A Symposium on Peace, Islam, and Counter-Narratives

peace, islam, counternarratives

This conference brings together academics, practitioners, policy influencers, and Muslim thought leaders to discuss the potential strategic role of the Islam in American security policy and initiatives. It focuses on the role of “counter-narratives,” or the attempt to respond to the ideology of militant groups. It is especially interested in how this may apply in the war against al-Qaeda. The overarching aims of this conference are two-fold. First, to bring together an interdisciplinary group of experts – along with an interested public – to share their work, build partnerships, and construct “next steps.” Second, to examine both the strengths and shortcomings of the counter-narrative initiative and the ethical questions that are involved.

Date: September 29th, 30th, and October 1st                                                                         registerbutton

Location: Augenstein Alumni Center
292 Alumni Ave.
Bowling Green, KY 42101
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RSVP Date: Monday, September 15th, 2014

Registration: $50

Conference is sponsored by WKU and the Society for Values in Higher Education (Facebook)

Speaker Biographies

Dr. Nahed Artoul Zehr
Conference Organizer

nahedNahed Artoul Zehr is an assistant professor of Islam and Religious Studies at Western Kentucky University, where she teaches courses in Islam, the Just War Tradition, comparative ethics, and religious violence. Professor Zehr’s research lies at the intersection of religion, ethics, and international relations, with a particular emphasis on the Western and Islamic just war traditions. She has published in a variety of academic journals, including The Journal of Religious Ethics, and The Journal for Military Ethics and she is working on a book manuscript tentatively titled Responding to the Call: Just War, Jihad, and the War against al-Qaeda. She is on the board of directors for the Society for the Study of Muslim Ethics.

Dr. Eric Bain-Seblo
Department Head, Philosophy and Religion

bain-selboEric Bain-Selbo is Department Head of Philosophy and Religion at Western Kentucky University and Co-Founder of the WKU Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility. He also is the Executive Director of the Society for Values in Higher Education. His research spans across the disciplines of philosophy and religious studies, focusing primarily on social and political ethics, cultural criticism, and issues in higher education. He has authored numerous articles and three books: Game Day and God: Football, Faith, and Politics in the American South (2009), Judge and Be Judged: Moral Reflection in an Age of Relativism and Fundamentalism (2006), and Mediating the Culture Wars: Dialogical Virtues in Multicultural Education (2003).

Dr. John Kelsay
Richard L. Rubenstein Professor of Religion
Bristol Distinguished Professor of Ethics, The Florida State University

kelsayWith his analyses of religion, fundamentalism and terrorism quoted in media around the world, Florida State Professor John Kelsay is a leading religious ethics scholar who focuses on Islamic and Christian traditions. He provides an oft-quoted and authoritative voice in both the academy and the community.

Kelsay’s work explores some of the prevailing religious questions of our day. In his latest critically acclaimed book, “Arguing the Just War in Islam,” Kelsay examines the concept of jihad and shows that Islamic thinkers have debated the ethics of war and of specific military tactics going all the way back to the time of the prophet Muhammad some 1,400 years ago. That debate continues today, he says.

Highly respected in the academic and public press, Kelsay’s special research interests include comparative religious ethics, political ethics, religion, and war. Since 911 the media has sought out this expert on religious ethics, tapping his knowledge of Islamic law, in particular. Kelsay has been quoted in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Christian Science Monitor and other many other prominent periodicals.

Kelsay is Florida State University’s Distinguished Research Professor and Richard L. Rubenstein Professor of Religion. He served as department chair for a decade and has recently been promoted to Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Already the recipient of prestigious fellowships from the Princeton University Center for Human Values and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Kelsay spent the 2006-07 academic year in Dublin, Ireland as a Fellow of the Institute for International Integration Studies, Trinity University. He currently serves as the co-editor of the Journal of Religious Ethics.

Among his current projects are two books, “Religion and the Imperatives of Justice: The Islamic Law of War and Peace” and “Islam and the Political Future: The Doctrine of Jihad and the Practice of Shari’a Reasoning.”

Kelsay graduated from Old Dominion University in 1976. He earned a D.Min. in 1980 from Columbia Theological Seminary. In 1985, he finished the Ph.D. in religious studies (ethics) at the University of Virginia.

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Dr. James Turner Johnson
Distinguished Professor Religious Ethics, Rutgers University

James Turner Johnson is Distinguished Professor of Religion and Associate of the Graduate Program in Political Science at Rutgers—The State University of New Jersey, where he has been on the faculty since 1969. His research and teaching have focused principally on the historical development and application of the Western and Islamic moral traditions related to war, peace, and the practice of statecraft. Johnson has received Rockefeller, Guggenheim, and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships and various other research grants and has directed two NEH summer seminars for college teachers.

