business Building, University of Alberta

Four decades after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, a decade after Iran’s post-Islamist and pro-democracy Green Movement in 2009, and following the most recent demonstrations in 2017 and 2019, it is evident that the post-revolutionary polity has yet to materialize Iran’s over-a-century quest for democracy. Drawing on the literature on social movements, democratization, and post-Islamism, this presentation asks what structural and agential causes, and internal and external factors have contributed to this crisis, and under what conditions they may facilitate the rise of a post-Islamist democracy in Iran?

Mojtaba Mahdavi is Professor of Political Science and the ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies at the University of Alberta. He is the author and editor of numerous works on post-revolutionary Iran, post-Islamism, contemporary social movements in the Middle East, and modern Islamic political thought. More information on his research is available here and here.

Understanding Islam in an Age of Polarization and Misinformation

Public Talk by Ali S. Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures,
Harvard University

When: Thursday, 5 March 2020, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Where: Room 1-5, Business Building, University of Alberta

We live in a world in which illiteracy about Islam has been increasingly exploited to divide people and undermine the pluralistic fabric of societies.  The dehumanization of entire religious communities through stereotypes and the language of hate has resulted in not only violation of human rights but also in violence and loss of life. This presentation will focus on how we can combat illiteracy about Islam in political, media and social spaces and promote more nuanced perspectives about the tradition.

Ali Asani is Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures at Harvard University. A specialist of Islam in South Asia, he teaches a variety of courses related to Islam and Muslim cultures at Harvard, including Multisensory Religion: Rethinking Islam through the Arts. For several decades he has been active in improving the understanding of Islam and its role in Muslim societies by conducting workshops for educators as well as making presentations at various public forums. He has been involved in the Islamic Cultural Studies Initiative, an international professional development program for high school teachers in Kenya, Pakistan and Texas intended to promote a culturally and historically based approach to the study of Islam and Muslim societies. He has also served on the American Academy of Religion’s Task Force on the teaching of religion in schools and as a consultant for the National Endowment for the Humanities Bridging Cultures Muslim Journeys Bookshelf Project.  He is recipient of the Harvard Foundation medal for his outstanding contributions to improving intercultural and race relations. More recently he was awarded the Petra C. Shattuck prize for excellence in teaching by Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education.


Mobilization for Justice in partnership with The ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies at the University of Alberta invite you to attend the following public event:

David Barsamian: “End the Palestinization of Kashmir”

Join David Barsamian, independent journalist, author and the winner of awards for independent journalism to learn about the issues that Kashmiris face on a daily basis and also some historical context to this conflict.

When: Friday November 22 — 6:00 PM
Where: 150 Telus Centre – 87 Ave & 111 St. University of Alberta

Open to the Public; All Welcome!




Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME)
in partnership with The ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies at the University of Alberta invite you to attend the following public event:

Tweets and ‘Deals of the Century’: Trump & Chaos in the Middle East

A public talk by Robert Fisk
The Independent’s multi-award-winning Middle East correspondent, based in Beirut

When: Tuesday, November 12, 2019 — 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:30)
Where: Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, room 1-430, 11335 Saskatchewan Dr NW,
University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2M9


Tickets: Advance Tickets (on-line): student, $12 / non-student, $15
Tickets at the door: student $15 / non-student, $20
For Facebook event page click HERE.


Muslims Actions and Contributions to Humanity; Then and Now

Keynote address by Professor Mojtaba Mahdavi at “Islamic History Month of Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities”

Place: Edmonton City Hall
Date: October 22, 2019
Time: 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm


Tickets: Free – Please reserve through eventbrite HERE

Light refreshments will be served.



International Symposium:
Imagining “Indigenous” and “Glocal” Democratic Socialism: Can Freedom, Social Justice, and Civil Spirituality Coexist in Muslim Societies? ​

   When: Saturday and Sunday 27-28 April 2019, 8:30 AM- 5:00 PM
   Where: Room 134, Telus Centre, University of Alberta

In the midst of an organic crisis in much of the Muslim majority societies today, the ordinary people are caught between many rocks and hard places. The ideals of freedom, social justice and human dignity are endangered by the neoliberal global (dis)order, militant and autocratic secular modernity, right-wing populism, and the nativist, regressive and essentialist discourses of Islamism and hyper ethnic nationalism. These global and local discourses have caused many predicaments; they are, however, equally in a profound crisis – they are “exhausted epistemics.”

