Our 38th Academic Conference in 2009

38th Conference 2009


"Islamic Traditions and Comparative Modernities"

The 38th  Annual Conference of the Association of
Muslim Social Scientists of North America (AMSS)
Cosponsored By:
The University of Virginia
Department of Religious Studies
Department of Middle Eastern and
South Asian Languages and Cultures
Charlottesville, VA
September 25-26, 2009
Abstracts: May 15, 2009
Papers: September 1, 2009

In light of contemporary debates between religion and secularism, this year’s theme encourages a re-examination of some perennial challenges between Islamic doctrine and practice, between text and culture, between the individual and society and between theology and human history. A re-appraisal of these interpretations may help us better understand the relations between different sects and/or orientations within the Islamic faith and traditions across the Muslim world. The AMSS 38th Annual Conference hopes to explore this topic in relation to Islam and Muslims in a globalized world. AMSS encourages dialogue between generations of junior and senior scholars.

To this end, papers are solicited from Muslim and Non-Muslim scholars and researchers on Islam, Muslim societies, and Muslim minorities that speak to the following sub-themes, either generally or in a geographical context:

  • Religion Between the Universal & the Particular
  • Reconciling Ancient Text with Changing Circumstances
  • Modern Scholarship & the Legacy of Ibn Khaldun
  • Conflict & Dialogue Between Civilizations: Islam, the West & Indigenous Cultures
  • Issues of War & Peace in the Middle East
  • Issues of War & Peace in South Asia
  • The Gender Question Between Settled Doctrine & Democratic Change
  • Family Law in a Developing Muslim World
  • Islamic Law Between Tradition & Modernity
  • Economics: Liberal, Radical & Islamic
  • Is Human History a Form of Divine Revelation?
  • Islam Between Science & Theology
  • Politics of Religious Identity

Abstracts (300 words) are due by May 15, 2009. Abstracts will be evaluated according to the following categories: originality of theme, clear methodology, clarity and relevance of the proposal to the conference theme. Accepted proposals will be announced within 15 days. Final papers must be submitted by September 1, 2009 to be included in the conference program. Send abstracts and papers to Conference Coordinator, Ms. Layla Sein, at conferences@amss.org.

Program Chair:
Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina, University of Virginia

The AMSS is open to Muslims and non-Muslims. For information on AMSS events, and conference updates, visit http://www.amss.org

North American Association of Islamic and Muslim studies.

Conference Program

The 38th AMSS Annual Conference

“Islamic Traditions and Comparative Modernities”

Cosponsored By:
Department of Religious Studies
Department of Middle Eastern and
South Asian Languages and Cultures
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
September 25 - 26, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

8:30 - 9:00 a.m.          Registration

9:00 – 9:30 a.m.          Welcoming and Introductory Remark

[Auditorium of the Harrison Institute/Small Special Collections Library]

Abdulaziz A. Sachedina, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
(Program Chair)

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

9:30 - 11:00 a.m.                     Panel 1                        [Auditorium of the Harrison Institute]
Islam and the West
Discussant: Cynthia Hoehler-Fatton, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Chair: Ali A. Mazrui, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY

Alan Godlas (University of Georgia, Athens, GA): “Psychological Resources for Emotionally Intelligent Dialogue between Islam, the West, and Indigenous Cultures”  Abstract  /  Bio

Junaid S. Ahmad (University of Cape Town, South Africa): “The Islam Industry in America: Neo-Orientalism in Popular and Academic Discourse”  Abstract  /  Final  /  Bio

11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.       

Luncheon Buffet - Keynote Address
The Cavalier Inn at the University
[105 North Emmet Street, Charlottesville, VA]Ismail Raji al-Faruqi Memorial Lecture:
Keynote Speaker: William B. Quandt

Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. Professor of Politics
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VAKeynote Address:
“Obama’s Approach to the Muslim World:
What lies Behind the Change in Rhetoric”
Abstract  / Bio

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

2:30 – 4:00 p.m.                     Panel 2                       [Auditorium of the Harrison Institute]
Islam and the Media
Discussant: Daniel Lefkowitz, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Chair: Ahmed E. Ahmed, University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), Galveston, TX

Michelle D. Byng (Temple University, Philadelphia, PA): “Symbolically Muslim: Media, Hijab, and the West”  Abstract  /  Bio