His most recent books include Ethics and the Use of Force: Just War in Historical Perspective (2011), The War to Oust Saddam Hussein (2005), Morality and Contemporary Warfare (1999), The Holy War Idea in Western and Islamic Tradition (1997), and (edited with John Kelsay) Just War and Jihad: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on War and Peace in Western and Islamic Traditions (1991) and Cross, Crescent, and Sword: The Justification and Limitation of War in Western and Islamic Tradition (1990). He is currently completing a book with the working title “The Idea of Sovereignty in Moral and Historical Perspective.”

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Ms. Rabia Chary
President of the Safe Nation Collaborative

rabiaRabia Chaudry is the Founder and President of the Safe Nation Collaborative. Rabia is a civically engaged legal practitioner with significant experience in immigration law, civil liberties, social justice, interfaith relations, nonprofit management, and grassroots advocacy. She is a graduate of the George Mason School of Law, has over a decade of experience in federal immigration and civil rights law.

Rabia is currently a Fellow in the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation, a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project, and a Fellow of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute. She is a member of the National Counter Terror Center’s CVE Leadership Forum. Rabia has been a panelist for the NCTC’s Annual CVE conference as well as a presenter at theGlobal Counterterrorism Forum’s annual conference.

Rabia has significant experience with grassroots faith communities; she is the immediate past president of the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut, a nonprofit organization committed to coalition building, interfaith relations, and community service. Rabia serves on the Board of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and is an advisor to the Center for American Progress’s Faith and Immigration Roundtable.

Rabia is a frequent blogger and OpEd contributor, writing on national security policy and American Muslim relations. She is also a frequent public speaker and presenter at national and international security and faith conferences.

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Mr. Haris Tarin
Director of the Washington DC office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council

tarinHaris Tarin is currently the Director of the Washington DC office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). He was raised and educated in Southern California where he received his undergraduate education and is currently pursuing his graduate work in Washington DC.

In his capacity as the DC Director of MPAC he engages various agencies within government including the White House, Department of Justice, State Department, Department of Homeland Security and offices on Capitol Hill. Haris was among three leading young Americans President Barack Obama called in a one of its kind discussion on public policy issues; the President called and then met with Haris, specifically to discuss policies pertaining to national security, countering violent extremism, the American Muslim community and civic engagement. Haris has been published in various national and international publications including the LA Times, CNN, Washington Post and has a regular column on the Huffington Post. He has spoken at various domestic and international conferences and media outlets on topics such as National Security, Islam and governance, US-Muslim World Relations, Role of the American Muslim institutions in Policy Formation, Religion and Public Life, and Civic Engagement. Haris is an Ariane de Rothschild Cambridge Fellow and a USC/Georgetown AMCLI Fellow and is also the author of Intro to Muslim America and Rethinking the Redlines: Free Speech, Religious Freedom and Social Change.

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Shaykh Mohammed Amin Kholwadia
Director of Darul Qasin

Shaykh Mohammed Amin is a well-known Muslim scholar and theologian. Shaykh Amin received training in Islamic sciences such as the exegesis of the Qur’an, the science of Hadith transmission, and Islamic law and theology in the Indian subcontinent. His studies culminated at the world renowned Islamic seminary in Deoband, India. He received further instruction in Islamic Law at the Shariah Court of Patna in Bihar, India. He also received instruction in Islamic theism and theosophy from his mentor Shaykh Meeran at Sabil al-Rashad in Bangalore, India.

Shaykh Amin has worked as a professional translator and a book reviewer in England where he was raised. Since his arrival in Chicago in 1984, he has served as a Muslim scholar in various capacities and as an advisor for Muslim schools, Muslim organizations, and the Council of Religious Leaders of Greater Chicagoland. Shaykh Amin has co-authored Islamic Finance: What it is and what it could be (published in England). He has also written a book on Qur’anic exegesis entitled A Spark From the Dynamo of Prophethood. In the works is a book on Ghazalian eschatology.

In 1998, Shaykh Amin founded Darul Qasim, an institute of higher Islamic learning where both undergraduate and post-graduate studies are conducted under his direction and leadership. This effort, along with global speaking engagements and counseling services he provides, keep his academic faculties alive and sharp.

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Alberto Fernandez
Coordinator of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications

fernandezAlberto M. Fernandez took over as the State Department’s Coordinator for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications (CSCC) as of March 26, 2012. Ambassador Fernandez was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on December 24, 2009 as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and served there until March 2012. He served previously as U.S. Charge d’Affaires to the Republic of Sudan from June 2007 to May 2009, also as Director for Near East Public Diplomacy (2005-2007), Director for Iraq Public Diplomacy (2004-2005) and in senior public diplomacy positions at the U.S. Embassies in Afghanistan, Jordan, Syria, and Guatemala. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister-Counselor, he is a recipient of a 2008 Presidential Meritorious Service Award, the 2006 Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy, a 2003 Superior Honor Award for his work in Afghanistan, among other awards. His work has garnered Senior Foreign Service performance recognition in 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, and 2002.

