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Constitutionalism Meets Islam - Winter 2017

Noah Feldman, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Harvard Law School, specializes in

constitutionalism and the relationship between religion and law. He received his B.A. in

Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard College, where he was awarded

the Sophia Freund Prize as the highest-ranked undergraduate in his year. He received his

doctorate in philosophy studying Islamic political thought as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford

University, and his J.D. from Yale Law School. Feldman was a senior advisor to the Coalition

Provisional Authority in Iraq, helping to draft the country’s interim constitution after

the fall of Saddam Hussein. He writes a weekly column for Bloomberg View, primarily

dedicated to domestic and Middle Eastern politics. Feldman’s books on Islam and the

Middle East include The Rise and Fall of the Islamic State (2012), and After Jihad: America

and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy (2003).

Unmaking Enmity: America and Iran - Winter 2017

Trita Parsi is the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council and an expert on

Iran’s relations with Israel and the United States. He holds a doctorate in international relations from

Johns Hopkins University, as well as master’s degrees in international relations and economics from

Uppsala University and the Stockholm School of Economics, respectively. Parsi currently teaches

international relations as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. His most recent books from Yale University Press are A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran (2015) and Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy (2017).

Voices of Devotion: The Connection Between Ministry and Music - Spring 2017

Nizar Fares can scarcely walk the streets of his native Beirut, Lebanon, without being approached and embraced by well-wishers. After all, the popular singer boasts almost 70,000 Facebook followers, and is a past winner of Studio El-Fan, the prestigious Lebanese equivalent of The Voice. But Fares is beloved for more than just the usual flashy pop hits and music videos. Unlike some of his fellow stars, Fares is best known for his religious songs; for most of his career, he has devoted his voice exclusively to Christian music. He has done so since 1999, when he experienced a life-changing awakening of faith while imprisoned by Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gadha . Fares’ faith informs more than just his music. He regularly travels to the Middle East, directly distributing food, clothing, medicine, and other supplies to the neediest refugees of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. When he’s not tending to the displaced directly, he’s on tour to raise money for them, maintaining an intensive performance schedule that takes him to Australia, Canada, Europe, and around the United States. In the midst of these efforts, Fares has also managed to pursue a successful academic career, earning a PhD in musicology from Holy Spirit University in Kaslik, Lebanon. He immigrated to the United States in 2013, and after brief stints at Tufts and William and Mary, he has served for three semesters as director of Astaza, Boston College’s Middle Eastern music ensemble.

Hanging by A Thread: Dissident Puppeteers in Assad's Syria - Spring 2017

Months after the beginning of the 2011 Syrian Revolution, Rafat Alzakout started his "groundbreaking" Youtube-based puppet show "Top Goon." Mr. Alzakout put himself and his crew at great personal risk by mercilessly lampooning Syria's ruler Bashar al-Assad despite the Syrian government's draconian crackdown on artistic dissidence. Originally garnering attention from major networks like Al Jazeera and The New York Times when the revolution was ripe, Alzakout, now in exile in Germany, laments the world's loss of interest in the struggle of the Syrian people.

Islamic Exceptionalism - Fall 2016

A contributing writer at The Atlantic and a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Shadi Hamid is also the author of two widely acclaimed books. Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East was named a Foreign Affairs best book of 2014, and Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World was released in 2016. Prior to joining the Brookings Institution, he received a doctoral degree from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall scholar. He also served as a specialist in public diplomacy for the State Department, and received a Fulbright fellowship to study Islamist participation in Jordanian politics. 

A Great Sorting Out: The Future of Minorities in the Middle East - Spring 2016

Joshua Landis is widely recognized as one of the English-speaking world’s foremost experts on Syria and the Levant. Raised in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, he has also lived in Egypt, Turkey and Syria, and speaks Arabic and French fluently. Professor Landis is currently the head of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma; he taught previously at Sarah Lawrence College, Wake Forest University, and Princeton University. He is a regular analyst on television and radio and is regularly quoted in publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Time Magazine. His expertise is regularly sought in Washington DC, where he advises government agencies and has spoken at thing tanks such as Brookings Institute, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Woodrow Wilson Institute. Since 2004, Professor Landis has published the blog Syria Comment, one of the primary online forums for news, commentary and analysis on Syria and its neighbors. 

Despite holding citizenship in both the US and the UK, Charles Glass is more than willing to criticize the governments of these countries in what he sees as extreme failures in their Middle East policy. With years of reporting from the region, he has gained significant expertise about the Middle East and the forces that move it, and he, therefore, feels more than confident to make this assessment. 

Before Charles Butterworth began his work, there was not much of a field of scholarly research in Islamic philosophy. That has changed in the last half-century because of Dr. Butterworth’s dedication and ingenuity in studying pre-modern Islamic philosophers, including Alfarabi, Al-Razi, and Averroes. In doing so, Dr. Butterworth has introduced the Western world to some philosophic masterpieces for the first time and has encouraged an active appreciation of an often-misunderstood school of thought.

For a member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud has spent much of his life outside of Saudi Arabia. At fourteen years old, he left his native Mecca to attend the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. He then moved to Washington, D.C., where he received a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in 1968. Forty years later, Prince Turki was called upon to put his experience with American culture and politics to work when, in 2005, he was appointed by King Abdullah to serve as the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, a position he held for over a year. Before entering into diplomacy, Prince Turki forged a career in politics and public service. Today, Prince Turki serves Saudi Arabia in avariety of capacities. Foremost among them is hisposition as founder of the King Faisal Foundation. In keeping with his passion for education, he sits aschairman of the foundation’s Center for Research andIslamic Studies as an advocate of education investmentin Saudi Arabia. For the past several years, he hasalso worked as a visiting professor at GeorgetownUniversity, visiting the United States frequently tolecture and travel.

While many of her relatives suggested that she marry and stay in the home, she completed high school and applied to university. Anticipating the USSR’s impending invasion of Afghanistan, her father urged her to attend school in the United States. After graduating, Dr. Yacoobi worked as a professor at the University of Detroit before beginning work with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Pakistan in 1990. With the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Dr.Yacoobi became increasingly worried about the severe restrictions on education, especially for women and young girls, put in place by the new leaders. For thisreason, she returned to her home in 1995 to found the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) with $20,000of her own money. Today, AIL is the biggest non-governmental agency in Afghanistan and is officially registered with the Ministries of Health, Education, Women’s Affairs, and Social Affairs. For her work, Dr. Yacoobi has received the Opus Prize, a premier humanitarian award and $1 million prize given to further her work.In 2005, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2011, Afghan President Hamid Karzai presented Dr.Yacoobi with the National Peace Award. For all of her accolades, Dr. Yacoobi remains humble and attributes her success to the dedication of her team and the blessing of her own education, saying, “For me, this is[the] power of education. Education changed my life, and I feel that education is changing everybody’s life.”

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