Islamic Traditions and Muslim Societies in World Contexts > Competitions

Islamic Traditions and Muslim Societies in World Contexts


Coverage in Context: An online curriculum tool on the Middle East for journalists in training
  • The Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, New York University
  • Project Director(s): Scharnweber, Greta N.
[ project summary ]
Over the past decade, interdisciplinary Middle East Studies has expanded tremendously. Likewise, and particularly since 9/11, journalistic coverage of the region has skyrocketed. However, these two growing sets of experts have not been in regular and meaningful communication with each other, nor are there enough programs and curricular materials to support the training of experts conversant in the languages and approaches of both journalism and Middle East Studies. This project aims to address both of these shortcomings by launching a public online curricular program that supports the training of aspiring journalists in the approaches of interdisciplinary Middle East Studies.
Engaging Afghanistan: Creating Avenues of Engagement between Academics and Think Tanks, the Media and Policy Makers
  • Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University
  • Project Director(s): Michael D. Kennedy and Shiva Balaghi
[ project summary ]
The Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University will form a partnership with the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) to enhance context specific expertise on Afghanistan. Combining the expertise and extensive public outreach of the two institutions, the project will extend that expertise along dimensions of particular concern to policy makers, with consequence for how publics engage the current war and its long term effects. The project builds on and extends the cumulative expertise of the Watson and MERIP to build sustained collaborations between academics, and think tank experts, journalists, and policy makers engaged with Afghanistan, and aims to produce guidelines on how other such collaborations on complex issues of global concern may be reproduced at other academic institutions.
Humanizing Shariah: Practicing Law in Shariah Courts
  • Harvard Divinity School
  • Project Director(s): Braude, Ann
[ project summary ]
This project seeks to support the work of Islamic legal scholar Hauwa Ibrahim. Through a residency at the Women’s Studies in Religion Program (WSRP), Ibrahim would have the time and intellectual context to complete, publish, and disseminate her “Handbook of Shariah Law.” Ibrahim’s legal handbook provides the theoretical and practical framework for making Shariah Courts a force for the rule of law, human rights, and women’s rights. The handbook will provide both a federal context for local practice and access to legal strategies that have worked to secure justice. The handbook, to be distributed through bar associations in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, as well as publicized widely in academic and legal communities in the United States, provides case analyses in order to help practitioners develop the legal expertise they need to defend women’s rights. The analyses are supported by a synthesis of moderate Muslim case law from countries such as Egypt, Turkey, and Tunisia, which have applied similar interpretations of Muslim tradition over centuries rather than over the single decade of legal precedents available in Nigeria and the surrounding countries.
Iran Social Science Information Project
  • Program in Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University
  • Project Director(s): Künkler, Mirjam Qasim
[ project summary ]
The Iran Social Science Data Portal will be an English- and Persian-language internet portal that hosts social science data on Iran, including socioeconomic data, electoral data, information on political parties, and translations of selected laws. It aims to provide a service to journalists, academics, policymakers, and others interested in analyzing political and socioeconomic developments in contemporary Iran. Project page:
Islam and Religious Norms in the Public Sphere
  • Kadish Center for Morality, Law and Public Affairs; University of California, Berkeley
  • Project Director(s): Kutz, Christopher L
[ project summary ]
From the ban on minarets in Switzerland to the question of crucifixes in public schools in Italy and the English High Court ruling on Jewish identity in the case of admission to an orthodox Jewish high school, the sacred has emerged into secular democratic politics. In our post-9/11 world, the media has focused on ‘newly’ discovered Muslim populations in the West, often casting this religious group in ethnic terms. This has led Western governments to use problematic tools and lenses - assimilation, secularization, multiculturalism - to deal with religious minorities’ role in the public sphere. These are problematic because they mistake the relation of religion to culture and politics within pluralistic states. This project aims to shed new light on these issues by recasting the supposed tensions between Islam and the West in light of broader questions about religion’s relationship to modern politics and society. It will analyze the call by people of all faiths for greater recognition of religious norms by governments, legislatures, and schools, and will have clear relevance for public policy by directly addressing how political demands and religious identities can be respected while still complying with the secular principles underlying Western democratic traditions.
Islam in Focus
  • Middle East Studies Initiative, American University
  • Project Director(s): Singerman, Diane
[ project summary ]
Aimed to dispel some of the ignorance and misunderstanding about Islam and Islamic societies, this project proposes to produce a series of online video dialogues on issues relating to Islamic culture and politics. In collaboration with the website (BhTV), an established website that pioneered online split-screen video dialogue and whose distribution network reaches influential viewers via such high-profile websites as, the series will consist of fifteen episodes on a monthly schedule and an additional fifteen episodes produced in response to breaking events. In addition to coordinating the production and promotion of these 30 shows, the project will convene discussions in Washington D.C. that bring scholars in contact with policymakers, analysts, and journalists, as well as cultivate other research and publicity resources that will foster the dissemination of expertise about Islamic societies. The dialogues will capitalize on BhTV's ability to place scholars in conversation with anyone in the world, irrespective of location-often on short notice, when events focus attention on Islamic societies. Essays, books, and papers written by participants will be linked to on the BhTV webpage, providing materials for further exploration by the audience. BhTV will employ several complementary web distribution channels to steer discussions toward targeted audiences and to increase the chances that experts appearing on BhTV come to the attention of mass media outlets.
