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Conference Sessions

The video recording of any conference session can be viewed by clicking its title (in blue) below. To listen to a particular speaker, simply click their photo.

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SESSION 1 – Islam and Muslims in the Global West: Challenges and Opportunities

Due to the acceleration of globalizing forces, many forms of Islam have come into contact with secular democracies and cultures resulting in complicated and dynamic social ecologies. Recently, ideological controversies and on-the-ground stresses related to refugees and immigration, retrenchment from globalization, the COVID-19 pandemic, and renewed calls for racial justice have impacted Muslims in particular ways. Participants in this session will reflect on these and other challenges and opportunities facing Muslims living in (or aspiring to live in) “the West”.


Asma Afsaruddin

Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures - Indiana University in Bloomington.

Sherman Jackson

King Faisal Chair of Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity - University of Southern California.
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SESSION 2 – Women and Gender in the Islamic World: Continuities and Transformations

The role of women in Islam has been a controversial topic over the centuries. Women’s lives in Islamic societies have varied greatly over time and place as they have been impacted by religious and cultural traditions, local laws, social status, and specific societal norms.  Speakers in this session will discuss how various groups over the centuries have attempted to regulate women’s lives, how women have navigated these rules, and how they have incorporated religion into their daily lives with regard to family, work, and the larger community.


Sherine Hafez

Professor and Department Chair of Gender and Sexuality Studies - University of California, Riverside.

Jamillah Karim

Author, Former Professor of Religion - Spelman College
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SESSION 3 – The Qur’an, Hadith, and Historical Origins

Contemporary Islamic belief and practice are inseparably bound to understandings of the Qur’an and Hadith literature, as well as to the historical origins of the faith in the era of Muhammad and his immediate successors. So also, to a significant degree, are Western views of Islam. This session’s speakers will discuss different readings of the holy book of Islam and of the precedents established in the religion’s formative years. Topics may include early religious and sociocultural contexts, geographical orientation, intellectual currents, the importance of archeological inscriptions and other media, and the reception of the Qur'an and hadiths in later centuries. In addition, speakers may consider what these historical topics entail, or might entail, for contemporary Muslim life.


Hadia Mubarak

Assistant Professor of Religion - Queens University of Charlotte

Jonathan Brown

Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilization in the School of Foreign Service - Georgetown University.
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SESSION 4 – Perceptions of Islam in the West

Muslims and Christians have lived in close proximity to each other ever since the rise of Islam in Arabia, through the medieval period in Spain and Anatolia, the crusades in Palestine, and into the modern period in various locations such as the Ottoman Empire. So, what is Islamophobia and how has it come about historically? How has it varied by time period and geographical locale? What is different about it today? In particular, how have attitudes toward Islam and Muslims changed with the surge of Muslim immigration into western Europe and the United States? To what degree do tensions exist or get exacerbated because of the “West’s” Christian heritage, its secular present, or because of trends in Islamic societies, including the rise of political Islam? Finally, how can these tensions be minimized?


John Esposito

Professor of Religion & International Affairs and Islamic Studies - Georgetown University

Dalia Fahmy

Associate Professor of Political Science at Long Island University
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SESSION 5 – Contemporary Islamic Politics

How do Islamic interests and perspectives influence political actions and outcomes in Muslim majority countries? In what ways have political actors used Islamic institutions, language, and culture to further their political goals? When do actors in Islamic movements choose to participate in elections vs. other forms of political participation? This panel will examine these questions along with recent developments in Islamic politics, including the development of new opportunities for political competition in some countries and the sustained persecution of Islamic political actors in others.


Tarek Masoud

Professor of Public Policy and the Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman Professor of International Relations - Harvard University

Shadi Hamid

Senior Fellow - Brookings Institution Center for Middle East Policy
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SESSION 6 – Probing Islamic Diversity: Sunni, Shia, and Beyond

“We have created you male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another.” This qur’anic vision of a tolerant society can seem far removed from the sectarian struggles that often beset religious communities, including the Islamic umma. With this illustrative tension as a starting point, this session will examine the diversity of Islam, put that diversity in historical perspective, and think through its contemporary implications. How do historical tendencies toward fragmentation within Islam impact the Muslim world today? How is Islamic religious identity beyond the Sunni-Shia divide to be discussed, without losing sight of that divide’s traditional importance? What does pluralism look like in diaspora communities? In short, what is the nature and significance of Islamic pluralism today?


Tahera Qutbuddin

Professor of Arabic Literature and Islamic Studies - University of Chicago.

Abdulaziz Saohedina

Professor, IIIT Chair in Islamic Studies - George Mason University
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SESSION 7 – The Role of Sharia in the North American Umma  

Debates surrounding the nature and role of Sharia have intensified in recent decades. Within the Muslim community there is a long-standing tension between moderates and conservatives concerning the definition of Sharia and the extent to which traditional legal methodologies and rulings can be adapted to an evolving, contemporary, secular context.  Outside the umma, the notion of “creeping Sharia,” as an existential threat to the norms of North American civil society, has gained widespread currency among political conservatives. The purpose of this panel is to clarify and explore these issues in terms of both intra-Muslim dynamics and external relations with non-Muslim interlocutors, institutions, and communities.


Natana DeLong-Bas

Associate Professor of the Practice in the Theology Department - Boston College

Asifa Quraishi-Landes

Professor of Law - University of Wisconsin Law School