compiled by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, TIRN via the Door of Mercy International Kenan Rifai Symposium (Session 3 streamed live) on May 30, 2015:

Director of the Duke Islamic Studies Center Omid Safi and UNC Chapel Hill professor Juliane Hammer spoke at a symposium over the weekend in Turkey: “Kenan Rifai: Bringing Mawlana Rumi to the 20th Century.”

Safi lectured on “how the teachings of the path of love have been adapted for the 20th and 21st centuries , with an eye towards deep models of spiritual fellowship and friendship.”

Hammer addressed the topic: “On Women’s Bodies: Gender, Islamophobia, and Resistance in America.”

A Turkish professor, Cangüzel Güner Zülfikar, gave a talk on “Kenan Rifai’s Teaching and Training Methods.”

The Door of Mercy International Kenan Rifai Symposium was hosted by Cemalnur Sargut, a Sufi teacher.


Details on the Symposium: 

Cemal Reşit Rey Konser Salonu / Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall


Oturum Başkanı / Chairperson
Bruce Lawrence, Prof. Dr.

Omid Safi, Prof. Dr.
Kenan Rifâî: Hz. Mevlânâ’yı 20. Yüzyıla Taşımak
Kenan Rifai: Bringing Mawlana Rumi to the 20th Century

Cangüzel Güner Zülfikar, Yrd. Doç. Dr. / Asst. Prof.
Kenan er-Rifâî Hz.’nin Mürşitliği ve Mürebbiliği
Kenan Rifai’s Teaching and Training Methods

Juliane Hammer, Doç. Dr. / Assoc. Prof.
Kadın Bedeni: Toplumsal Cinsiyet, İslamofobi ve Amerika’daki Direnç
On Women’s Bodies: Gender, Islamophobia, and Resistance in America

compiled by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN on MAY 15, 2015: 

Cemil Aydin is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Aydin presented on the “Impossibility of the Millet System in the Age of Active Publics: Ottoman Tanzimat, Imperial Citizenship, and Cosmopolitan Pluralism, 1839-1915” at the March 19, 2015 workshop “Turkish Reasonable Accommodations: From Multiculturalism to Secular Nationalism and Back.”

Aydin explored in his talk, how the Ottoman millet system “was not very unique but in many ways was a peculiar way of managing diversity in one of the most diverse empires in world history for about 600 years,” and why it ultimately failed. Continue reading


Professor Erdağ Göknar sits down with Professors Cemal Kafadar and Cemil Aydin  to discuss the various versions and “revisions” of Istanbul through the ages.

Göknar is an Associate Professor of Turkish and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University. Kafadar is a Professor of Turkish Studies at Harvard University. Aydin is a Associate Professor in the History Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This conversation was made possible by the Rethinking Global Cities project, a Duke University project funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s “Partnership in a Global Age.”



How the Occupation of Istanbul Shaped the Modern Middle East (on Goknar’s recent Langford lecture, by Julie Poucher Harbin for Duke Today)


by Banu Gökarıksel and Anna Secor for POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY (VOL. 46, MAY 2015, PAGES 21-20) * Creative Commons license: 

  • Highlights
  • Abstract
  • Keywords
  • Post-secularism and the problem of pluralism
  • “There has to be respect”: the demands of pluralism
  • “That’s a matter of attitude”: the limits of pluralism in public space
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Endnotes


•The project of post-secularism hinges on the form of pluralism in the public sphere.
•Findings are based on focus groups with devout women in Istanbul in 2013.
•Respect mediates relations with others across public/private spaces but has limits.
•Devout women may be uncomfortable with other lifestyles (alcohol) in shared spaces.
•Post-secularism is not an achieved state but a project, a struggle with its demands.


The concept of post-secularism has come to signify a renewed attention to the role of religion within secular, democratic public spheres. Central to the project of post-secularism is the integration of religious ways of being within a public arena shared by others who may practice different faiths, practice the same faith differently, or be non-religious in outlook. As a secular state within which Sunni Islam has played an increasingly public role, Turkey is a prime site for studying new configurations of religion, politics, and public life. Our 2013 research with devout Sunni Muslim women in Istanbul demonstrates how the big questions of post-secularism and the problem of pluralism are posed and navigated within the quotidian geographies of homes, neighborhoods, and city spaces. Women grapple with the demands of a pluralistic public sphere on their own terms and in ways that traverse and call into question the distinction between public and private spaces. While mutual respect mediates relations with diverse others, women often find themselves up against the limits of respect, both in their intimate relations with Alevi friends and neighbors, and in the anonymous spaces of the city where they sometimes find themselves subject to secular hostility. The gendered moral order of public space that positions devout headscarf-wearing women in a particular way within diverse city spaces where others may be consuming alcohol or wearing revealing clothing further complicates the problem of pluralism in the city. We conclude that one does not perhaps arrive at post-secularism so much as struggle with its demands.

Continue reading

Juliane Hammer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Islamic Studies professor, interviews scholar and writer Michael Muhammad Knight about his research on the Five Percenters, Malcolm X’s special significance in the fashioning of the “American Muslims” construct, and the under-examined aspects of his legacy.  

compiled by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on APRIL 6, 2015: 

February 21, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of one of the most iconic leaders of the 20th century, Malcolm X El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. His life — as a black figure, as a Muslim figure, and as an international figure — and legacy have gotten widespread media and scholarly attention.

On 2/20/15 and 2/21/15,  a national conference on “The Legacy of Malcolm X: Afro-American Visionary, Muslim Activist” was held at Duke and UNC — co-organized by Omid Safi, UNC-Chapel Hill Islamic Studies professor Juliane Hammer, and African & African American Studies professor and host of Left of Black Mark Anthony Neal.

This semester ISLAMiCommentary has been featuring scholarly insight into Malcolm X and his legacy, which includes video coverage of the conference itself, separately produced video-taped conversations, photos and written features. (For links to these features, see the bottom of this page.)

Michael Muhammad Knight (photo courtesy Layla Quran and Aisha Anwar)
Michael Muhammad Knight
(photo courtesy Layla Quran and Aisha Anwar)

Here is a written interview by Hammer with UNC-Chapel Hill PhD candidate in Religious Studies Michael Muhammad Knight, who presented at the conference (2/21/14) on “Representations of Malcolm X in the Ansaaru Allah Community.” Knight’s research focuses on representations of Muhammad’s body in the hadith and sira corpus.  He is also the author of 9 books, including The Five Percenters: Islam, Hip-Hop, and the Gods of New York.

JH: How did Malcom X become relevant for your research?

MMK: I have been interested in how communities such as the Five Percenters and Ansaaru Allah Community/Nubian Islaamic Hebrews (AAC/NIH) engage Malcolm. I think that examining the diverse ways in which communities employ Malcolm as an authority figure challenges much of what we assume about American Muslims, “orthodoxy,” and Muslim internationalisms. Continue reading