Conferences and Workshops

Annual workshops and conferences on a range of themes explore how Muslim societies develop political systems that promote public welfare, achieve popular legitimacy and recognise minority rights in a time marked by heated debates over tradition, religion and modernity.​​​​​

Arabic for Gender

Practical Views on Gendered Language in Human Rights, Education & Policy Context

December 13, 2019 

10:00 am-8:00 pm | London

Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

Aga Khan Centre

10, Handyside Street

N1C 4DN​

Gender and its representation in language are of paramount current importance. This is also true for Arabic at a time of globally changing norms on violence against women and against LGBTQ people. The language that communicates the realities of gender for Arabic-speaking stakeholders, including translations from and to Arabic, are central to policy responses and to the development of educational materials. However, the language itself, and how to understand it, is often taken for granted. Arabic is a gendered language, and some of the debates regarding gender-free formulations, like those discussions surrounding French, German, Spanish, Persian, and Turkish, have started in Arab practitioner, but not academic, circles. The problem of gendered formulations which prefer masculine forms poses a challenge for translation into English in particular, because English does not present grammatical gender in the same way as Arabic. English is the language of global governance and the language of human rights campaigning, and so the place of translation between Arabic and English needs to be considered in the policy context. Human rights stakeholders in the Middle East and North Africa, and women and LGBTQ people in particular, to some extent rely for political recognition on the mediation of their voices and narratives through non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and on gradual social change through education. The terminology and the sociology of this mediation will be examined in this workshop, in presentations and applied exercises looking at gender both in texts and in translators’ experiences. ​

The workshop aims to form a frame in which academics exchange knowledge about gendered language with human rights practitioners and policy-makers in a developing conversation.

From 10am to 5pm the Governance Programme will be hosting an intersectorial workshop looking at gender in translation, with seven presentations and two group activities. The presenters will be: Nadine El-Nabli, Riham Debian, Roula Seghaier, Maria Rosa Garrido Sardà, Leïla Kherbiche, Lara Antonios, and Tory Brykalski. The group activities will be facilitated by Wine Tesseur and Sanaa Alimia. The workshop will result in a working paper with reflections on, and suggestions for, best practices for the Arabic translation of policy texts with gendered inflections. Any specialist who would like to participate in the workshop can email with an expression of interest.

Keynote speakers: 

Wassim Wagdy ​

Wassim Wagdy has about 20 years of experience in teaching Arabic as a foreign language. He is currently an examiner of Arabic translation at the British Institute of Linguists. He is a translator with a number of United Nations agencies including the UNESCO and the UNDP. Wassim taught Arabic at the Language Centre, SOAS, the University of London from 2000 until 2008. He taught translation at the Centre for Adult Education, the American University of Cairo, 1998-1999. He was a visiting lecturer in translation at the University of Westminster, 2004-2008; and a lecturer in Arabic at the University of Exeter, 2015-2017. Wassim worked for many years as a translator in the field of human rights starting with the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights in 1992.

Prof Hilary Footitt​

Prof Hilary Footitt recently co-edited The Palgrave Handbook of Languages and Conflict (2019). She combines four areas of research: women in politics, war and liberation in France, UK language policy, and languages in zones of war, conflict and development. She has led projects on the militarised use of languages for surveillance, propaganda and exclusion, and on the use of languages in non-governmental organisations. She has also advised the UK government on its language policy for education. Hilary Footitt’s previous publications include “Translation and War” in The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Politics (with Michael Kelly, 2018), “International Aid and Development: Hearing Multilingualism, Learning from Intercultural Encounters in the History of OxfamGB” in Language and Intercultural Communication (2017), and Women, Europe and the New Languages of Politics (2016).

Rothna Begum​

Rothna Begum is a senior women's rights researcher, working at Human Rights Watch since 2013. She has led the research and advocacy on the abuse and exploitation of migrant domestic workers in the Middle East, sexual violence and slavery of Yezidi women by ISIS in Iraq, the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia, and on domestic violence in Morocco, Lebanon, and Iraq. She pushed for a new global treaty relating to violence and harassment at work, which was adopted in June 2019. She previously worked for Amnesty International, and holds LLB and LLM degrees. 