Mucahit Bilici (City University of New York, NY): “Muslim Time in America”  Abstract  /  Bio

4:00 – 4:15 p.m.                      Break

4:15 – 5:45 p.m.                      Panel 3                       [Auditorium of the Harrison Institute]
Relation between Religious and Secular in Islam
Discussant: Elizabeth F. Thompson, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Chair: Saeed A. Khan, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

Carrie Konold (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI): “Shari’ah and the Secular State in Senegal: Understanding Citizen Preferences for Islamic Family Law”  Abstract  /  Bio

Mahmoud M. Ayoub (Hartford Seminary, Hartford, CT): “Islam and Secularism”  Abstract  /  Bio

Ehsan Moghaddasi (University of Tehran, Iran): “A Comparative Study between Secularism and Political Islam and the Downfall of Secularism During Khatami’s Presidency”  Abstract  /  Final  /  Bio

5:45 – 6:00 p.m.                     Break and Asr Salat  (Clemons Library – Room 201)

6:00 –7:00 p.m.                      Reception  (Garrett Hall)

7:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Annual Grand Meeting
[Auditorium of the Harrison Institute]

Saturday, September 26, 2009

9:00 - 10:30 a.m.                     Panel 4               [Auditorium of the Harrison Institute]
Islamic Revivalism and Modernity
Discussant: Ahmed H. al-Rahim, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Chair: Robert D. Crane, Independent Researcher and Scholar, Washington, VA

Ermin Sinanovic (United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD): “Multiple Modernities and the Discourse of Developmental Islamic Revivalism”  Abstract  /  Bio

Jacquelene Brinton (Davidson College, Davidson, NC): “Utilizing the Sermon to Incorporate Change: Shaykh Sha‘rawi’s Epistemological Enforcement of Ulama Authority”  Abstract  /  Final  /  Bio

Marianne Farina (Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley, CA): “New Strategies in Religious Education: The Case of Pursuing Meaning and Method for Engagement with Modernity”   Abstract  /  Final  /  Bio

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

10:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.           Panel 5                       [Auditorium of the Harrison Institute]
Islamic Literary Hermeneutics
Discussant: Abdulaziz A. Sachedina, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Chair: Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Writer and Poet, India

Hanadi Al-Samman (University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA): “US Muslim Women’s Movements and the Politics of Islamic Feminine Hermeneutics”  Abstract  /  Bio

Alireza Korangy (University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA): “Poetics of Islam in Contemporary Women Poets of Iran: A Morphological and Historical Perspective (17th-21st cc.)”   Abstract  /  Bio 

Khaled Troudi (University of Exeter, UK): “Hermeneutical Aspects of the Qur’anic Narrative: The Function of Coherence and Style”  Abstract  /  Bio

12:15 – 1:45 p.m.                   

Luncheon Buffet - Keynote Address
The Cavalier Inn at the University
[105 North Emmet Street, Charlottesville, VA]Keynote Speaker: Helena Cobban
Author, Re-engage! America and the World After Bush
Author and Publisher, www.JustWorldNews.orgKeynote Address:
“Changing Perceptions of the Palestinian Question in the US”

Abstract  /  Bio

2:00 – 2:15 p.m.                      Zuhr Salat                              (Clemons Library – Room 201)

2:15 – 3:45 p.m.                      Panel 6                       [Auditorium of the Harrison Institute]
Cultural Identity and Islam
Discussant: Mazen Hashem, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Chair: Zakyi Ibrahim, California State University, Fullerton, CA

Mumtaz Ahmad (Hampton University, Hampton, VA): “Ulama and their Attitudes Toward the US: Evidence from Bangladesh and Pakistan”   Abstract  /  Bio 

Cemil Aydin (George Mason University, Fairfax, VA): “Global Identity of the Muslim World: The Legacies of the Late 19th Century Intellectual History”  Abstract  /  Final  /  Bio

Richard J. Cohen (University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA): “Sufism and Syncretism in Early Indo-Islamic Literature: Maulana Da’ud’s Chandayan as Exemplary Text”  Abstract  /  Bio 

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

4:00 – 5:30 p.m.         Panel 7                       [Auditorium of the Harrison Institute]
Public Role of Muslim Women
Discussant: Hanadi Al-Samman, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Chair: Katherine Bullock, University of Toronto, Canada

