September 23, 2011
Islamic Law (Shari'a) and U.S. Foreign Policy
What is Islamic Law (shari'a) and why have demands for its implementation become more widespread in the Muslim world? What are the implications of the the shari'a for democratic rights and freedoms, including those of women and religious minorities? How should Western government and aid agencies respond to calls for shari‘a implementation? Even as they undergo great political transitions, Muslim societies today are experiencing growing calls for the implementation of Islamic law (shari‘a). Yet Muslims disagree on the meaning of the shari‘a and its proper place in modern society. The outcome of the debate is not merely academic, but will have powerful implications for Muslim politics and interactions with the West.
Building on a two-year project conducted by the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs at Boston University, this conference brought together leading experts in the study of Islamic law to examine the political uses and meanings of the shari'a in Muslim societies. Designed for policy analysts, journalists, and others involved in the Muslim world, the conference highlighted the implications of shari'a politics for democracy, freedom, social justice, and Western foreign policy.
This seminar was sponsored by the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs, Boston University, and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University.
8:45 AM: Welcome and Introduction: Tom Banchoff, Berkley Center, and Robert Hefner, Boston University
9:00-10:45 AM Panel 1: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, and Turkey
Robert W. Hefner, Boston University. "Introduction: Western Democracies and the Question of Sharia: Emerging Threat or Evolving Plurality?"
Frank E. Vogel, Harvard Law School (emeritus). "Saudi Arabia: The Politics of Public, Civil, and Individual Sharia"
Nathan J. Brown, George Washington University. "Consensus and Cacophony: Debating the Islamic Shari'a in 21st-Century Egypt"
Bahman Baktiari, The Wilson Center. "Iran: Shari'a Politics and the Transformation of Islamic Law"
M. Hakan Yavuz, University of Utah. "Turkey: Islam Without Shari'a?"
10:45-11:00 AM: Coffee Break
11:00 AM-12:45 PM: Panel 2: Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Indonesia
Muhammad Qasim Zaman, Princeton. "Pakistan: Sharia and the State."
Paul M. Lubeck, University of California Santa Cruz. "Nigeria: Mapping a Sharia Restorationist Movement."
Thomas J. Barfield. "Afghanistan: Sharia Law and Customary Practices."
Robert W. Hefner. "Indonesia: Sharia Politics and Democratic Transition."
Discussant. John Esposito, Georgetown University
Bahman Bakhtiari is the Executive Director of the International Foundation for Civil Society in the Middle East & North Africa, and the author of numerous works on Iranian politics and history, including Parliamentary Politics in Revolutionary...
Thomas Barfield is a professor of Anthropology at Boston University, as well as the President of the American Institute for Afghanistan Studies. He is an anthropologist who conducted ethnographic fieldwork with nomads in northern Afghanistan in...
Nathan J. Brown is a professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University and nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is author of the forthcoming book Participation,...
John L. Esposito is a University Professor, Professor of Religion and International Affairs, Professor of Islamic Studies, and the Founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown...
Robert W. Hefner is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs (CURA) at Boston University, where he served as Associate Director from 1986-2009. Hefner is also a Commissioned Scholar on...
Paul M. Lubeck is a professor of sociology at the University of California at Santa Cruz. His research focuses on political sociology, the sociology of development, and religion and social movements of newly industrializing states.
Frank E. Vogel is an independent scholar and legal consultant in the field of Islamic law and laws of the modern Muslim world. For twenty years (1987-2007), he taught Islamic law at Harvard Law School and directed the School’s Islamic Legal...
M. Hakan Yavuz is Professor of Political Science at the Middle East Center at the University of Utah, where he has taught since 1998. He is the author of Secularism and Muslim Democracy in Turkey (2009), Islamic Political Identity in Turkey...
Muhammad Qasim Zaman is the Niehaus Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Religion at Princeton University. He is the author of The Ulama in Contemporary Islam, among other works on Islamic history, thought, and politics.