This international workshop/symposium aims to explore and problematize the conditions of possibility of emancipatory discourses of “indigenous” and “glocal” democratic socialism in Muslim majority societies. It proposes that multiple sources from global experiences and local traditions can contribute to a birth of a genuine and bottom-up humanist democratic socialism. This international workshop/symposium and the subsequent publication attempt to theorize and problematize “indigenous and glocal democratic socialism” and “whether and how freedom, social justice and civil spirituality can coexist”in Muslim majority contexts/societies.

Please visit the Symposium Program here
Please visit the Symposium Participants and Abstracts/bios here


Free Admission; All Welcome
Space is Limited; Please RSVP HERE

For more information please visit the Symposium Website


Three Minute Thesis in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

Warm Congratulations to the Recipients of the ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies Three Minute Thesis Prizes:

* Banafsheh Mohammadi, PhD student, Art & Design, (First place Prize: $500)
* Sajad Soleymani Yazdi, PhD student, Modern Languague and Cultural Studies (Second place Prize: $300)

The Three Minute Thesis is a skills development activity that challenges graduate students to explain their dissertation or thesis research project to a non-specialist audience. The idea is for students to orally convey the significance of their work using a maximum of three slides in just three minutes. Their ability to present their research to a multidisciplinary audience in accessible and engaging language will be evaluated.

Thursday, 28 February 2019, 6:00 PM | Room 134, Telus Centre, University of Alberta

ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies Three Minute Thesis Prizes:

• Winner: $500
• Runner-up: $300

Requests to Participate:

All University of Alberta graduate students who are enrolled in a master’s or PhD graduate program with a research project on socio-cultural, historical, religious and/or political issues in Muslim contexts are invited to submit an abstract to present. The competition will be held at Room 134, Telus Centre, University of Alberta on Thursday, 28 February 2019. 6:00 PM.

Interested students must submit a 250-word abstract outlining the focus, goals, and significance of their thesis research.  Please submit your abstract by Friday 15 February 2019 here.

Reading Edward Said and Saba Mahmood in Today’s Context

Thursday, 01 November 2018, 5:00 PM -7:00 PM | Room 2-5, Business Building, University of Alberta

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), the passing of a distinguished Muslim scholar and a renowned feminist theorist Saba Mahmood (1962-2018), and the passing of the Orientalist historian Bernard Lewis (1916-2018). How relevant are the ideas of Said and Mahmood today? To what extent a critique of Orientalism, reversed-Orientalism, autocratic and militant secularism, and Empire’s War on Terror help us to understand today’s crisis of the Middle East and Muslim majority societies.

Yasmeen Abu-Laban, Political Science
The Legacies of Orientalism
Ann McDougall, History & Classics
The Legacy of Bernard Lewis (1916-2018): A Critique
Cressida Heyes, Political Science
Decolonizing Agency: The Influence of “The Politics of Piety” in Feminist Theory
Joseph Hill, Anthropology
Remembering Saba Mahmood (1962-2018)
Michael Frishkopf, Music
Orientalism in Orient
Siobhan Byrne, Political Science
Orientalism as Critique: Identity Politics and Israel’s New ’Nation-State’ Law
Mojtaba Mahdavi, Political Science
Post-Islamism and its Discontents: Reading Said and Mahmood in Today’s Muslim Context

Boustan: In a Fragrant Garden Contemporary Music of Middle Eastern and Muslim Societies

Thursday, October 18, 2018, 7:00 PM | Convocation Hall, Old Arts Building, University of Alberta

First part: Persian Songs
Habib Hoseini, Vocal
Ahmad al-Badr, Ud
Mehdi Rezania, Santur
Abtin Ghaffari, Tombak

Second part: Arabic Songs
Jenny Boutros, Vocal
Michael Frishkopf, Nay
Ahmad al-Badr, Ud
Etelka Nyilasi, Violin
Roy Abdalnour, Violin
Abtin Ghaffari, Darabukah
Ahmed Al-Auqaily, Riqq

A Panel Discussion on the Many Faces of Islamic Reform: Islamic Reform and Emancipatory Politics in the Age of Extremism and Neoliberalism

Siavash SaffariAssistant Professor of West Asian Studies, Seoul National University, South Korea
Mojtaba Mahdavi, ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies, Department of Political Science, University of Alberta
Thursday, 8 February 2018, 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM | Room 134, Telus Centre, University of Alberta

Abstract: An incessant search for the “Martin Luther of Islam” is ongoing in Western media and academia alike. Propelling this search is the misapprehension that just as Luther ended the dark ages of Christianity, a courageous Muslim visionary must now usher in an era of Islamic reformation and enlightenment. Its historically and theologically-false equivalency aside, the plea for a “Martin Luther of Islam” wholly ignores over a century of reformist efforts since the late-19th century al-Nahda (renaissance) movement. Far from lacking religious reformation, Muslim-majority societies have witnessed the rise and contestation of a wide range of religious reform initiatives, each with its own agents, methods, and objectives. The fallacious question of “who is the Martin Luther of Islam?”, therefore, must be relinquished in favor of more meaningful questions such as: what social, political, and economic visions are advanced by each of the existing Islamic reform projects? How do these projects respond to the present challenges of political authoritarianism, gender injustice, neoliberalism, and climate change? And which, if any, of these multivariate projects may ultimately contribute to the advancement of an emancipatory and progressive vision for our common future?