Noor Mohammad Osmani (International Islamic University Malaysia [IIUM], Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), Abu Umar Faruq Ahmad (Sule College, Sydney, Australia), and Md. Yousuf Ali (International Islamic University Malaysia [IIUM], Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia): “The Political Role of Muslim Women: Between Traditional Texts and Changing Realities”  Abstract  /  Final  /  Bio   

Juliane Hammer (George Mason University, Fairfax, VA): “Activism as Embodied Tafsir: American Muslim Women’s Discourses on Authority, Leadership and Space”   Abstract  /  Bio

Norbani Binti Ismail (International Islamic University Malaysia [IIUM], Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia): “Muslim Women and Religious Authorities in Malaysia’s Mass Media"  Abstract  /  Bio

5:30 – 5:45 p.m.         Concluding Remarks          

Ali A. Mazrui, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY
(AMSS President)
Abdulaziz A. Sachedina, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
(Program Chair)

5:45 – 6:00 p.m.                     Break & Asr Salat                 (Clemons Library – Room 201)
7:30 - 9:30 p.m.

Annual Banquet:
Omni Charlottesville Hotel
[235 West Main Street, Charlottesville, VA]Announcement of Newly Elected AMSS Board of Directors (2009 – 2011)Best Graduate Paper Awards Ceremony

Ismail Raji al-Faruqi Memorial Lecture:
Keynote Speaker: Aminah B. McCloud
Director of the Islamic World Studies Program
DePaul University, Chicago, IL

Keynote Address: “Studying Muslims in the 21st Century”
Abstract  /  Bio

North American Association of Islamic and Muslim studies.

Conference Report

"Islamic Traditions and Comparative Modernities"

From 25-26 September 2009, Thomas Jefferson’s academic village in Charlottesville, the University of Virginia (UVA), hosted the Thirty-Eighth Annual Conference of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists of North America (AMSS). Cosponsored by the university’s Department of Religious Studies and the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures, presenters and participants discussed “Islamic Traditions and Comparative Modernities.”

In his opening remarks, Conference Chair Abdulaziz Sachedina (Frances Myers Ball Professor of Religious Studies, UVA) underlined the deliberate choice of traditions and modernities in the title to acknowledge the multiplicity of these experiences in current academic disciplines. AMSS president Ali Mazrui (Binghamton University), the second opening speaker, focused on modernity, modernization, democratization, globalization, secularization, and other related concepts, all of which were invented and defined by the West and are part of the dilemma of Islam’s confrontation with it. Expanding upon globalization’s various forms, he opined that its dominant category was comprehensive globalization, which represents all of the forces that have brought societies together in a globalized village. He concluded by stating that he was proud to launch this conference with the agenda of this changing dynamic of the present century.

Panel 1, “Islam and the West” and chaired by Mazrui, featured two fascinating papers. Alan Godlas (University of Georgia) proposed improving encounters among Islam, the West, and indigenous cultures by identifying and overcoming the major obstacle: the domination of maladaptive emotions. The first two cultures’ negligence of emotions, given their dominant logocentric focus, could be cured by enhancing and then applying emotional intelligence via “emotion-focused therapy” at all educational levels. Junaid Ahmad (University of Cape Town) followed with his analysis of academic and popular discourse in the post-9/11 world of what he called the “Islam industry.” He showed how Islam was portrayed in ways that would be deemed offensive if directed at another religion. Cynthia Hoehler-Fatton (UVA) served as discussant.

The luncheon keynote speaker, William Quandt (Edward R. Stettinius, Jr. Professor of Politics, UVA), spoke on “Obama’s Approach to the Muslim World.” Based on his academic command of the subject and his long service at the State Department, Quandt observed the Muslim world’s positive reception of the Obama administration and the visible signs of change in Washington’s attitude, as illustrated by the use of “mutual respect” in Obama’s inaugural speech and the clear abandonment of the former administration’s policy of redesigning the Middle East. He added that Obama has made negotiation and diplomacy the major policy tools for engaging with such formerly demonized countries as Iran and Syria. Even more, he has made the Arab-Israeli conflict as a priority, and his assertion of its importance for American national interests was unheard of since Carter. His major point was that how Obama handles the Arab-Israeli and Af-Pak issues, among other concrete problems, will reveal what kind of president he will be.

