Conflict, Encounter, and Interfaith Dialogue in Islam

The symposium, “Conflict, Encounter, and Interfaith Dialogue in Islam: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives,” will bring together scholars across disciplines to present work that showcases the breadth of exciting scholarship in this area and to generate dialogue across disciplines. The first panel, “Connected Histories,” will explore questions of diversity and pluralism in Islamic history. The second panel, “Diversity, Integration, and Power” will address questions of race, gender, and power in the contemporary Islamic world. This event is planned as part of an initiative to promote Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Rutgers-Newark. It will officially launch our new interdisciplinary undergraduate minor in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (MEIS).


There is an increasingly stiffening popular perception that somehow “Islam” and Muslims are culturally, religiously, and theologically distanced from the so-called Judeo-Christian civilization. For scholars of Islamic history and culture, however, it is a well established fact that the three religions did not emerge and develop in isolation from one another, and that thus an Abrahamic, or Islamo-Judeo-Christian culture has existed since the early middle ages; a culture that in more modern times has been affected by Eurocentric and Orientalist biases and imperialist political and economic experiments and interventions in Muslim lands. This symposium seeks to explore questions of diversity and pluralism in Middle Eastern and Islamic societies throughout particular historical moments (medieval, early modern, and modern times). Taking the place of Muslims as vantage point, the participants of this panel will address issues of multiculturalism and diversity, and questions of gender, power, and domination.

Panel I. Connected Histories (2:30-3:50 pm)

“Conversion and Persecution in Early Islamic Narratives”
Dr. Mehmetcan Akpınar (University of Tubingen)
      Mehmetcan Akpinar is a research and teaching associate at the Department of Oriental and Islamic Studies at the University of Tubingen. He researches and teaches on different topics of Islamic Intellectual History, with a specialization in Early Islamic Historiography, Political Thought in Classical Islam, Hadith, and Early Islamic History. He obtained his PhD from the University of Chicago, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, with a dissertation entitled "Narrative Representations of Abu Bakr in the 2nd / 8th century."

“Christian Saint or Muslim Prophet? Re-creating Identities in Late Spanish Islam”
Dr. Marya Green-Mercado (University of Michigan-Ann Arbor)
     Mayte Green-Mercado is Assistant Professor of Mediterranean Studies in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures (RLL).  She completed a B.A. in European History at the University of Puerto Rico in 1996 and received her PhD from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago in 2012.  Her work lies at the intersection between the religious, cultural, and political history of the early modern Iberian, Mediterranean, and Islamic worlds.  In her dissertation,“Morisco Apocalypticism: Politics of Prophecy in the Early Modern Mediterranean,” she analyzes the role of apocaplyptic prophecies, millenarianism, and providentialist beliefs in the religious practices and political life of Moriscos (Muslims forced to convert to Catholicism), notably as a means of cultural and political resistance and of political and communitarian identity-formation.  Future projects include explorations into a broader religious and intellectual history of the early modern period through the lens of Morisco networks around the Mediterranean.  She is the author of “The Mahdi in Valencia: Messianism, Apocalypticism, and Morisco Rebellions in Late Sixteenth- Century Spain,” Medieval Encounters (2013).  She previously taught in the Department of History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.            
“Alternative Muslim Modernities: Bosnian Intellectuals in Ottoman and Habsburg Empires”
Dr. Leyla Amzi-Erdoğdular (Columbia University)    
     Leyla Amzi-Erdogdular received her Ph.D. from the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University. Presently, she is working on a book manuscript, titled Many Lives of Empires that explores the Ottoman continuities in Habsburg Bosnia Herzegovina, to analyze the imperial imprint on the modern understanding of citizenship, loyalty, and ethnic and religious diversity. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on migration, Muslim cultural politics, and gender in the modern Middle East, emphasizing trans-regional connections. She currently teaches at the State University of New York at Old Westbury.

Panel II.  Diversity, Integration, and Power (4:00-5:20 pm)

“Exploring Islam and Gender in the Contemporary Middle East: Looking at Iraqi Women’s Rights and Activism” Dr. Zahra Ali (University of Chester)      
        Zahra ALI  زهراء علي is a sociologist specializing in women and gender studies in relation to Islam and the Middle East. She is currently a Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Gender Studies at SOAS and a Research Associate at IFPO-Iraq. Her doctoral research, that she obtained with distinction, was supervized by Nilufer Göle at EHESS and Nadje Al-Ali at SOAS. Her thesis untitled “Women and Gender in Iraq: between Nation-building and Fragmentation” will be published under the same title by Cambridge University Press in Fall 2017. This doctoral research explores contemporary Iraqi women’s activism through an in-depth ethnography of post-2003 Iraqi women’s political groups conducted in Baghdad, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah and a socio-historical study of women’s social, economic and political experiences since the formation of the Iraqi state. She edited Féminismes Islamiques, first collection on Muslim feminist scholarship published in France (La Fabrique editions, 2012), translated and published in German (Passagen Verlag, 2014). Webpages: &

 “V(e)ilification in the Anglosphere: Economies of Social Control and the Creation of the 'Afghan Woman'”
Dr. Nivi Manchanda (University of Leiden)           
     Nivi Manchanda is an Assistant Professor of International Studies at the University of Leiden. Her PhD was on Anglophone representations of Afghanistan at the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge for which she was awarded the best dissertation prize by Clare Hall, Cambridge. She was previously the Editor in Chief of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs. She is co-editor (with Alex Anievas and Robbie Shilliam) of Race and Racism in International Relations: Confronting the Global Colour Line, Routledge 2014.

This free event is presented by the Federated Department of History with support from the FASN Dean's Office, the Office of the Chancellor, the Office of the Provost, and the Chancellor's Commission on Diversity and Transformation, the Department of Political Science, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the Department of African American and African Studies, and the Clement A. Price Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience.

A light reception will follow the presentations.