The Program Lineup of Our 37th Academic Conference

37th Conference 2008


"Crossing Boundaries: Mobilizing Faith, Diversity and Dialogue"

The 37th Annual Conference of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists of North America (AMSS)

Hosted By:
Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University
Cambridge, MA
October 24 – 25, 2008

Abstracts: May 15, 2008
Papers: September 30, 2008

While many consider religion to be a major source of violence in the world, many scholars and activists also argue that religions offer the profoundest sources for peacemaking and peacebuilding. This is because religion speaks to the soul, and thus can provide the faithful with powerful motivators to commit to peace. But due to its potential for exclusive claims to truth, mobilising religion for peacemaking purposes must be managed skilfully and wisely.

Interfaith dialogue and the embracing of diversity through the lenses of faith can be a formidable challenge, a feeling of “crossing boundaries.” Such sentiments, incongruously, can also apply to intra-faith relations, that is, relations between different sects or orientations within a faith tradition. However, the act of “crossing boundaries,” whether they be those of interfaith or those of intra-faith, can be the strategic points of demarcation for the release of energies for good and for evil. Mobilising religion for peacemaking is thus an urgent challenge facing humanity today, at both an inter-faith and intra-faith level.

The 37th Annual Conference of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists of North America aims to explore this topic in relation to Islam, Muslims and a globalised world. What are Islam’s resources for “crossing boundaries” and for cultivating faith, diversity and dialogue? How do Muslims view these concepts? Who are the activists working both for, and against, faith, diversity and dialogue? To this end, papers are solicited from Muslims and non-Muslims that might speak to the following sub-themes:

  • Theoretical Reflections on Inter- and Intra-faith Dialogue
  • Studies of Relevant Muslim Intellectual Heritages
  • Empirical Studies of Muslim Peacemaking Activists
  • Case Studies of Inter- or Intra-faith Conflict or Conflict Resolution
  • Hermeneutical Studies of the Qur’an in Relation to Faith, Diversity and Dialogue
  • The Media’s Role in Mobilizing Dialogue on Faith and Diversity
  • Politics of Religious Identity
  • Religion and the Politics of Development and Humanitarian Aid
  • The Role of Religion in Promoting World Peace
  • The Politics of Cultural Boundaries: Assimilation, Integration & Resistance
  • The Impact of War and Conflict on Women’s Role in Society
  • Women as Soldiers
  • The Role of Women in Peacebuilding Efforts
  • Women as Refugees

Abstracts (250 words) are due by May 15, 2008. Abstracts will be evaluated according to the following categories: originality of theme, clear methodology, clarity and relevance of the proposal to the conference theme, and sound academic scholarship. Accepted proposals will be announced within 30 days. Final papers must be submitted by September 30, 2008 to be included in the conference program. If completed papers are not in by the due date, they will not be included in the conference.

Program Co-Chairs:
Dr. Louis J. Cantori (University of Maryland, Baltimore County, US) and
Dr. Katherine Bullock (University of Toronto, Canada)

Send abstracts and papers to Conference Coordinator Ms. Layla Sein at
For more details about AMSS and conference updates, visit

North American Association of Islamic and Muslim studies.

Conference Program

The 37th AMSS Annual Conference

“Crossing Boundaries: Mobilizing Faith
Diversity and Dialogue”

Hosted By:
Harvard Divinity School
Cambridge, MA

Friday, September 25, 2008

8:30 - 9:30 a.m.         Registration
9:30 – 10:00 a.m.      Welcoming and Introductory Remarks
(Andover Hall: Sperry Lecture Room)

Shireen Hunter, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
(Program Co-Chair)

Ali A. Mazrui, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY
(AMSS President)

10:00 - 11:30 a.m.                    Panel 1            (Andover Hall: Sperry Lecture Room)
Religious Pluralism in Islam: Early and Current Discourses
Discussant: Ismail Acar, Harvard University, MA
Chair: Ali A. Mazrui, Binghamton University: State University of New York, Binghamton, NY

