Omid Safi

by OMID SAFI for JADALIYYA on JANUARY 31, 2014: 

I have been asked to share my impressions about the state of Islamic studies in the North American academy. Given that the pioneers of this field include many of my mentors, and many of my own peers have struggled for years to help advance the field to its current state, my observations will not be dispassionate. And since I have been fortunate to have a front-row seat along the development of the field over the last twenty years, I hope I’ll be able to do justice to the current state of the field.

I became a graduate student in the field of Islamic studies in the early 1990s. In those days, almost all of us were “converts”: no one went to undergraduate studies planning to become a professor of Islamic studies. For many, particularly Muslims of transnational background, the usual academic caste options were the familiar: doctor, lawyer, engineer, maybe the always dubious “business.” Almost all of us who entered the field did so by following the siren call of one mentor or another: Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Hamid Algar, Roy Mottahedeh, Bruce Lawrence, Vincent Cornell, Carl Ernst, Michael Sells, Annemarie Schimmel, and a few others. Continue reading


Anthropologist Lila Abu-Lughod analyzes the rise of a pervasive literary trope in the West—that of the abused Muslim girl

This book seeks answers to the questions that presented themselves to me with such force after 9/11 when popular concern about Muslim women’s rights took off. As an anthropologist who had spent decades living in communities in the Middle East, I was uncomfortable with disjunction between the lives and experiences of Muslim women I had known and the popular media representations I encountered in the Western public sphere, the politically motivated justifications for military intervention on behalf of Muslim women that became common sense, and even the well-meaning humanitarian and rights work intended to relieve global women’s suffering. What worldly effects were these concerns having on different women? And how might we take responsibility for distant women’s circumstances and possibilities in what is clearly an interconnected global world, instead of viewing them as victims of alien cultures? This book is about the ethics and politics of the global circulation of discourses on Muslim women’s rights. Continue reading


Richard Bulliet
Richard Bulliet

The Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies was established in 2012. The first institution of its kind in Colorado, the Center is dedicated to promoting and strengthening the study and understanding of the societies, political systems, and international relations of the Middle East and the broader Islamic world. The Center seeks to generate scholarly research and foster public understanding of this critical and changing part of the world. Engaging in both academic and policy research based on an interdisciplinary social science agenda, the Center will produce new scholarship on the Middle East and provide a lively forum for dialogue and debate on the contemporary politics of the region. A specific focus of the Center’s work is the relationship between Muslim societies and democracy.

The Center’s second Occasional Paper, by the world-renowned scholar of Islamic history Richard Bulliet, lies at the nexus of these issues: an examination of the relationship between religion and the state in the “Muslim South”—that half of the Muslim world located south of Medina, whose peoples came to Islam centuries after those of the “Muslim North”—and how understanding the different means of legitimating governance in the Muslim South sheds light on the crisis of legitimacy in Muslim-majority states like Egypt today. Continue reading

Call for Papers

Arabic Literature: Migration, Diaspora, Exile, Estrangement
Columbia University ,New York City
November 1-3, 2013

Arabic literature’s relationship with questions of migration, diaspora and exile date from early Islamic engagements with hijrah or migration, to our own diasporic and exilic present, conveyed in the poetry and prose of migration, war, alienation, estrangement and displacement.

We invite you to consider how Arab experiences of migration, diaspora, exile and estrangement mark and form Arabic literature, with an eye not only to the thematic terms of this encounter, but also its manifestations in debates over genre, publication geography, and literary historiography.  Scholars working in all periods of Arabic literary and theoretical production are warmly invited to submit abstracts.  Continue reading

Call for Submissions

Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East

Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (CSSAAME, fondly known as “sesame”) invites scholars to submit academic articles and multimedia essays. The journal, which has recently found a new institutional home in Columbia University’s Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, seeks to bring the study of region into sustained conversation with the humanistic and social science disciplines. Continue reading