Future of Religion and Diplomacy


Commemorating the 500-year Anniversary of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation @ Newseum, Knight Conference Center
Jun 1 @ 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Conversations on Freedom of Conscience, Christian Identities, and American History

On October 31, 1517, a Catholic monk posted 95 theses at the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany and began a conversation that changed the course of history. Join us at the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Center for lunch and an engaging dialogue as scholars and leaders from different Protestant communions share perspectives on the Reformation and its lasting impact on individual freedom of thought and conscience.

Presentations and panel discussions will explore the ongoing legacy of the Reformation and the contribution of Protestant Christian thought—from the grand “American experiment” in freedom of religious conscience, to the evolution of today’s international human rights discourse, to the challenges of peacemaking in an increasingly polarized geopolitical and religious landscape.

Sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute. This is a free event, but registration is required. Lunch will be served. Space is limited so reserve your place today.


  • Rev. Dr. Neville Callam, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance;
  • Dr. Ted N.C. Wilson, President of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists;
  • Rev. Gretchen Castle, General Secretary of the Friends World Committee for Consultation;
  • Dr. W. Cole Durham, Jr., Susa Young Gates University Professor of Law at Brigham Young University; and
  • Dr. David Little, Research Fellow at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religious, Peace & World Affairs.

Islamic Law and Human Rights @ Newseum, Knight Conference Center
Jun 13 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am

Questions of human rights compatibility with sharia have become more pressing after the Arab uprisings, with the increased political role played by Islamist parties. Join global experts on freedom of belief, freedom of expression and the status of religious minorities in Islam to discuss human rights violations by Arab states and non-state actors allegedly committed in the name of Islam.

This program features scholars associated with the Atlantic Council’s Islamic Law and Human Rights initiative, a project of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

This event is being co-sponsored by the Atlantic Council, with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York  and the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute


Geneive Abdo (@AbdoGeneive) is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East in Washington, DC and lecturer at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. Abdo is the author of four books, including The New Sectarianism: The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shi’a-Sunni Divide, just published by Oxford University Press. A specialist in issues regarding political Islam, Abdo received many awards for her scholarship, including a John Simon Guggenheim fellowship. Abdo was formerly the liaison officer for the Alliance of Civilizations, a UN initiative established by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which aims to improve relations between Islamic and Western societies. Before joining the United Nations, Abdo was a foreign correspondent, where her 20-year career focused on coverage of the Middle East and the Muslim world.


Dr. Elie Abouaoun (@elie022) is currently the director of the Middle East & North Africa Programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He has served as director of Middle East Programs and senior program officer since 2013. Prior to that, he held the position of executive director at the Arab Human Rights Fund. He is a visiting lecturer at Notre Dame University-Lebanon and Saint Joseph University-Lebanon on the subjects of human rights, civil society, advocacy and citizenship, and regularly contributes to publications throughout the MENA and the US. Dr. Abouaoun also serves on the Board of Directors of several organizations in the MENA region.

CANADA: Mohammad H. Fadel (@shanfaraa) is Associate Professor & Canada Research Chair for the Law and Economics of Islamic Law at the University of Toronto, which he joined in January 2006. Professor Fadel wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on legal process in medieval Islamic law while at the University of Chicago. Professor Fadel was admitted to the Bar of New York in 2000 and practiced law with the firm of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York, New York, where he worked on a wide variety of corporate finance transactions and securities-related regulatory investigations. Professor Fadel also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Paul V. Niemeyer of the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit and the Honorable Anthony A. Alaimo of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. He has published numerous articles in Islamic legal history and Islam and liberalism.

EGYPT: Moataz El Fegiery (@Elfegiery), protection coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa at Front Line Defenders, has over 14 years of field experience in human rights research and advocacy in the MENA region. Before joining Front Line Defenders, El Fegiery was the executive director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and MENA deputy director of the International Centre for Transitional Justice. He was also a research fellow at the Foundation of International Relations and Dialogue (FRIDE). El Fegiery is the treasurer and member at the executive committee of the Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network since 2006 and board member of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. He has an M.A. and Ph.D in law from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

MOROCCO: Omar Iharchane (@omariharchane) is Professor of Public Law and Political Science at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakesh, Morocco, and a member of the General Secretariat of the political department of the Justice and Charity Movement, an Islamic social movement in Morocco. He is concurrently Director of the Moroccan Center for Research and Policy Analysis. Previously, he served as Youth General Secretary of the Justice and Charity Movement. Since 2009, he has coordinated Morocco in a Year, a collaborative annual report on the state of Morocco. He earned his doctorate from Université Hassan II Aïn Chock de Casablanca.

MOROCCO: Driss Maghraoui is Associate Professor of History and International Relations at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane. Dr. Maghraoui teaches courses on North African immigration in Europe, modern imperialism and its culture, history of the Arab world, and history and memory in 20th century Europe. Previously visiting professor at Yale and the University of California, Santa Cruz, his most recent publications include Revisiting the Colonial Past in Morocco; Secularism in Morocco: A Stagnant Word in Motion; Northern Africa: Historical Links with Sub-Saharan Africa; Perceptions of External Pressure to Democratization: The Moroccan Case; and The ‘Grande Guerre Sainte’: Moroccan Colonial Troops and Workers in the First World War.