Dina El-Mamoun​

Dina El-Mamoun is the Head of Mission and Country Director in Yemen for Geneva Call, and member of the UN’s Advisory Board on Gender Justice in the Middle East and North Africa, since 2019. She was the Head of Advocacy and Policy for Oxfam International in Yemen, and also the former Chief Technical specialist for the Human Rights Project during the transitional period in Yemen.​


This workshop is organised by AKU-ISMC's Governance Programme. The Governance Programme’s research activities and events explore how Muslim-majority societies and minority communities develop political systems that promote public welfare, achieve legitimacy and recognise individual and collective rights.​

​AKU-ISMC Conveners: 

Nancy Hawker, Sanaa Alimia and Gianluca Parolin.


Evening keynotes are open to the public. Book as soon as possible.

​"Words Laying Down the Law: Translating Arabic Legal Discourse" 

7-8 October 2019​, Aga Khan Centre, London


The Governance Programme at the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) invites papers in the disciplines of legal anthropology, law and comparative law, legal pragmatics, sociolinguistics and discourse analysis, politics and translation studies for a two-day conference on translations of legal discourse in Arabic-speaking contexts.

What is the impact of translation on the diffusion of legal concepts between domains of discourse? Does the translation of legal terminology modify the perception of the corresponding legal phenomena in observable and applied ways? How are words translated from legal discourse into everyday discourse, and does translation happen in the other direction?

We welcome papers examining translation in the broad senses of mediation, transposition and modification, where at least one of the languages is Arabic in any of its varieties and registers, as used in law-making and law-enforcing contexts, or in popular representations of the law. The papers need not be limited to a specific time period or geographical region; for instance, we will accept papers of demonstrable quality that conduct conversation analysis of legal hearings, as well as intertextual analysis of historical lawbooks, or papers that ethnographically examine understandings of the law in Arabic-speaking countries, as well as study the sociology of translation in state offices handling asylum applications from Arab refugees.

Our goal is to set up a framework for exploring the effects of the moment of translation on how law is applied and understood in Arabic and/or by Arabic speakers.


This conference is organised by AKU-ISMC's Governance Programme. The Governance Programme’s annual workshops and conferences on a range of themes explore how Muslim societies develop political systems that promote public welfare, achieve popular legitimacy and recognise minority rights in a time marked by heated debates over tradition, religion and modernity.

Keynote Speakers

Prof Myriam Salama-Carr, University of Manchester.  Read Dr Salama-Carr's position paper here.
Prof Baudouin Dupret, Sciences Po Bordeaux.
Prof Roberta Aluffi, University of Turin.
Dr Neveen Al Saeed, Ain Shams University, Cairo.  Read Dr  Al Saeed's position paper here.

Time and Venue

7-8 October 2019
Atrium Conference Room,
Aga Khan Centre,
10 Handyside Street,
London N1C 4DN

"Forty Years On. The Vocabulary of Secularism in Iran" 

15 March 2019, Aga Khan Centre, 12:00-13:30

This roundtable discussion will focus on the 'Vocabulary of Secularism' 40 years after the Iranian revolution. We shall look at the discursive formulations of reform, along the spectrum from Islamist to secularist, and more broadly from religious to secular. In particular, participants will discuss the different usages of specific terminology which signals wider authoritative ideas in secular or religious frames of reference, or in the creative and ambivalent space between the two. Our focus is on the subtle changes in meaning that occur when a political or legal term is transposed from one context to another, for instance, when a term that is borrowed from religious discourse signifies secular practices of governance.

Convenors: Nancy Hawker (AKU-ISMC) and Gianluca Parolin (AKU-ISMC)

Venue: AKU-ISMC, Aga Khan Centre, London

Speakers: Yasuyuki Matsunaga (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies), Hadi Enayat (AKU-ISMC), and Ali Paya (The Islamic College, affiliated with Middlesex University, London & National Research Institute for Science Policy, Tehran, Iran).

Papers from the seminar can be downloaded from the 'Working Papers' section of this webpage.