Mun’im Sirry (University of Chicago, IL): “ ‘Compete with One Another in Good Works:’ Exegesis on Qur’anic Verse 5:48 and Contemporary Muslim Discourses on Religious Pluralism”   Abstract  / Final Paper  / Bio

Mahbubur Rahman (York College of the City University of New York, NY): “Contemporary Islamist Interpretation of the Status of Non-Muslims in an Islamic State”  Abstract  / Bio

Muhamad Ali (University of California, Riverside, CA): “Islam and Religious Pluralism in Indonesia and India: The Thought of Abdurrahman Wahid and Asghar Ali Engineer” Abstract  / Bio

11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Luncheon Keynote Address
(Andover Hall: Braun Room)Ismail Raji al-Faruqi Memorial Lecture:
Keynote Speaker: Mohammed Ayoob

Distinguished Professor of International Relations
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MIKeynote Address:
“Taming Political Islam:
Promoting Dissent, Democracy, and Dialogue”

  Abstract  / Bio

1:15 – 2:00 p.m.                      Jum`ah Salat              (Lowell Lecture Hall)

2:15 – 3:45 p.m.                      Panel 2           (Andover Hall: Sperry Lecture Room)
Religious Traditions of Dialogue
Discussant: Roy P. Mottahedeh, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Chair: Bridget Blomfield, University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), NE

Marcia Hermansen (Loyola University Chicago, IL): “Cultural Worlds/Culture Wars: Islam, Christianity and Culture in the 21st Century”  Abstract  /  Bio    
Aisha Y. Musa (Florida International University, Miami, FL): “ ‘We Have Made you Peoples and Tribes’ ... A Qur’anically-Based Vision of Multi-Culturalism”  Abstract  / Final Paper  / Bio

Vincent F. Biondo III (California State University, Fresno, CA): “Successful Inter- and Intra-faith Dialogue in California”      Abstract  /  Final Paper  / Bio

3:45 – 4:00 p.m.                     Break

4:00 - 5:30 p.m.                      Panel 3           (Andover Hall: Sperry Lecture Room)
The Media’s Role in Promoting or Hindering Interreligious Dialogue and Inter-Cultural Relations
Discussant: Elora Chowdhury, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA
Chair: Saeed A. Khan, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

Shahnaz Khan (Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, Canada): “Muslims in the Media”  Abstract  / Bio 
Alka Kurian (University of Sunderland, UK): “Gender and Conflict in Indian Documentary Filmmaking”  Abstract  / Bio

Aliaa Dakroury (Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada): “Towards a Dawn of Knitting an Inter-Cultural Dialogue with Islam in the Canadian Media”  Abstract  / Final Paper  / Bio

5:30 – 5:45 p.m.   Break and Asr Salat

5:45 – 8:00 p.m.    Reception & Annual Grand Meeting

Saturday, October 26, 2008

9:00 - 10:30 a.m.                     Panel 4           (Andover Hall: Sperry Lecture Room)
Can Religion Contribute to Peacebuilding? Past and Current Examples
Discussant: Charles Randall Paul, Foundation for Interreligious Diplomacy, New York, NY
Chair: Shireen Hunter, Georgetown University, Washington, DC


Robert W. Lawrence (Albertus Magnus College, New Haven, CT): “Francis of Assisi Before the Sultan: Islam in Early Franciscan Writings (1219-1267)”  Abstract  / Final Paper  / Bio

Mohamed Nimer (American University, Washington, DC): “Islamic Movements and the Challenge of Peacebuilding in the Middle East”  Abstract  / Final Paper /  Bio

D. Jason Berggren (University of Georgia, Athens, GA): “ ‘In Keeping with the Teaching of Scripture:’ Jimmy Carter, Religion, and the Pursuit of Middle East Peace”  Abstract  / Final Paper  /  Bio 