Bio: Siavash Saffari is an assistant professor of West Asian Studies in the Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations, Seoul National University (South Korea). He received a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Alberta, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Columbia University, New York. He is the author of Beyond Shariati: Modernity, Cosmopolitanism, and Islam in Iranian Political Thought (2017), and a co-editor of Unsettling Colonial Modernity in Islamicate Contexts (2017).

Mojtaba Mahdavi is the ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Alberta. He is the author and editor of numerous work on modern Islamic political thought, post-Islamism and contemporary social movements and democratization in the Middle East and North Africa. He is the co-editor of Towards the Dignity of Difference: Neither ‘End of History’ nor ‘Clash of Civilizations’ (2012) and the guest editor of Contemporary Social Movements in the Middle East and Beyond – Sociology of Islam (2014).  He is currently working on two book projects: Towards a Progressive Post-Islamism: Neo-Shariati Discourse in Postrevolutionary Iran, and The Myth of ‘Middle East Exceptionalism’:  The Unfinished Project of Social Movements in the Middle East and North Africa.

  Arab Revolutions in Post-Islamist Times: Revolution without Revolutionaries

Public Talk by Professor Asef Bayat, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois, USA
Thursday, 1 March 2018, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM | Room 150, Telus Centre, University of Alberta

Abstract: On the Seventh anniversary of the Arab Spring, Professor Asef Bayat, a prominent sociologist and a distinguished theorist of social movements in the Middle East, will argue that The revolutionary wave that swept the Middle East in 2011 was marked by spectacular mobilization, spreading within and between countries with extraordinary speed. Several years on, however, it has caused limited shifts in structures of power, leaving much of the old political and social order intact. In his most recent book Revolution without Revolutionaries, Professor Asef Bayat— whose Life as Politics anticipated the Arab Spring— uncovers why this occurred, and what made these uprisings so distinct from those that came before. Setting the 2011 uprisings side by side with the revolutions of the 1970s, particularly the Iranian Revolution, Asef Bayat reveals a profound global shift in the nature of protest: as acceptance of neoliberal policy has spread, radical revolutionary impulses have diminished. Protestors call for reform rather than fundamental transformation. By tracing the contours and illuminating the meaning of the 2011 uprisings, Bayat gives us the what is needed to explain and understand our post–Arab Spring world.

For more information about his recent book, please visit

Bio: Asef Bayat is the Catherine and Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies at the Department of Sociology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Before joining Illinois, Bayat taught at the American University in Cairo for many years, and served as the director of the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) holding the Chair of Society and Culture of the Modern Middle East at Leiden University, The Netherlands.In the meantime, he had visiting positions at the Universality of California, Berkeley, Colombia University, Oxford, and Brown. His books include, Revolution without Revolutionaries: Making Sense of the Arab Spring (Stanford University Press, 2017); Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East (2nd edition: Stanford University Press, 2013);Post-Islamism: The Changing Faces of Political Islam (Oxford University Press, 2013); Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn (Stanford University Press, 2007); Middle East and Its Subaltern: Politics and Movements (Istanbul: Iletisim, 2006); Street Politics: Poor Peoples Movements in Iran (Columbia University Press, 1997); Work, Politics and Power (Monthly Review Press, 1991); and Workers and Revolution in Iran (Zed Books, 1987).

Professor Bayat’s Distinctions and Awards include, Elected as Chair of Islam in the Modern World at University of Leiden); Inaugural Agha Khan Chair of Islamic Humanities at Brown University; Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies, University of Illinois. He has been named as Ford Foundation Fellow, MacArthur Fellow, Open Society Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, and Wissenschaftskolleg Fellow, Berlin.

The “Muslim Extremist” ’s Invisible Relative: How to Trace the Silent Violence that Informs Our Lives?