Mr. Fernandez has also served as a Foreign Service officer in Iraq, Kuwait, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and the United Arab Emirates and as USIA desk officer for Egypt, Yemen, and Sudan. He is a graduate of the 46th (2003-2004) Senior Seminar, the State Department’s premier senior management course.

A graduate of the University of Arizona and the Defense Language Institute, he served in the U.S. Army from 1976 to 1979, having come to the United States as a refugee from Cuba in 1959. He has published in ReVista: the Harvard Review of Latin America, Middle East Quarterly, the Journal of the Assyrian Academic Society (JAAS), and lectured and debated on U.S. foreign policy in numerous public venues. Mr. Fernandez speaks fluent Spanish and Arabic. He is also a member of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA).

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Dr. David Pollock
Director of the Washington Institute Project Fikra

pollockDavid Pollock, the Kaufman fellow at The Washington Institute, focuses on the political dynamics of Middle East countries. He served previously as senior advisor for the Broader Middle East at the State Department, a post he assumed in 2002. In that capacity, he provided policy advice on issues of democracy and reform in the region, with a focus on women’s rights. He also helped launch the department’s $15 million Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative and the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, working directly with advocates across the Middle East.

From 1996 to 2001, Dr. Pollock served in several other State Department policy advisory positions covering South Asia and the Middle East, including four years as regional expert on the secretary of state’s Policy Planning Staff. Previously, he was chief of Near East/South Asia/Africa research at the U.S. Information Agency, where he supervised the government’s study of public opinion, elite attitudes, and media content across the three regions. In 1995-1996, he was a scholar-in-residence at The Washington Institute, where he authored the widely read Policy Paper The ‘Arab Street’? Public Opinion in the Arab World.

Dr. Pollock has served as a visiting lecturer at Harvard University and as assistant professor at George Washington University. He has traveled widely in the Middle East and maintains a large network of contacts in government, academia, and business throughout the region.

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Adrian Shtuni
Senior Analyst, Navanti Group

adrianAdrian Shtuni is a senior analyst at Navanti Group, a private research firm specializing in applying analytic expertise to national security and international development challenges. The focus of his work is on issues pertaining to religiously, politically, and ethnically motivated violent extremism in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. More specifically, Adrian researches the radicalization and recruitment efforts of Islamic clerics and militants in the Balkans in both the physical and virtual space, and follows closely the presence and activities of al-Qaida affiliated fighters from the Balkans in Syria and Iraq.

Before joining Navanti Group Adrian worked for the Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding at the United States Institute of Peace, and spent a decade working with the United Nations Mission in Kosovo at the Department of Justice in Pristina. Adrian received his M.Sc. degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. He is fluent in Albanian and Italian.

Mubin Shaikh

Mubin Shaikh was born and raised in Canada and hails from a family with extensive activist credentials. After a period of identity conflicts during high school, Shaikh felt the need to become ultra-pious and would join the Tabligh Jamaat for 4 months to India and Pakistan where he would have a chance (and positive) encounter with the Taliban. Returning to Canada in 1995 and coinciding with the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, Shaikh left the apolitical Tabligh Jamaat and became a politicized Jihadi Salafi where he would immerse himself in the extremist mindset. He was involved in recruiting other youth to the cause around the same times of Chechnya, the early Gulf Wars and other conflicts. The 9/11 attacks would make him reconsider his views and with a new-found interest to learn Islam properly, Shaikh spent 2 years studying Arabic and Islamic Studies in Damascus, Syria with traditional Islamic scholars who would help him completely turn away from his extremist worldview. Returning to Canada in 2004, he became a security intelligence and counter terrorism operative working undercover in several investigations related to radicalized and extremist individuals – details of which must remain classified. What is publicly known is that in 2005, one of those groups went on to commit offences related to terrorism and in 2006, eighteen individuals were arrested in what came to be known as the Toronto 18 case. Shaikh spent 4 years giving evidence in 5 legal hearings resulting in the conviction of 11 and charges effectively dropped against 7 due to his testimony. His book, “Undercover Jihadi” is due to be released later in 2014.
Since his operational work, Shaikh has obtained an MPICT – Master of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism (Macquarie) – and is currently a PhD candidate in Psychological Sciences (Liverpool) studying the psychology of radicalization and violent extremism. He is considered an expert on radicalization, homegrown terrorism and counter messaging with radicalized individuals in person and online. He is currently fixated on the Syria-Iraq-ISIS issue since it started and actively engages extremists on Twitter and Facebook in this regard. In addition, he consults regularly with various government agencies across the world on these topics (especially U.S.) including participation in counter terrorism training of police and military intelligence units. However, belying this hyper operational profile, Mubin is actually your typical laid back Canadian!

(Source: WKU Event Planning Services)

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