Governance for the Public Interest in Muslim Contexts Project

​Governance for the Public Interest in Muslim Contexts Project

Multi-disciplinary research project on Governance for the Public Interest in Muslim Contexts

March 14, 2014
AKU-ISMC recently launched a multi-disciplinary research project on Governance for the Public Interest in Muslim Contexts. The project aims: 
  • To ‘take stock’ of existing research on governance, including explorations of notions of legitimacy, debates about ethical issues and efficiency in delivering concrete outcomes;
  • To explore how norms may be applied in concrete situations;
  • To reach out beyond academia to stakeholders in the civil society, media, governmental, religious, and educational sectors from both Muslim and non-Muslim contexts with a common interest in the governance challenges facing Muslim societies today.
Initiatives in the first 3-years include a seminar series involving leading scholars and practitioners; on-line publication of op-eds and other publications on governance in multiple languages relevant to Muslim contexts that are accessible to a wide range of audiences; and publication of academic papers.  Future initiatives will include developing educational materials for secondary schools, online university courses and short courses aimed at mid-career professionals in the developing world.

The first two seminars in this series, convened by Professor Abdou Filali-Ansary (AKU-ISMC), will explore fundamental questions concerning the governance challenges facing Muslim societies today. These seminars will include contributions from speakers from across a range of disciplines and will be broadcast via webinar (for those unable to attend the event in person).  

Challenges to the Modern State: Notions of an ‘Islamic Alternative’​

Tuesday 6th May, 17.00 (London)
21.00 (Karachi)
19.00 (Nairobi) 

Mohsen Kadivar, Visiting Research Professor of Islamic studies, Department of Religion, Duke University
Second speaker TBC

Sami Zubaida, Emeritus Professor of Politics and Sociology at Birkbeck, University of London

This seminar will explore the idea, frequently advocated within Muslim contexts as well as by scholars specialised in the study of Islam, that an alternative model to the modern state was in place in Muslim contexts in the past and that it can be brought back to life in contemporary conditions. Attempts to define this ‘alternative model’ have been numerous in recent decades, both by theorists as well as by political leaders who had the opportunity to redefine political systems at specific historical junctures. Examples include Ayatollah Khomeini, Hassan al-Turabi and Rachid Ghannouchi. The seminar will examine these and other attempts in order to go beyond mere slogans and electoral rhetoric to the political arrangements suggested by such theorists and the experiments in ‘Islamic’ governance conducted by political regimes. It will do so in order to assess their nature, their feasibility, and their effectiveness. It will also explore the possible outcomes for the governed populations in question, as well as for the international order, in cases where these alternative models have been applied.


Multiculturalism and Minority Rights in the Arab World​

Friday 16th May, 13.00 (London)
17.00 (Karachi)
15.00 (Nairobi) 

Will Kymlicka, Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada

David Taylor, Director, AKU-ISMC, London, UK

Since the Arab Spring, Arab states have become the new front line in the struggle for democratisation and for open societies. As the experience of other regions has shown, one of the most significant challenges facing democratisation relates to minority rights. In this lecture, Will Kymlicka will discuss his new co-edited volume titled Multiculturalism and Minority Rights in the Arab World (Oxford UP, 2014) which explores how minority claims are framed and debated in the region, and in particular, how political actors draw upon, re-interpret, or resist both the new global discourses of minority rights and more local traditions and practices of co-existence. A range of pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial factors will be examined that shape contemporary minority politics in the Arab world, and that encumber the reception of international norms of multiculturalism. These factors include the contested legacies of Islamic doctrines of the `dhimmi' and the Ottoman millet system, colonial-era divide and rule strategies, and post-colonial Arab nation-building. While these legacies complicate struggles for minority rights, they do not entail an `Arab exceptionalism' to global trends to multiculturalism. A number of openings will be explored for new, more pluralistic conceptions of nationhood and citizenship, which suggest that minority politics at its best can serve as a vehicle for a more general transformative politics, supporting a broader culture of democracy and human rights, and challenging older authoritarian, clientalistic, or patriarchal political tendencies.



Dr Charlotte Whiting
Manager, Governance in Muslim Contexts Project


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