Public Talk by Professor Peyman Vahabzadeh, Department of Sociology, University of Victoria
Thursday, 2 November 2017, 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM | Room LEC 1, Humanities Center, University of Alberta

Abstract: In a world of corporate media, social networks, breaking (bad) news, the propagated images of “Muslim extremists” and their brutal atrocities serve the global powers in the West with facile justifications for military interventionism and regime changes.  What is often missed in such a contrast is the way in which extremist violence in fact overshadows the structural, institutional, and hubristic forms of violence that define our globalized civilization defined by formal democracies, the upholding of human rights, and market rationality.  My tripartite concept of violence is intended to bring to the light the endemic but silent violence that permeates every aspect of our civilizational lives.  It exposes how we have internalized and accepted many forms of violence as necessary, inevitable, or even desirable.

Bio: Peyman Vahabzadeh is Professor of Sociology at University of Victoria, Canada. He is the author of Articulated Experiences: Toward a Radical Phenomenology of Contemporary Social Movements (2003), A Guerrilla Odyssey: Modernization, Secularism, Democracy and the Fadai Discourse of National Liberation in Iran, 1971-1979 (2010), Exilic Meditations: Essays on A Displaced Life (2012), Parviz Sadri: A Political Biography (2015), and Violence and Nonviolence: Conceptual Excursion into Phantom Opposites (2018), and the editor of Iran’s Struggles for Social Justice: Economics, Agency, Justice, Activism (2017).

Who Are We? Populism, Citizenship, Religion

Public talk by Dr Amyn B. Sajoo | Lecturer in history and global politics at Simon Fraser University
Thursday, 23 March 2017, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM | Room 129, Education Centre South (ED), University of Alberta


Will Kymlicka remarked in 2000 that a decade of “remarkable upsurge” in claims of minority rights was coupled with a passion for “democratic citizenship.”  The contest was between the urge to belong of those who long felt excluded by the modern State, and the urge to guarantee the sense of belonging of all of society’s members. Universal rights and universal citizenship were the prize — but how you saw them depended on where you stood.

Today, the contest is very different. The “new global nationalism” is a populist war-cry to “take back” the State from Others.  It has given us Brexit, Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Rodrigo Duterte, Narendra Modi … Its perceived Others include: science and public policy experts, migrants, Muslims, and the “liberal establishment” (including human rights advocates). Where does this leave Citizenship, an idea at the heart of Plato’s Republic? Can we envision a pluralist, cosmopolitan future for the Citizen, who has been called the most “dynamic social figure in modern history”?


Amyn B. Sajoo lectures in history and global politics at Simon Fraser University, where his research is at the interface of law, religion and public ethics. He is an International Fellow with the University of Alberta’s Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life. Dr. Sajoo was the 2010 Canada Department of Foreign Affairs Visiting Academic in the Middle East, which took him to Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Since 2009 he has served as the editor of the Muslim Heritage Series (UK), in which the fourth volume, The Shi’i World: Pathways in Tradition and Modernity, was published in 2015. Dr. Sajoo was previously affiliated with Cambridge and McGill universities, and the Institute of Ismaili Studies (London). Educated at King’s College London and McGill University, Montreal, his early career was with the Canadian departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs. He also served as a Canada-ASEAN Fellow in Southeast Asia, culminating in his monograph, Pluralism in Old Societies and New States (1994). Subsequent works include Muslim Modernities: Expressions of the Civil Imagination (ed. 2008), Muslim Ethics (2004), and Civil Society in the Muslim World (ed. 2002). A frequent contributor to the news media, his articles have appeared in The Guardian, Open Democracy, The Globe & Mail, Asian Wall Street Journal, and The Christian Science Monitor.

Islam, Gender and Feminist Hermeneutics

Public talk by Asma Afsaruddin, Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures in the School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.
Friday, 3 March 2017, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM | Room 150, Telus Centre, University of Alberta

Abstract: Beginning in the twentieth century, Muslim feminist scholars have started challenging culturally-derived attitudes that have shaped patriarchal societies in Muslim-majority countries.Their methodology, which undergirds Islamic Feminism, is to return to the Qur’anic text in order to retrieve what they believe to be the original egalitarian thrust of the central scripture of Islam. These women exegetes thereby offer critiques of traditional methodologies of engaging the Qur’an and provide “alternative” readings of verses that deal specifically with gendered relations, which will be the focus of this lecture.

Biography: Asma Afsaruddin is Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures in the School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. She is the author and editor of seven books, including Contemporary Issues in Islam (Edinburgh University Press,2015); Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought (Oxford University Press, 2013) which won a World Book Award from the Iranian government in 2015 and was a runner-up for the 2014 British-Kuwaiti Friendship Society Book Prize; and The First Muslims: History and Memory (OneWorld Publications 2008), which was recently translated into Turkish. Her research has been funded by grants from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, among others.

