The Association of Muslim Social Scientists of North America (AMSS) has formally changed its name to the North American Association of Islamic and Muslim Studies (NAAIMS). The name change was granted by the VA State Corporation Commission on April 17, 2013. It retains its status as an independent non-profit 501.c.3 tax-exempt membership-based academic organization run by a board of directors that is elected every two years. The organization encompasses the United States and Canada, and is open to all scholars dedicated to promoting the study of Islam, the diverse lived experience of Muslims, and Muslim societies. It was established in 1972 by North American Muslim scholars under its former name of AMSS for the sole purpose of establishing a forum where scholars could meet annually in an academic setting to debate social issues from an Islamic perspective. This organization is focused on providing a forum for excellence in research and critical and reflective scholarship; publications relating to the study of Islam and Muslim societies; and critical discussions about Islam and experience of Muslims from an interdisciplinary perspective.
AMSS has built a strong and recognized legacy with its interdisciplinary forum that appealed to academics in the social sciences and humanities. Although the former name “AMSS” highlighted only the social sciences and Muslim scholars, the topics and themes examined in its conferences and lectures went beyond the social sciences, and its membership, conference participants, and board of directors included non-Muslims. To that end, the board of directors with overwhelming support by AMSS members elected to change its name to reflect its broad appeal. Its new name, the North American Association of Islamic and Muslim Studies (NAAIMS) actually identifies and amplifies the true legacy that AMSS created with its interdisciplinary forum. It developed a unique space for academics in the interdisciplinary subject areas within Islamic and Muslim studies. Through its events cosponsored solely by universities, AMSS created a unique niche in academia encouraging the study of Islam and Islamic studies, which was unrivaled by other Muslim organizations. AMSS provided a focus on Islamic studies (as opposed to regionally defined studies - Middle Eastern, African, South Asian, etc). It organized and instituted university cosponsored conferences and a lecture series in the United States and Canada, and an academic awards program beginning with the Best Graduate Paper Awards Competition in 2001. The following is a list of annual themes presented at its annual conferences since 2000:
2000: “Islam and Society in the 21st Century”
Cosponsored by Georgetown University, Washington, DC
2001: “Religion and Society in the Global Epoch”
Cosponsored by University of Michigan – Dearborn Campus, MI
2002: “The Muslim World after September 11: Agenda for Change”
Cosponsored By: American University, Washington, DC
2003: “East Meets West: Understanding the Muslim Presence in Europe and North America”
Cosponsored By: Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
2004: “Revisioning Modernity: Challenges and Possibilities”
Cosponsored By: George Mason University – Arlington Campus, VA
2005: “Muslims and Islam in the Chaotic Modern World: Relations of Muslims among Themselves and with Others”
Cosponsored By: Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
2006: “Muslim Identities: Shifting Boundaries and Dialogues”
Cosponsored By: Hartford Seminary, Hartford, CT
2007: “Perils of Empire: Islamophobia, Religious Extremism and the New Imperialism”
Cosponsored By: University of Maryland, College Park, MD
2008: “Crossing Boundaries: Mobilizing Faith, Diversity and Dialogue”
Hosted By: Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, MA
2009:“Islamic Traditions and Comparative Modernities”
Cosponsored By: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
2010:“Cosmopolitan Islam: Globalization Transnationalism and Muslim Diasporas”
Cosponsored By: DePaul University, Chicago, Il
2011: “Looking Beyond 9/11: Islam in the West &Democratic Trends in the Middle East &North Africa”
Cosponsored By: John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, & Binghamton University, NY
2012: “Religious Dimensions of Democratization Processes in Muslim-Majority Nations”
Cosponsored By: Yale Divinity School, & The MacMillan Center
Yale University, New Haven, CT
2013: “Constitutions and Islam” Cosponsored By: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
The North American Association of Islamic and Muslim Studies (NAAIMS) was originally founded in 1972 as the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS). It was at its inception designed to meet the need of providing an intellectual forum for Muslims in North America, many of whom were involved in the founding of the Muslim Student Association (MSA in 1963) at universities in the United States and Canada to promote the study of Islam on campuses. One of its cofounders, Prof. Ismail Raji al-Faruqi, a noteworthy Muslim scholar, orchestrated the establishment of AMSS as a professional organization for the sole purpose of holding conferences in an academic setting where Muslim scholars could meet annually to debate social issues from an Islamic perspective. The first AMSS annual conference was held in 1972 at Indiana Central University (now the University of Indianapolis). AMSS flourished as an organization that provided a home for Muslim scholars, whose intellectual pursuits helped to foster the study of Islam in the community, and whose journal, the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (AJISS), came to be recognized as a valuable resource for academics in general.
Prof. al-Faruqi served as its first president for three consecutive terms during his tenure as full professor of Islamic studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. He was a highly respected scholar who earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Indiana University in 1952. His intellectual pursuits in comparative religion, classical philosophy and modern Islamic and Western thought were key components in the development and design of this academic organization. By bringing together Muslim and non-Muslim scholars in a dispassionate academic setting, the organization played an integral role in examining and defining Islamic perspectives on social issues.
In the ensuing decades, the world of Islam in all its diversity found its home in North America with Muslims successfully integrated in society. North America’s Muslim community has representatives of all the main branches of Islam and its varied expressions and lived experiences of those who identify as Sunnis, Shi’is of various types, and Sufis. And yet, tragic events such as 9/11 have perpetuated negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims. This made it all the more imperative for a small academic organization like “AMSS” to strengthen its efforts to raise the level of public discourse, debate, and awareness by organizing conferences and lectures in the United States and Canada cosponsored solely by universities. Among those cosponsoring or hosting institutions are Georgetown University, University of Michigan, Temple University, University of Virginia, Harvard Divinity School, DePaul University, Yale Divinity School, Princeton University, Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada), and University of Toronto (Canada).
The organization’s academic agenda since 2000 includes an annual conference held in the United States; regional conferences/symposia held either in the United States and/or Canada; a University Lecture Series established in 2008, and an annual graduate paper awards competition launched in 2001 with the “Best Graduate Paper Awards competition.” This was designed to encourage scholarship among graduate students participating in AMSS’s annual conferences. In 2009, this competition was expanded into an “Academic Awards Program” to include three separate awards: Annual Research Travel Grant; Annual Best Graduate Research Paper Awards Competition; and the Doctoral Scholarship Program.