Listen to Podcast​

"The Politics of the Judiciary and the Legal System in Contemporary Iran​"

December 4, 2018, Aga Khan Centre, London

ISMC's Governance Programme will bring together the contributors of an edited volume which aims to analyse the judicial and legal institutions of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) in their social, political, and historical contexts. Both the application of the sharia and the rule of law have been major pillars of the ideology of the IRI since its inception. After the 1979 Revolution Ayatollah Khomeini denounced the secular legal system of the Pahlavis and pledged his commitment to a distinctly Islamic conception of legality. This declaration paved the way for the introduction, in 1982, of the first codification of the law of Hodud (punishments by divine right such as stoning for adultery) and Qesas (retaliation) derived from Shi’a jurisprudence (fiqh) replacing the secular penal code of 1926, to which new chapters on Diyat (blood-money) and Ta’azirat (discretionary punishments) were later added. Steps were also taken to Islamicise the judiciary and the court system. Since then, the judiciary and the legal system have been a central component in preserving the Islamic system as well as a vital instrument in defending the ‘deep state’ in Iran. This is reflected in the increasing judicialisation of politics under the Islamic Republic during the past two decades and the concomitant rise of ‘juristocracy’ (rule of judges) in Iran. The workshope will thus explore the historical, political and sociological dimensions of the judiciary, the courts, criminal law, property rights, lawyers, prisons and women and the judiciary in Iran.

Convenor: Hadi Enayat (AKU-ISMC) & Mirjam Künkler (The Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study)

Speakers: Due to the sensitivity of the subject, at the convenors request, the names of the speakers are not disclosed and the event was not recorded.

Venue: AKU-ISMC, Aga Khan Centre​, London

Papers will published in a forthcoming book to be published by Cambridge University Press (eds H. Enayat and M. Kuenkler)

"Governance Systems and Early Travellers"

July 19, 2018 - WOCMES 2018 Conference Panel

Convenor: Gianluca P. Parolin, AKU-ISMC

Venue: WOCMES, Seville, Spain

Speakers: Nikos Sigalas (EHESS); Hassan Rezaei (UN Mission in Libya); Gianluca Parolin (AKU-ISMC)​

Rezaei Paper | Parolin Paper

"Governance and Islam in East Africa: Muslims and the State"

January 17-18, 2018​

ISMC's Governance Programme and AKU's East Africa Institute (EAI) brought together a group of international academics to explore the relationship between governance and Muslims in Kenya, and Tanzania in contemporary times. Recent studies of Muslims in East Africa have tended largely to explore two main approaches. The focus has been either to study Muslims in relation to security issues, or to explore the reforms attempted within the communities and their implications for Muslim theology, rituals and general welfare. However, a third approach, which has hitherto received less attention, is the relationship between Muslims and the governance of the countries in which they reside as citizens or residents. Such an approach, inclusive also of the other two dimensions, permits us to view the attitudes and activities of Muslims both in relation to themselves and to the various challenges they face in common with their fellow compatriots and citizens. This approach was addressed through the broad themes of Institutions, Law, and Politics and discussed in keynote conversations convened by Farouk Topan, Alex Awiti, Erin Stiles, Hassan Mwakimako, and Kai Kresse.​

Convenors: Farouk Topan (AKU-ISMC) and Alex Awiti (AKU-EAI)

Venue: Aga Khan University, Nairobi

Participants: Erin Stiles (University of Nevada), Susan Hirsch (George Mason University), Tito Kunyuk (Mt Kenya University), Abdulkadir Hashim (University of Nairobi), Jeremy Prestholdt (University of California, San Diego), Halkano Wario (Egerton University), Kai Kresse (Columbia University), Hassan Mwakimako (Pwani University), M. Yunus Rafiq (Brown University), Felicitas Becker (Gent University), Mara Leichtman (Michigan State University), Hassan Ndzovu (Moi University), Lotte Knote (Freie Universität Berlin​), Mark LeVine (University of California, Irvine), Kjersti Larsen (Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo)

Programme | Listen to Podcasts

"Is Governance a Gender Issue? Perspectives from Muslim Contexts"