Muslims and the Middle East in a Post-Trump Era

Public talk by Mojtaba Mahdavi, ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies and Associate Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, University of Alberta
Friday, 3 February 2017, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM | Room 134, Telus Centre, University of Alberta

What does a Trump presidency mean for the current crisis in the Middle East? Many in the world are anxious to learn about Trump’s policies on Syria, Iraq and ISIS, as well as his plans for addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Iran nuclear deal. This session will shed light on how US President Trump’s policies will affect Middle East, Muslims around the world, and those living in North America.





Creating Thriving Societies in Troubling Times

Public talk by Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies, Oxford University
Thursday, 19 January 2017, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM | Room 1-430, The Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS), University of Alberta

* Co-sponsored by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) and Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities (ECMC)

Professor Tariq Ramadan’s public talk will centre on the upheavals facing the Middle East and the West: the shifting alliances, the East-West perceptions, the international terrorism, the ongoing conflicts and the massive refugee movements.

Biography: Tariq Ramadan is currently a Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University, UK. Through his writings and lectures, Professor Ramadan has contributed to the debate on the issues of Muslims in the West, and Islamic movements in the Muslim world. He lectures extensively throughout the world on ethics, social justice, faith and ecology, and participates frequently in interfaith as well as intercultural dialogue. He is the author of numerous books and articles including: Western Muslims and the Future of Islam (2005); Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation (2008); Islam, the West and the Challenge of Modernity (2009); What I Believe (2009); In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad (2009); The Quest for Meaning: Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism (2012); The Arab Awakening: Islam and the New Middle East (2012); and To be a European Muslim (2013). For more information please visit his website.

The Promises and Perils of Shari’ah in the Modern Age

Public talk by Khaled Abou El Fadl , the Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Friday, 25 November 2016, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM | Room 325, South Academic Building (SAB), University of Alberta

Abstract: This lecture builds upon the themes explored in my book Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari’ah in the Modern Age. The lecture will address the theological and historical place of Shari’ah within the Islamic faith. I will address the development of Shari’ah as a unifying and inspirational normative paradigm within the Muslim historical experience focusing on the epistemological and normative demands of an ever-changing sociological reality that delimits and deconstructs Shari’ah in the modern age. The path of any discourse on Shari’ah is fraught with potential and actual moral pitfalls and failures that challenge the very usefulness of the idea of Shari’ah to Islam and Muslims in a globalized and increasingly shared human experience. Nevertheless, I argue that Shari’ah remains a necessary and compelling concept for modern Muslims, and that the Shari’ah is rooted in a normative system that has an ongoing unspent and perhaps untapped potentiality and trajectory for Muslims today.

Biography: Professor Abou El Fadl is the Chair of Islamic Studies Interdepartmental Program at UCLA. He was awarded the University of Oslo Human Rights Award, the Leo and Lisl Eitinger Prize in 2007, and named Carnegie Scholar in Islamic Law in 2005. A prolific scholar and prominent public intellectual, Dr. Abou El Fadl is the author of 14 books (five forthcoming) and over 50 articles on various topics in Islam and Islamic law. His most recent works focus on authority, human rights, democracy and beauty in Islam and Islamic law. His book, The Great Theft, was the first work to delineate the key differences between moderate and extremist Muslims, and was named one of the Top 100 Books of the Year by Canada’s Globe and Mail. His book, The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books, is a landmark work in modern Muslim literature.

Two public talks by Hamid Dabashi, the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in the City of New York.

I) Title: Can Non-Europeans Think?
Thursday, 03 November 2016, 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM | Room LEC 1, Humanities Center, University of Alberta

Abstract: Philosophy claims to be the search for knowledge, unbound by any fetters. Yet even a cursory analysis of how it is conceived when it exists outside the European tradition reveals a troubling bias. While European philosophy, for example is simply known as “philosophy,” African philosophy is all too often dubbed “ethnophilosophy.” The Western philosophical tradition simply hasn’t acknowledged the vast amount of innovative thought that has flourished outside the European philosophical pedigree–and that has led to awkward, and damaging, failures to properly reckon with the ideas of people like Japan’s Kojin Karatani, Cuba’s Roberto Fernandez Retamar, or even America’s Cornel West. In Can Non-Europeans Think?, Hamid Dabashi brings together a unique group of historical and theoretical reflections on current affairs and the role of philosophy to argue that, in order to grapple with the problems of humanity today, we must eliminate the ethnographic gaze that infects philosophy and casts Arab and other non-Western thinkers as subordinates.