BUDAPEST: Dr. Harith Hasan Al-Qarawee (@harith_hasan) is currently a Fellow at the Center of Religious Studies at the Central European University in Budapest. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Sant’Anna School for Advanced Studies in Italy, an M.A. in Political Communication from Leeds University (UK), and an M.A. in Political Science from Baghdad University in Iraq. He was a lecturer and teaching assistant at Baghdad University and was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. His research focuses on state-society relations, political transitions, and identity politics in Iraq and the Middle East. He has written extensively for various English and Arabic publications and journals and is currently writing a book titled, Hawza and Shi’a Politics in post-Saddam Iraq. He is also working on a project aiming to track cultural heritage and human migrations in areas engulfed by violence in Iraq.

LEBANON: Imad Salamey (@isalameyis Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Associate Chair of the Department of Social Sciences, Director of the Institute for Social Justice and Conflict Resolution (ISJCR), and the former Program Coordinator of the Maxwell School of International Affairs’ Leaders for Democracy Fellows at the Lebanese American University (LAU). He is the President of the Center for Arab Research and Development (CARD) and serves on the Atlantic Councils’ Task Force on Religion, Identity, and Counter Extremism (MEST). He is the current contributing editor of the London-based the Arab Weekly. Salamey is the author of The Decline of Nation-States after the Arab Spring: the Rise of Communitocracy (Routledge, 2017) and The Government and Politics of Lebanon (Routledge, 2014).

USA: Asma T. Uddin (@asmauddinesq) is director of strategy for the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, a non-profit engaged at the intersection of Islam and religious freedom in both the West and Muslim-majority countries; research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University; and founding editor-in-chief of altmuslimah.com. Uddin previously served as counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. She also serves on the OSCE/ ODIHR Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the advisory council for the Institute for Global Engagement’s Center for Women, Faith & Leadership. Uddin guest-edited a Review of Faith & International Affairs special issue and is co-editing a forthcoming book of essays by women who have faced religious persecution. Uddin graduated from the University of Chicago Law School, where she was a staff editor at the University of Chicago Law Review.


Effectively Countering Extremism: A Comprehensive Grassroots Approach @ Newseum, Knight Conference Center
Aug 7 @ 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

To successfully combat extremism, we must be able to identify and effectively challenge precursors to radicalization. Violent extremism often proliferates at the grassroots level, where susceptible individuals are able to isolate themselves from their wider communities without attracting too much attention. Without robust and proactive action at this level, we are poorly equipped to contain the threat of terrorism.This program will feature three paneldiscussions with leaders of The TAM Group, a highly-trained and diverse group of experts on radicalization, Islamic theology, human development, social services, prison chaplaincy and community organizing.This event aims to introduce the multidisciplinary expertise that is needed to effectively address the above-mentioned challenges. The panelists will offer case studies that highlight the success of the TAM Group’s methodologies based on the following three panel-themes:

  • Extremists in our Midst: Effectively Confronting Terror (10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.)
  • Muslims in Prison: An Incubator for Radicalization or Reform? (1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.)
  • Muslims and Mental Health: Effectively Challenging Extremism (2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.)

This event is being co-sponsored by The TAM Group and the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute. Engage us on Twitter #RFCNewseum.


Panel Topic: Muslims within the U.S. penal system: An incubator for radicalization or reform?

Walter Ridley (Moderator) is the founder, president and CEO of The Ridley Group and Associates, LLC. His extensive work history covers service as a warden, parole board chair, deputy director and director of corrections in the District of Columbia, and church administrator. With more than 44 years of public service and undaunted commitment to human service and community ministry, Mr. Ridley understands inter-agency relations and the complex workings of the federal, state and local governments. Mr. Ridley is a frequent lecturer, speaker, consultant and instructor on criminal justice and public safety issues.

Panel Topic: Extremism in our Midst: Confronting Terror using a multi-pronged approach

Kareem Abdus-Salaam (Moderator) has over 40 years of experience in the areas of correctional care, organizational management in human services and real estate development and management. In 1994, Mr. Abdus-Salaam started his career by serving as executive vice president of Capital Care Incorporated, a non-traditional innovative correctional care services company, where he provided construction management services to agencies that built correctional and mental health facilities. Currently, Mr. Abdus-Salaam owns a real estate development company specializing in mixed-use, student housing, health care facilities and niche market projects. He is an alumnus of Howard University and holds a master’s of human services degree from Lincoln University.

Panel Topic: Mental Health challenges for Muslims and Conflicts of Identity – The TAM integrative model

Justin Dauwd Mavins (Moderator) was born in New York and graduated with a bachelor’s of science in elementary education with a concentration in African American and Multicultural Studies from SUNY Cortland. After traveling and teaching in Saudi Arabia for seven years, Mr. Mavins returned stateside and pursued his graduate degree at the University of Maryland Baltimore in the field of social work, specializing in child welfare. He obtained his masters in social work (MSW) in May 2017, as well as his LGSW (Licensed General Social Worker). Mr. Mavins is currently a social worker with Prince George’s County Department of Social Service.