Islam in Latin America: Improving Media Coverage of Islam and Muslim Communities
  • Latin American and Caribbean Center, Florida International University
  • Project Director(s): Logroño Narbona, Maria del Mar
[ project summary ]
Building on the success of the “Islam in Latin America” initiative supported by the SSRC, aims to support efforts to enhance media coverage of Muslim communities in Latin America and South Florida. LACC will focus on the training of Latin American and U.S. journalists for the next phase of the initiative, in collaboration with FIU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC). Given the University’s location in the gateway to the Americas, its unique demographics, and the international reputation of LACC and SJMC, the initiative will significantly advance the mission of the SSRC to foster understanding of the complexity of Muslim communities. The initiative seeks to improve the quality and accuracy of media coverage of Muslim communities in Latin America and South Florida; enhance the relationship between the media and Muslim communities in the region; provide SJMC graduate students the intellectual framework and practical tools needed to accurately portray Islam in Latin America; and address the fact that Muslims in Latin America and South Florida are traditionally misrepresented in the media (if covered at all).
Islam on Main Street
  • The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, Washington State University
  • Project Director(s): Pintak, Lawrence
[ project summary ]
This project is designed to develop a curriculum for a distance-based course to help journalists in the U.S. working for local news organizations, citizen journalists/bloggers and journalism students to better understand Islam and Muslim communities in the U.S. The goal is to foster more informed coverage at a time when overseas coverage of the Muslim world has been reduced by cutbacks in national news organizations and when resources at local news organizations are constrained by the ongoing erosion of “mainstream” media. The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication will bring together a group of journalists with strong knowledge of Muslim issues and academics who specialize in either Islam or the various regions where Muslim-majority countries are located. The curriculum will combine modules on Islamic religion and culture with others that give reporters and editors suggestions on specific story angles that can be applied in their local communities, and its materials will draw on the latest academic writing on the topics as well as examples of the best of media coverage of Muslim issues, both on an international scale and in local communities of the U.S.
Islamopedia Online: Media and Civic Developments
  • Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University
  • Project Director(s): Kafadar, Cemal
[ project summary ]
The mission of Islamopedia Online is to increase and enhance knowledge of Muslim thinking on a broad range of issues facing contemporary Islamic societies and Muslim minorities. Discussion in Western societies about Islam and Muslims is often poorly informed, lacks context and nuance, and is vulnerable to misleading generalizations and inflammatory stereotypes. The consequence is ineffective policies towards predominantly Muslim nations and Muslim minorities. Islamopedia Online ( is a web-based effort that solves this knowledge gap by increasing collaboration among academics, journalists and policy-makers, and improving dissemination of their knowledge about Islam and Muslims to the wider public. Scholars of contemporary Muslim societies possess extensive primary and secondary source information that would greatly benefit policy-makers and journalists, yet the exchange of information between these influential groups is lacking. To correct this, Islamopedia maintains and continually updates a database of opinions and rulings from Muslim religious authorities, and which have tremendous influence in Muslim societies. This information is accompanied by expert analyses on its relationship to current events. This project will expand Islamopedia’s content and technical capacity, create news products for journalists as well as case studies, policy briefs and other products targeting policy-makers. Together, Islamopedia’s many offerings will provide a strong foundation on which to continue and expand the important work of better understanding the Islamic world.
Media and Muslim Networks: Institution and Communications Capacity Building in the Bay Area
  • Center for Islamic Studies, Graduate Theological Union
  • Project Director(s): Jiwa, Munir
[ project summary ]
This project will convene a core group of key leaders from academia, religious organizations, and the media to develop and implement strategies for helping the Bay Area community to better understand issues relevant to the Muslim community, and to participate in conversations that foster positive dialogue with multiple publics. Having emerged from both recognized needs identified by the Center for Islamic Studies (CIS) at the Graduate Theological Union and recommendations made by participants at the ‘Who Speaks for Islam?’ workshop that was sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York in March 2009, CIS will provide the leadership and management necessary to identify and institutionalize partnerships among leaders at Bay Area educational institutions, mosques, and media organizations to form the Media and Muslim Networks. The new Networks will engage participants in a communications and strategic planning workshop that will allow them to share knowledge and best practices about mainstreaming Muslims in multimedia, developing academic curricula for universities, and creating relevant public education and outreach programs. A web portal will be developed to host all the information and knowledge that will be accessible to the Networks as well as the community.