II) Title: Muslims, Coexistence and Cosmopolitanism in the Emerging North American Political Landscape
Friday, 04 November 2016, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM | Edmonton Islamic Academy, 14525 – 127 Street, Edmonton, T6V 0B3

Biography: Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in the City of New York. He has written over twenty five books, edited four,  and  contributed  chapters  to many  more.  He  is  also  the  author  of  over  100  essays, articles  and  book  reviews  in  major  scholarly  and  peer  reviewed  journals  on  subjects ranging from Iranian Studies, medieval and modern Islam, comparative literature, world cinema, and the philosophy of art (trans-aesthetics). His books and articles have been translated into numerous languages, including Japanese, German, French, Spanish, Danish, Russian, Hebrew, Italian, Arabic, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Polish, Turkish, Urdu and Catalan. A selected sample of his writing is co-edited by Andrew Davison and Himadeep Muppidi, The World is my Home: A Hamid Dabashi  Reader  (2010). His Most recent work includes Being A Muslim in the World (Palgrave 2013), Can Non-Europeans Think? (Zed, 2015), Persophilia: Persian Culture on the Global Scene (Harvard University Press, 2015), Iran Without Borders: Towards a Critique of the Postcolonial Nation (Verso, 2016).

JLE Primary PhotoThe Future of Muslims in the West: Protecting Pluralism and Ending Islamophobia

Public talk by John Esposito, University Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University.
Wednesday,  09 March 2016; 6:00 PM – 9:30 PM | Room 150, TELUS Centre, University of Alberta

Biography: University Professor as well as Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, John L. Esposito is Founding Director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Walsh School of Foreign Service. Previously, he was Loyola Professor of Middle East Studies, College of the Holy Cross. Past President of the American Academy of Religion and Middle East Studies Association of North America, Esposito has served as consultant to the U.S. Department of State and other agencies, European and Asian governments, corporations, universities, and media worldwide and ambassador for the UN Alliance of Civilizations and was a member of the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100 Leaders and E. C. European Network of Experts on De-Radicalization.

He has received honorary doctorates from St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, the University of Sarajevo, University of Florida and Immaculata University as well as the American Academy of Religion’s Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion, Pakistan’s Quaid-i-Azzam Award for Outstanding Contributions in Islamic Studies, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service Outstanding Teacher Award and Georgetown’s Career Research Achievement Award.

His more than 45 books include: Islam and Democracy After the Arab Spring (with Tamara Sonn, and John O. Voll); The Future of Islam, Islamophobia and the Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st Century; Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (with Dalia Mogahed); Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam; The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?; Islam and Politics; Makers of Contemporary Islam and Islam and Democracy (with John O. Voll), What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam; Asian Islam in the 21st Century (with John Voll & Osman Bakar); World Religions Today and Religion and Globalization (with D. Fasching & T. Lewis); Geography of Religion: Where God Lives, Where Pilgrims Walk (with S. Hitchcock); Islam: The Straight Path; Islam and Democracy and Makers of Contemporary Islam (with J. Voll); Modernizing Islam (with F. Burgat); Political Islam: Revolution, Radicalism or Reform?; Religion and Global Order (with M. Watson); Islam and Secularism in the Middle East (with A. Tamimi); Iran at the Crossroads (with R.K. Ramazani); Islam, Gender, and Social Change and Muslims on the Americanization Path and Daughters of Abraham (with Y. Haddad); and Women in Muslim Family Law.

Esposito’s books and articles have been translated into more than 35 languages. Editor- in-Chief of Oxford Islamic Studies Online and Series Editor of The Oxford Library of Islamic Studies, he served as Editor-in-Chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World (6 vols.); The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (4 vols.), The Oxford History of Islam, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, and The Islamic World: Past and Present (3 vols.). Esposito’s interviews and articles with newspapers, magazines, and the media in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Guardian, The Times of London, CNN, ABC Nightline, CBS, NBC, and the BBC. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Dr. Jeanette P. Esposito.

In Defence of the Arab Spring Uprisings: How Al Qaeda and ISIS Proponents and Detractors Misappropriate the Narrative?

Public Talk by Fawaz Gerges, Professor of International Relations at The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), UK
Thursday, 3 March 2016, 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM | B-45 Henry Marshall Tory Building, University of Alberta

Abstract: In early 2011, millions of Arabs across the Middle East and North Africa burst out onto the streets and called for social justice, freedom and a life of dignity. They not only defied prevalent conceptions of the region as being “dormant”, but also debunked Salafi- jihadists’ depiction of acts of civil resistance as weak, ineffective and hopeless. Yet both Al Qaeda’s supporters and detractors have attempted to establish a link between the revolutionary moments that erupted in 2011.