10:30 – 10:45 a.m.                 Break

10:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.         Panel 5           (Andover Hall: Sperry Lecture Room)
Alternative Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue and Peacebuilding
Discussant: Hassan Abbas, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Chair: Ahmed E. Ahmed, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad (Minaret of Freedom Institute, Bethesda, MD): “Reflections on Inter- and Intra-faith Dialogue and the Promotion of World Peace in Light of Muslim Heritage”  Abstract  / Final Paper  / Bio 

Maliha Chishti (University of Toronto, Canada): “Peacebuilding in Afghanistan: Exposing Masculine-Imperial Peace from an Anti-Imperialist, Muslim-Feminist Perspective”  Abstract  / Bio

Robert D. Crane (Independent Researcher and Scholar, Washington, VA): “Transforming Interfaith Dialogue to Interreligious Solidarity for Justice”   Abstract  / Final Paper  / Bio


12:15 – 12: 30 p.m.                 Zuhr Salat

12:30 - 1:30 p.m.                     Luncheon Buffet       (Andover Hall: Braun Room)

1:30 - 3:00 p.m.                       Panel 6                       (Andover Hall: Sperry Lecture Room)
Women As Agents of Change and Peace Within Nations
Discussant: Deina Abdelkader, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, MA
Chair: Michelle D. Byng, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

Fatma Tutuncu (Abant Izzet Baysal University, Bolu, Turkey): “Assessing the Role of Women Preachers in the Democratization of Turkish Sociopolitical Culture”  Abstract  / Bio

Amina Jamal (Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada): “Mutual Guidance? The Geographies of a Historical Tradition” 
Abstract  / Bio

Etin Anwar (Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York): “Gender Space and Shared Security: Women’s Roles in Peace and Conflict Resolution in Indonesia” Abstract  / Bio 

3:00 - 3:15 p.m.                       Break

3:15 - 4:45 p.m.           Panel 7           (Andover Hall: Sperry Lecture Room)
Crossing Boundaries: Muslim Integration in the West
Discussant: Jocelyne Cesari, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Chair: Marcia Hermansen, Loyola University Chicago, IL

Wendy Cadge (Brandeis University, Waltham, MA) and Lance D. Laird (Boston University, MA): “Institutionalizing Islam in America: The Case of Community-Based Health Clinics”  Abstract  / Bio

Shabana Mir (Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK): “Diversity, Self, Faith and Friends: Muslim Undergraduates on Campus” 
Abstract  / Bio

Christopher Cutting (University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada): “Dis-integration and Re-integration in the West: Muslim and Jewish Responses to Post Faith-Based Arbitration in Ontario”  Abstract  / Bio 

Annual Banquet:
(Boston Marriott Cambridge Hotel
Two Cambridge Center, 50 Broadway, Cambridge, MA)Moment of Remembrance/Tribute to Dr. Louis CantoriBest Graduate Paper Awards Ceremony

Ismail Raji al-Faruqi Memorial Lecture:
Keynote Speaker: Mahmoud Ayoub

Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and
Christian-Muslim Relations, Hartford Seminary, CT

Keynote Address:
"Religious Pluralism in the Qur’an:
A Challenge to Today’s Muslims and non-Muslims"
Abstract  / Bio
North American Association of Islamic and Muslim studies.

Conference Report

"Crossing Boundaries:
Mobilizing Faith, Diversity, and Dialogue"

On 24-25 October 2008, the Thirty-Seventh Annual Conference of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists of North America (AMSS) was held at the Harvard Divinity School, thanks to the efforts of the late Dr. Louis Cantori (an AMSS board member) and the gracious support of Dean William Graham. Given the expanding role of religion in American foreign policy and public life, the conference’s seven panels were structured around finding common ground in a religiously pluralistic world, healing inter-religious and intra-religious rifts, and using religion to promote (or at least mitigate) international conflicts.

Ali A. Mazrui (Binghamton University, and AMSS President) welcomed the audience and spoke of how America, the world’s “first and only universal country,” has not always welcomed non-Anglo/non-Christian immigrants. He contended that the country might be in the process of accommodating Islam, as witnessed by the Clinton administration’s hosting of iftar dinners and the Bush administration’s extension of Ramadan greetings to the Muslim American community.