Panel 2, “Islam and the Media” and chaired by Ahmed E. Ahmed (University of Texas Medical Branch), was launched by Michelle Byng’s (Temple University) paper on media representations of the hijab. She presented her results, based on seventy-two American news stories on the hijab ban (France), the niqab (the United Kingdom), and public veiling (the United States). She concluded that “hijab talk” in various western countries has culture-specific dimensions based upon their populations’ respective visions of integration/assimilation of Muslims. Notwithstanding the different versions of secularism, the media still represents these countries alike, thereby reenforcing a “common sense” that public veiling is unacceptable.

Mücahit Bilici (City University of New York) discussed temporality, authenticity, and Muslim identity in the case of moon sighting – or “moon fighting” – in a Simmelian framework of “temporal citizenship.” He pointed out that despite this debate’s embarrassing nature, the adjustment of time is a dimension of overall cultural citizenship of Muslims both for internal unification and unification with American society through synchrony. Hasan Kösebalaban (Lake Forest College) provided an alternative reading of the complex face Turkish modernization has acquired with the current JDP government. He illustrated how the authoritarian top-down isolationist and nationalist Kemalist model was supplanted by an emerging bottom-up model, one that is at peace with Islam. Daniel Lefkowitz (UVA) served as discussant.

Panel 3, “Relation between Religious and Secular in Islam” and chaired by Saeed A. Khan (Wayne State University), featured Carrie Konold (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), who outlined how the elite’s framing of family law and the role of the Shari`ah have shaped citizen preferences in Senegal and how secularism’s multifaceted meaning has figured in the debate on Islamic family law. Ehsan Moghaddasi (University of Tehran) suggested how Hatami’s reform policies led to the downfall of Iran’s secular groups and paved the way for Ahmadinajad’s presidency. Mahmoud Ayoub’s (Hartford Seminary) “Islam and Secularism” offered a history of the relationship between Islam’s religious and secular realms and argued that Islam embraced both simultaneously by not rejecting the world. Elizabeth F. Thompson (UVA) served as discussant.

The second day’s first panel, “Islamic Revivalism and Modernity” and chaired by Robert D. Crane (independent researcher and scholar), led off with Ermin Sinanovic’s (U.S. Naval Academy) account of tajdid (renewal) and islah (reform) as agents of social change in the Islamic context and proposed reading Islamic revivalism as offering several possibilities for multiple modernities. This was followed by Jackie Brinton’s (Davidson College) analysis of Imam Sha`rawi’s epistemic system, which underlined the ulema’s relevance to religious discourse despite contemporary threats. The session was concluded by Marianne Farina’s (Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology) interreligious approach to religious education, which seeks to integrate it not only with other fields of learning, but, most importantly, with life itself instead of just being an addendum to it. Ahmed H. al-Rahim (UVA) served as discussant

Panel 5, “Islamic Literary Hermeneutics” and chaired by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi (writer and poet), sparked real debate. Hanadi Al-Samman (UVA) presented Karamah and other grassroots women’s organizations’ engagement with the juristic tradition to empower women worldwide. Alireza Korangy’s (UVA) paper revealed how women’s poetic imagery in Iranian literary history represented their own times and upheavals in ways that differed radically, from the Qajars up to the Islamic revolution, from their male counterparts. The panel was concluded by Khaled Troudi’s (University of Exeter) analysis of hermeneutic aspects of the Qur’anic narrative with reference to coherence (nazm) between a chapter’s words and verses instead to the traditional strict focus on its lexical and grammatical aspects. Sachedina was the discussant.

After this, luncheon Keynote Speaker Helena Cobban (author and publisher, JustWorldNews.org) tackled “Changing Perceptions of the Palestinian Question in the US” over the past three decades. She identified several factors that have brought this about, ranging from the changed information environment in a globalized world to the new generation of Palestinian-American and anti-Zionist Jewish-American activists as well as recent best-sellers. She also pointed out continuing challenges, such as the Palestinians’ internal conflict, violence, and the continued strength of this country’s anti-Palestinian movement. In closing, Cobban stressed the importance of principles rather than actors in confronting challenges as an expression of her Quaker beliefs and journalistic ethics.