Al Qaeda’s black flags remained notably absent in the Arab streets in 2011. However, Salafi-jihadists did benefit from the post-Arab Spring chaos that erupted as a result of the collusion between counter-revolutionary forces at home and abroad. As a subversive social movement, Al Qaeda feeds on mayhem and breeds in conflict zones. The rallying cries of the Arab Spring uprisings fell on deaf ears. In Libya, Yemen and Syria, and to a lesser extent in Iraq, the brutal suppression of protesters militarized the largely peaceful uprisings and caused a breakdown of state institutions. Al Qaeda Central and like-minded local factions found a receptive home among disaffected local Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria, gradually replacing peaceful collective action with an armed collective insurgency.

The Arab Spring uprisings did not occur in a vacuum. The Arab state system had broken down long before the uprisings. Thus it would be misleading to blame foreign conspiracies for the ruptures that have shaken the old regimes to their foundation. Equally important, these narratives confuse cause and effect; they entangle an emancipatory moment with still-unfolding contentious and violent transition. They project a vision of change as linear and straightforward, excluding constitutive elements of change such as violence, chaos and digressions. It is too early to pass an indictment on the Arab Spring because such historical developments cannot be measured in a short time span. In reality, the Arab Spring was sabotaged by a multitude of actors, including autocratic rulers and their regional allies, the military-security apparatus in each of the countries, al- fulul (elements of the old regime), as well as Salafi-jihadists of the ISIS variety.

Neither ISIS nor Al Qaeda in Syria (Jabhat al-Nusra) could have surged without the spectacular cooperation between authoritarian Arab rulers and their regional and global patrons to maintain the status quo at all costs. A regional war-by-proxy is a Godsend to Jabhat al-Nusra, ISIS and other Al Qaeda local factions. From the very beginning of the hostilities in Syria and Iraq, Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS indirectly obtained finance, arms, and a religious cover from neighbouring Sunni states. This precious social and material capital was decisive in the growth and success of these Salafi-jihadi organisations.

Biography: Fawaz A. Gerges is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and holder of the Emirates Professorship in Contemporary Middle East Studies. Professor Gerges was the Inaugural Director of the LSE Middle East Centre (2010-13) and Christian A. Johnson Chair in Middle Eastern Studies and International Affairs at Sarah Lawrence College, New York. He has been the recipient of MacArthur, Fulbright and Carnegie Fellowships. Professor Gerges’ most recent books are The New Middle East: Protest and Revolution in the Arab World; Obama and the Middle East: The End of America’s Moment? The Rise and Fall of Al Qaeda; ISIS: A Short History (forthcoming); The Struggle for the Arab World: The Nationalist-Islamist Long War (forthcoming); and Contentious Politics in the Middle East: Popular Resistance and Marginalised Activism beyond the Arab Uprisings (forthcoming).

isis-and-syrian-refugee-crisis-canadas-response-70ISIS and the Syrian Refugee Crisis: Canada’s Response

Panel Organized by Global Education- University of Alberta International, and the collaboration of MEIS
Thursday, January 28, 7:00 – 9:00 pm | Telus Centre 150


* Dr. Yasmeen Abu-Laban, Professor, Dept. of Political Science

Kathryn Friesen, Program Manager, Immigration and Settlement Service, Catholic Social Services

* Dr. Tom Keating, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Political Science

* Dr. Mojtaba Mahdavi, ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies and Associate Professor, Dept. of Political Science

* Masood Peracha, Chair, Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities

* Moderated by Doug Weir, Executive Director, Student Programs and Services, University of Alberta International

The Canadian government supports the multinational coalition fighting ISIS, provides humanitarian assistance to refugees in Iraq and Syria, is working to reduce ISIS recruitment and has opened its borders to 25,000 Syrian refugees.  Join this panel for an assessment of the situation in the Middle East and the effectiveness of Canada’s response.  Learn what further actions the Canadian government could take and the response of the general public to the crisis. Find out what is happening to settle Syrian refugees in Edmonton and what each of us can do to counter fear and assist in refugee resettlement.

Language of Rights and Language of Obligations: An Islamic Perspective

Public Talk by Abdulkarim Soroush, a leading Muslim reformist public intellectual, a Rumi scholar, and a former professor of philosophy at the University of Tehran, Iran.
Wednesday, 18 November 2015, 6-8 pm | Room 150, TELUS Centre, University of Alberta

Abstract: All Abrahamic religions employed language of obligations whereas we live in an era whose language is the language of rights. Does this paradigmatic shift mean that a religious reform is incumbent, how and why? Moreover, does Islam, as a great religion, lend itself to such a reform, if yes what are the achievements of Muslim reformers in this turbulent field and what remains to be done in future?