Panel 1, “Religious Pluralism in Islam: Early and Current Discourses,” featured Mun’im Sirry (University of Chicago), who spoke on how Nur-cholish Madjid (Indonesia), Asghar Ali Engineer (India), and Abdulaziz Sachedina (United States) interpreted Qur’an 5:48 within the current reality of religious pluralism. Mahbubur Rahman (York College of the City University of New York) observed how the traditional Islamic concept of dhimmi was fundamentally at odds with current understandings of full citizenship and human rights. Muhammad Ali (University of California, Riverside) stressed the need to understand both the text and the context when dealing with religious pluralism and focused on the ideas of Abdurrahman Wahid (Indonesia) and Ashgar Ali Engineer (India).

This was followed by Mohammed Ayoob’s (Michigan State University) luncheon keynote address, entitled “Taming Political Islam: Promoting Dissent, Democracy, and Dialogue.” He stated that western hegemony gave rise to Islamist groups (the “new third worldism”) and that they would follow the natural course of political parties when faced with the task of competing for votes, personality contests, factionalization, and the need for compromise and pragmatism as they become more involved in the governing process.

Panel 2, “Religious Traditions of Dialogue,” consisted of Marcia Hermansen (Loyola University), Aisha Y. Musa (Florida International University), and Vincent F. Biondo III (California State University, Fresno). Hermansen, basing her paper upon American Protestant theologian H. R. Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture, analyzed four different Muslim approaches to the dominant American culture: “Islam first,” “cultural” Muslims, “progressive” Muslims, and “traditionalist” Muslims. Musa, deploring how the western media often takes Qur’anic verses (either in part or in whole) out of context, used the principle of “explaining the Qur’an by the Qur’an” to reveal its envisioned path, in cooperation with other religious communities, toward achieving social justice. Biondo, who concentrated upon his experiences in the area of interfaith dialogue, stressed the need to train participants, be civil and hospitable, learn some foreign words, and leave all biases at the door.

Panel 3, “The Media’s Role in Promoting or Hindering Interreligious Dialogue & International Relations,” featured Shahnaz Khan (Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario), Alka Kurian (University of Sunderland, UK), and Alia Dakroury (Carleton University, Ottowa). Khan examined “Fanaa,” a Bollywood blockbuster that conformed to film stereotypes of Indian Muslims. She was followed by Kurian, who presented video clips of Rakesh Sharma’s “Final Solution” (a documentary on the 2002 tragedy in Gujarat and the role played by militant Hindu nationalism), and Dakroury, who, also through video clips, discussed the role of humor in Canada’s “Little Mosque on the Prairie” and America’s “Aliens in America” in portraying Muslims as regular people.

Panel 4, “Can Religion Contribute to Peacebuilding? Past and Current Examples,” consisted of Robert W. Lawrence (Albertus Magnus College), Mohammed Nimer (American University), and D. Jason Berggren. Lawrence argued that the traditional understandings of St. Francis’ 1219 visit to the sultan of Egypt are mistaken; what he really wanted was martyrdom, and his failure to achieve this forced Roman Catholics to change their idea of Islam. Nimer talked on how Islam values tranquility and harmony, prescribes non-aggression and reconciliation, and does not see war as an endless condition. Berggren compared the “JFK model” of the absolute separation of state and religion with Jimmy Carter’s counter-model/alternative vision of how religion can play a role in foreign policy. Particularly fascinating was his account of Carter’s scripture-based approach to the Israeli/Palestinian problem.

