April 27, 2009
Islam and the Secular State
What is the proper relationship between Islamic law and the state in modern Muslim societies? In this talk, distinguished human rights activist and legal scholar Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im discussed his most recent work around this critical question, speaking in favor of secular politics from his perspective as a devout Muslim. He posited that the coercive enforcement of religious law is contrary to the basic principles of Islam, which emphasize the importance of personal conviction and free choice. Arguing against both those who seek to fuse religious and political authority and those who would completely expel religion from the public sphere, An-Na'im advocated the development of secular system that both protects human rights and is informed by the religious beliefs of its members. The Berkley Center's Jose Casanova introduced An-Na'im and Dan Brumberg of the Government Department acted as discussant.
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory University, where he focuses on cross-cultural human rights issues, with an emphasis on Islam. He is also a faculty member of the Emory College of Arts and Sciences and Emory University Center for Ethics. During the fall 2009 semester he was a Visiting Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University and a Senior Fellow at the Berkley Center. He is the author of Toward an Islamic Reformation(1990), African Constitutionalism and the Role of Islam (2006) and Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari‘a (2008). An-Na'im holds LL.B. degrees from the University of Khartoum and the University of Cambridge, and earned his Ph.D. in Law from the University of Edinburgh.