Biography: Abdulkarim Soroush is a leading Muslim reformist public intellectual, a Rumi scholar, and a former professor of philosophy at the University of Tehran, Iran. He is named by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2005 and by Prospect magazine as one of the most influential intellectuals in the world in 2008. Soroush’s ideas prompted both supporters and critics to compare his role in reforming Islam to that of Martin Luther in reforming Christianity.

He is the author of many books and essays in Farsi including The Theoretical Contraction and Expansion of Religion: The Theory of Evolution of Religious Knowledge (1994); The definitive edition of Rumi’s Mathnavi (1996); Tolerance and Governance (1997); Straight Paths, An Essay on Religious Pluralism (1998); and Expansion of Prophetic Experience (1999).

Soroush has been a visiting scholar at a number of academic institutions, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, University of Maryland in College Park, the Leiden-based International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM), and the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin.

1Turkey at the Crossroads: Identity Politics at Chaotic Times

Presentation by Emrah Keskin (Phd Student, Department of Political Science)
Thursday, October 29th, 3:45pm | 10-04 Henry Marshall Tory Building, University of Alberta

Abstract: Amid failure to form a government following the June 7 elections, the citizens of Turkey are heading to the ballot once again on November 1st. The early election will be taking place amidst major social and political turmoil in the country. In the face of the renewed violence between Turkey and Kurdish insurgents, President Erdogan’s desire to establish executive presidency and the civil war in Syria, the outcome of Turkey’s elections will have a major impact not just in Turkey but also around the Middle East. In this event we will consider the changing political dynamics in Turkey and their implications for the future.

Biography: Emrah Keskin is a PhD student at the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta. He holds an MA from New York University, a BA from Sabanci University in Istanbul and has previously worked as a journalist for Radikal and Haberturk in Turkey.


kent-roach-law-13-10-16False Security: The Radicalization of Canadian Anti-terrorism

Public lecture by Kent Roach (Professor of Law and Prichard-Wilson Chair of Law and Public Policy at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law)

October 23 7:00-9:00 | Ross October 23 7:00-9:00 | Ross Hall, Faculty of Law (with the Centre for Constitutional Studies)

National security expert Kent Roach looks at how Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, affects security and rights – and what it reveals about Canada’s dysfunctional policy processes and security systems. For more information about the talk please click here.





Mojtaba-Mahdavi-UofA-770x628-1426703671The fallacy of Middle East Exceptionalism

Mojtaba Mahdavi | September 22, 2015

Five years after the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, the region remains in a deep and profound crisis. The rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the breakout of proxy war in Yemen and Syria, the chaos and collapse of the Libyan polity, the failure of Islamists in power and the subsequent return of a military regime in Egypt, and the survival of autocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia and other Arab monarchies have largely contributed to the revival of an old and naive cliché about the Middle East. This cliché suggests the violent culture of the Middle East exceptionally resists democratic ideals and institutions. We often hear this line of argument, known as the “Middle East Exceptionalism,” in the media. However, this is a very simplistic reading of the current events in the region. Here is the counterargument: The people and their civil rights movements are victims of local extremists, regional proxy wars and global politics of domination.

In 2010-11, millions of ordinary people – men and women, young and old, religious and secular, Muslims and non-Muslims – came to the streets of the region and demanded Hurriyya (freedom), ‘Adāla ijtimā‘iyya (social justice), and Karāmā (dignity). They wanted to overthrow the dominant regimes. Their slogans were indicative of a quest for democracy and social justice. There was no demand for Islamic state; there was no indication of the “clash of civilizations” between the West and the Middle East. There was nothing exceptional to the Middle Eastern culture and values. Read More …

UPAS logoThe Unfinished Project of the Arab Spring: Why “Middle East Exceptionalism” is Still Wrong

International Conference | University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada | September 25-27, 2015

Four years after the recent revolutions/social movements (2011-12) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the crisis in the region is evident. The MENA region after the Arab Spring is caught between a number of rocks and many hard places. The rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the return of a military regime in Egypt, the breakout of proxy/civil war in Syria and Yemen, and the chaos and collapse of the Libyan polity have largely replaced hope with despair, and excitement with resentment. Is the Middle East exceptionally immune to democratic movements, values and institutions? 

This international conference is an attempt to examine why and how the MENA region is not immune to democratic social movements. We propose that these revolutions were indicative of deep-rooted socio-cultural and structural transformations in contemporary MENA; they symbolized a popular quest for human dignity, social justice and freedom. The genie is out of the bottle and more progressive changes have yet to come. The contemporary social movements in MENA are open-ended and unfinished projects. Read More …