Panel 5, “Alterative Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue and Peace-building,” featured Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad (Minaret of Freedom Institute), Maliha Chishti (University of Toronto), and Robert D. Crane (independent scholar). Ahmad spoke of his personal involvement in interfaith dialogue and presented al-Biruni’s book on Hinduism as a good example of actual interfaith dialogue, for al-Biruni had gone to India and talked with Hindus. Chishti analyzed how foreign- and male-driven aid programs, which are increasingly becoming associated with a “highly militarized, western politico-ideological agenda,” are negatively impacting Afghan women. Crane focused on the upsurge of interfaith and intra-faith efforts in the aftermath of Pope Benedict’s Regensburg speech (2005), the open letter to the Pope (2006), and “A Common Word between Us and You” (2007) and the Christian response later that year: “Loving God and Neighbor Together.”

Panel 6, “Women as Agents of Change and Peace within Nations,” presented Fatma Tutuncu (Abant Izzet Baysal University, Turkey), Amina Jamal (Ryerson University, Toronto), and Etin Anwar (Hobart and William Smith Colleges). Tutuncu described how Turkey’s female preachers and deputy muftis have fared vis-à-vis secularism, traditionalism, patriarchalism, and the state’s attempt to control religion. Jamal analyzed the notion of moral guidance and community disciplining. Anwar discussed how interreligious conflicts and violence, usually traceable to men, affect women and children and how Indonesian women were moving from the private sphere into “a more formal and strategic patterned interaction in the public sphere.”

Panel 7, “Crossing Boundaries: Muslim Integration in the West,” featured Wendy Cadge (Brandeis University) and Lance D. Laird (Boston University), Shabana Mir (Oklahoma State University), and Christopher Cutting (University of Waterloo, Ontario). Cadge and Laird spoke on how Muslims engage in charitable activities (e.g., the Umma Clinic in Los Angeles) out of the Qur’anic obligation to give charity, to serve the under-served, and to give back to the community. Mir analyzed how female Muslim college students deal with peer pressure on campus, are expected to “educate” their white follow students and adapt to white culture, and how they are not encouraged to “seek out their own.” Cutting discussed how Ontario’s Arbitration Act allows couples to have their family disputes mediated through private and religious arbitration.

Mazrui and Bullock gave the closing remarks. Mazrui thanked the participants for their contributions to better understanding the dynamics of inter- and intra-faith conflict. Bullock pointed out that for the first time, the AMSS conference program was put together by an all-woman Program Committee (herself, Drs. Shireen Hunter [Georgetown], Jasmin Zine [Wilfred Laurier University], and Michelle Byng [Temple University], and skillfully organized by AMSS Conference Coordinator Layla Sein. She commended AMSS for being open to such an evolution in female leadership in Muslim organizations.

Before the annual banquet’s keynote address, the late Dr. Louis Cantori was euologized by Mazrui and Roy Mottahedeh (Harvard University), Mazrui spoke of Cantori’s creative participation in interfaith dialogue and commitment to cultivating mutual respect among Muslims, Christians, and Jews through an enriched understanding of religious pluralism. The late Dr. Mona Abul-Fadl was also remembered.

This was followed by the eighth consecutive Best Graduate Paper Awards ceremony, with awards for best paper going to Maliha Chishti (first place), Mun’im Sirry (second place), and Christopher Cutting (third place). Mahmoud Ayoub (Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Hartford Seminary) then presented the annual banquet’s Ismail Raji al-Farqui Memorial Lecture: “Religious Pluralism in the Qur’an: A Challenge to Today’s Muslims and non-Muslims.” In this tour de force, he spoke of the “human quest for the divine and the divine quest for humanity,” how Islamic civilization was made by Muslims and non-Muslims, how Muslims participated in the making of western civilization during the Scholastic era and the Renaissance. He also mentioned, among many other things, that there is no “clash” between civilizations (the source of which is religion); rather, they influence each other.

The critiques and commentaries after each panel by such seasoned scholars as Professors Mazrui, Ayoub, Hunter, Uthup, and Ayoob opened the floor to lively, engaging, and sometimes controversial Q & A sessions; and the tightly organized sessions, with a mix of senior and junior panelists, turned the conference into an inspirational, concentrated, high quality event.

Jay Willoughby
American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences
Herndon, Virginia