February 10-11, 2017​

In the 25 years since the publication of Deniz Kandiyoti’s ground-breaking edited volume ‘Women, Islam and the State’, the universe of action and meaning surrounding the key terms of its title have been radically transformed. The workshop revisited the original debate and explored new terms of reference in light of key global developments, including the effects of neoliberal restructuring, contested and fragmented sovereignties, and the disarticulation of states entangled in a variety of external interventions and internal conflict.  Drawing from case studies from the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Muslim Diasporas, the workshop addressed the questions of how and to what extent gender ideologies are enmeshed with systems of governance and the complex interactions between state, non-state and grassroots actors.

Convenors: Deniz Kandiyoti (SOAS), Nadje Al-Ali (SOAS) and Kathryn Spellman Poots (ISMC)

Venue: ISMC, London

Participants: Islah Jad (Qatar University); Naila Kabeer (LSE); Heba el-Kholy (Former UN Resident Coordinator and former Director of the UNDP Governance Center, Oslo); Shahrzad Mojab (University of Toronto); Corinna Mullin (University of Tunis); Nazanin Shahrokni (Syracuse University); Nadia Taher (UCL); Torunn Wimpelmann (CMI, Bergen)​

Listen to Pod​cast

“Islamic Governance: Constraints and Opportunities”

November 18, 2016 - MESA 2016 Conference Panel

Convenor: Gianluca P. Parolin, AKU-ISMC

Venue: MESA in Boston, USA

Speakers: David H. Warren (University of Edinburgh); Asifa Quraishi-Landes (University of Wisconsin); Gianluca Parolin (AKU-ISMC)​

​Parolin Paper: Arabic | English | Bahasa-Indonesia | Urdu

"The G​overance of Water Resources in Muslim Contexts: Values, Traditions and Contemporary Policies"

March 12-13, 2015​

Water security against the backdrop of global growth and climate change has become an issue of pressing concern. Multiple water challenges threaten global social and political stability. The criticality of these challenges is reflected in the World Economic Forum's 2015 Global Risks Report where water was ranked as the global risk with the greatest potential impact on economics and societies over the next ten years. Given today's accelerated pace of human development and the slow pace of managing issues as complex as water resources tomorrow's challenges are already at our door. If we continue with 'business as usual', then by 2050, half of the world's population, half of the global grain production and 45 per cent of GDP will be in regions at risk due to water stress.

Major shifts in conceptual approaches to water governance are thus needed in order to reach a more desirable future and limit calamities. This is particularly relevant as many societies are currently facing socio-economic transformation processes which need to be reflected in changes to their respective systems of governance. Responding to these challenges, ISMC’s Governance Programme and the Conseil Général du Développement Agricole (CGDA), a high-level policy think tank of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in Morocco, jointly organised an international workshop with a follow-up session hosted at the University of Fes the following day. Op-eds based on the workshop theme were published in The National​ and Inspire Jordan.

Conveners: Mohamed Ait Kadi (CGDA) and Abdou Filali-Ansary (ISMC)

Venue: CGDA, Morocco

Participants: Mohammed El Faiz (Université Cadi Ayyad de Marrakech); ​David Groenfeldt (Water-Culture Institute); ​Abdellah Herzenni (Independent Researcher, Morocco); Grigori Lazarev (Independent Researcher, Italy); Klaus Leisinger (Global Values Alliance Foundation); Tariq Madani (University of Oujda); Luis Veiga da Cunha (Portuguese Academy of Sciences); Houria Tazi Sadeq (UNESCO Chair in water management).

Listen to Podcasts​​​​ | Read Op-ed​ in the National | Read Op-ed​ in Inspire Jordan

Summary Papers:

A New Water Culture towards Increasing Water Security by Mohamed Ait Kadi

Ethics as a Bridge between Traditional and Contemporary Water Governance by David Groenfeldt

Global Values for Global Development by Klaus M. Leisinger

The Right to Water: A Right in the Process of Implementation ​[Le droit à l’eau: un droit en voie de mise en œuvre] by Houria Tazi Sadeq​