Muslim and American? How Adherence to Islam Fosters Political Incorporation Among Muslims in the United States
  • Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Sexuality, University of Washington
  • Project Director(s): Barreto, Matt A.
[ project summary ]
This project aims to break down barriers between the media, policymakers and the American Muslim community by providing a rich analysis of original data, including a unique national survey of Muslim Americans in more than 20 localities across the U.S. revealing that more religiously devout Muslims are significantly more likely to support political participation and inclusion in America – in contrast to prevailing wisdom. We conclude that there is nothing inconsistent with Islam and American democracy, and rather, religiosity fosters support for American democratic values. We hope to increase the public relevancy of studying Muslims in the United States, to expose myths, and to build new connections with policymakers and the American public at large.
New Voices, New Media: Artists and Academics on Islam
  • Middle East Center, University of Pennsylvania
  • Project Director(s): Kashani-Sabet, Firoozeh
[ project summary ]
This project recognizes the important role that artists play in shaping the debate on Islam in the United States. In an effort to encourage collaboration between their academics (social scientists, literary theorists, historians, anthropologists) and area artists, the Middle East Center at the University of Pennsylvania proposed to initiate an Artist-in-Residence Program.
Project on Middle East Political Science
  • Institute for Middle East Studies, George Washington University
  • Project Director(s): Lynch, Marc
[ project summary ]
The Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS) is a network to support the academic, policy and public engagement efforts of academic specialists in the political science of the Middle East. It will offer a seminar series to bring academic Middle East specialists to Washington D.C. to give a public presentation and to have a private, invitation only discussion with relevant policy officials, journalists, and policy analysts in order to allow academic experts greater access to and impact on policy debates. Secondly, it will support the contributions by academic political scientists to the new Middle East Channel on, which emerged in 2009 as the leading online portal for foreign policy analysis and debate. It aims to give academics the opportunity to publish their analysis on this widely read site, offer editorial support and guidance for crafting their interventions in the most effective ways, and would feature new academic books and articles for the wider public audience. This project will engage Iran and Iraq, as well as all other Middle East areas of interest from North Africa to the Gulf.
Shari'a, Marriage, and Democracy: Legal and Religious Pluralism in Nigeria and Beyond
  • Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University
  • Project Director(s): Witte, Jr., John
[ project summary ]
This project will examine the recent conflicts over the implementation of Shari’a in the northern states of Nigeria with specific focus on the implications of Shari’a marriage law for democracy and human rights. The law of marriage has been a particular flashpoint for contestation over Shari’a, both because marriage law, along with criminal laws punishing alleged violations of the marriage contract, are key areas of the Shari’a and because the law of marriage is constitutive of gender norms, family structure, group identity—all of which have become key areas of conflict in Nigeria and in other parts of the world in which Islam coexists with other religions and struggles to come to terms with secularism and modernity. The resolution of the Shari’a issue in Nigeria may also have significant implications for the accommodation of Shari’a law in other parts of the world where Muslims co-exist with other faiths or are significant and vocal minorities, including the United Kingdom, France, Canada, and even the United States. The project will identify the key issues and areas of contestation in the implementation of Shari’a marriage law with a view to assisting jurists, lawyers, and policy-makers in Nigeria to arrive at a peaceful “juridical pluralism” that is consistent with commitments to both religious freedom and human rights. The lessons from Nigeria, in turn, will inform discussions of accommodation of Shari’a and other religious law in other parts of the world where such accommodation has been proposed.
US Muslims, Diversity, and Diaspora: Pre-conference for the 2011 Religion Newswriters Association Annual Conference
  • Duke Islamic Studies Center, Duke University
  • Project Director(s): Read, Jen'nan Ghazal
[ project summary ]
The primary goal of the project is to disseminate academic research on Muslim societies and traditions to a large and important constituency: journalists covering religion. As part of this, the Duke Islamic Studies Center (DISC) will host the 2011 Religion Newswriters Association (RNA) annual conference at Duke University and plans to develop a pre-conference program on “US Muslims, Diversity, and Diaspora.” The project is a direct outgrowth from the success of our 2009-10 SSRC grant, “Contexts and Connections: Islam, Scholarship, and Media,” which funded 4-week fellowships at Duke University for journalists who cover Islam and Muslims.
Voice and Visions: Islam and Muslims from a Global Perspective
  • Center for the Study of Global Change, Indiana University
  • Project Director(s): Kahn, Hilary E
[ project summary ]
This project has successfully created a far-reaching and engaging infrastructure that facilitates local and global conversations, informs a variety of audiences, and challenges participants to reconsider their established perceptions about Islam and Muslims. The award-winning project has thousands of followers world-wide and has created various “go-to” sites that provide video and audio content, digital publications, resources, scholarly insight, and forthright public discussions on Muslims and Islam in a variety of world contexts. Building on its increasing global visibility, growing followers, and an escalating ability to educate, build bridges across cultures, and provide a forum for conversation, the project seeks to maintain and expand its wide array of available internet activities and resources.