Panel 6, “Cultural Identity and Islam” and chaired by Zakyi Ibrahim (California State University), began with Mumtaz Ahmad’s (Hampton University) “Ulema and Their Attitudes toward U.S.: Evidence from Bangladesh to Pakistan.” Read in his absence by Saeed Khan, his survey of madrasa curriculum and the profiles of ulama, based upon statistical data complied from anti-American publications put out by religious groups in Pakistan, mapped out the scope and causes of anti-Americanism. Ahmad argued that while the myth about madrasas as hotsprings of terrorism is unjustified, it is true that in post-9/11 era the majority of madrasa ulama are anti-American. Cemil Aydin (George Mason University [GMU]) questioned a now taken-for-granted notion of “the Muslim world.” Drawing on Rashid Rida, Ismail Raji al Faruqi, and other intellectuals, he argued that the current dominant narrative presents a golden age followed by a decline and the current need to revive it. In essence, “the Muslim world” is an entirely modern (late nineteenth century) notion that emerged within the context of an imperial legitimacy crisis during the second half of the nineteenth century. Richard Cohen (UVA) discussed Sufism and its syncretic elements, especially in early Indo-Islamic literature. He cited Maulana Da’ud’s Chandayan as an example. His study traces a variety of influences and cross-cultural borrowings in South Asian Sufism as well as the Chishti family of Sufi sheikhs, while presenting a brief history of its development in South Asia. Mazen Hashem (University of Southern California) served as discussant.

Panel 7, “Public Role of Muslim Women” and chaired by Katherine Bullock (University of Toronto), began with a joint presentation by Noor Mohammad Osmani (International Islamic University-Malaysia [IIU-M]), Abu Umar Faruq Ahmad (Sule College), and Md. Yousus Ali (IIU-M). Addressing the issue of whether women can hold high offices in their nation, they asked why many Muslim scholars believe this is forbidden, even though the Qur’an praises the Queen of Sheba for her just rule. In addition, they pointed out that many contemporary Muslim women are fulfilling this very function, regardless of their supposed “inability” to do so. They were followed by Juliane Hammer (GMU), who analyzed American Muslim women’s challenges of traditional forms of exegetical authority and practice in their pursuit of what they perceive as gender justice or gender equality. The panel ended with Norbani Binti Ismail’s (IIU-M) paper on female preachers in Malaysia. She addressed what issues they focus on, the challenges facing them, perceptions of discrimination, why they engage in such work, and who listens to them. Hanadi Al-Samman (UVC) served as discussant.

Keynote Speaker Aminah B. McCloud (director, Islamic World Studies Program, DePaul University), gave the Ismail Raji al-Faruqi Memorial Lecture, “Studying Muslims in the 21st Century,” during the annual banquet. She opened by relating stories of her personal acquaintance with al-Faruqi and how he and his wife were involved in the lives of the area’s Muslim community, equally embracing black Muslims, and how this had a lasting influence on her. She then moved on to the negative impacts of some gestures made by Muslims in this country to gain more recognition of the long-term prospects for the study of Islam and Muslims in this country. After citing our ineffectual use of western methods and tools, our inability to derive our own approach from the Islamic worldview, and several other particular concerns and factors as the reasons for our inhibition, she invited the audience to engage in preemptive action to respond to events both here and abroad, to transcend local concerns, and to lead the study of Islam instead of letting non-Muslims define it.

Her critique of American Muslims extended to socio-political issues as well, including how they are handling charges of terrorism, when assertive/authoritative people turn into fearful ones, and when these same people turn a blind eye to American history by claiming that this country has – and still is – a wonderful secular one. Among her many penetrating remarks was the following: “If Muslims have a mandate of social justice, we haven’t done it in our country. We are either paralyzed with fear or we are not telling them what our social projects are.”

At the annual banquet, the new AMSS officers were announced: Ali Mazrui (president), Mahmoud Ayoub (vice president), Jasmin Zine (secretary), and Hasan Kosebalaban (treasurer). Members-at-Large are Michelle Byng, Peter Mandaville, Juliane Hammer, and Zakyi Ibrahim (the editor of AJISS serves on the board as a Member at Large, as per AMSS bylaws).

The First Prize winner for the Best Graduate Paper awards was Carrie Konold, who presented “Shari`ah and the Secular State in Senegal: Understanding Citizen Preferences for Islamic Family Law.” Her prize was a certificate signed by President Mazrui and a $500 check.

Halil Ibrahim Yenigun
Doctoral Candidate, Department of Politics
University of Virginia, Charlottesville