Dr. Anthony Abdul Haqq Baker is the founder and Managing Director of Strategy To Reach Empower & Educate Teenagers (STREET) UK, a former Lecturer in Terrorism Studies at the Centre of Studies in Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) in the University of St Andrews and Research Fellow at the University of Exeter’s European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC). His position and experiences as the former chairman of Brixton Mosque, London between 1994 and 2009 have led to him being widely acknowledged as an authority on processes relating to violent extremism and counter-radicalization in the UK. He is the author of Extremists in Our Midst: Confronting Terror (Palgrave MacMillan 2011 & 2015) and has contributed to a number of publications addressing causes of violent extremism.

Jeffery Carroll is currently serving as the Assistant Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, managing the Homeland Security Bureau (HSB). His position is one of five Executive Command Staff positions that is responsible for the implementation of goals and objectives set by the Chief of Police and Mayor of the District of Columbia. HSB integrates intelligence and operational functions to ensure that the District is well protected and that the government works to prevent and is prepared to respond to threats and critical incidents. The HSB contains the following three subdivisions: Special Operations Division, Intelligence Division and Joint Strategic & Tactical Analysis Command Center.

Dr. Tahir Wyatt holds undergraduate degrees in Arabic and Islamic studies (with a focus on Hadith) as well as graduate degrees in Islamic theology and comparative religion. In 2013 he became the first and only American appointed to teach at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, the second holiest site in the Muslim World. His current research focuses on the theological premise for radicalization and processes through which it is deconstructed and extremist narratives are contextualized.

Joe Bradford holds a graduate degree in Islamic law and legal theory from the Islamic University of Medina. He has studied traditionally and conducted research in Egypt, Turkey, Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. His research focuses on early Islam, reformist movements in Muslim societies, hadith, Islamic law, ethics, and finance. He currently works in finance as an advisor to private clients and non- profits.

Mujahid Muhammad, is the President of K.E.Y.S Development, LLC TA and K.E.Y.S. Empowers, a youth based Mental Health and Emotional wellness organization in Maryland. Mr. Muhammad started his clinical career as a mental health clinician with the University of Maryland Hospital. He has also spent ten years as a therapeutic crisis intervention trainer. His extensive experience has allowed him to become the Director for Community Relations with Masjid Al-Ihsan and an advisor and Muslim community relations liaison to the Delegate of the 41st District for the state of Maryland. Mr. Muhammad’s impact on his community has led him to become a member of the Baltimore City Mayor’s youth safety commission.

Donna Auston is an anthropologist, writer, and public intellectual whose body of work focuses on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, protest and social movements, media representation, and Islam in America. She is currently completing her dissertation at Rutgers University, an ethnography of Black Muslim activism and spiritual protest in the Black Lives Matter era. Her written work includes book chapters on the historical contributions of African American Muslims in the arts, culture, and social justice movements, and a forthcoming chapter on intersections between Islamophobia and Black Lives Matter. Her work has appeared in various national news outlets. Donna has also recently been named one of the top 100 Muslim Social Justice leaders by MPower Change.

Amin Muslim is a native Washingtonian and grew up in the Kenilworth Courts Public Housing Development. Mr. Muslim’s work has involved providing athletic and academic alternatives to at risk youth with a focus on positive youth development. Mr. Muslim completed 3 years of study in International Relations at Georgetown University; Mr. Muslim’s post-secondary education and training includes credentialing by Cornell University in Family Development, training at Southeastern University in Structured Decision Making, Solution Focused Training, Risk & Safety Assessments: Family Assessment Form Training and training through the National Center for Fathering. Mr. Muslim currently serves as a Supervisory Community Outreach Coordinator for the Metropolitan Police Department.

Kenneth Ingram II is currently a Supervisory Chaplain for the Maryland Division of Corrections and the Imam of the most historic Masjid in Baltimore. Mr. Ingram is responsible for the religious rights, mental health, and spiritual well-being of over 1,000 inmates, both male and female. In recognition of the potential for confusion and radicalization, Mr. Ingram developed “The Islamic Creed Academy” to help educate Americans as to what correct Islam is. Mr. Ingram has over 15 years of experience Religious Director, Director of Language and Theology and Spiritual Advisor to communities throughout the United States and has traveled extensively studying Islam and the Arabic language.

Mohamed Hussein, is a Somali-American, from the DC Metropolitan area. He holds a Bachelors in Hadith and Islamic Studies from Islamic University of Madinah and a Bachelor’s in Biology from George Mason University. Mr. Hussein is the former Youth Director and Assistant Imam at an Islamic Center in Manassas, Virginia. Currently, he is the Executive Director of the Somali American Youth Foundation (SAYF). He is also the owner of PGLS, a language services provider. He is a student at the Religious Freedom Center at the Newseum and an aspiring law student.

Ibrahim Aziz is the Executive Director of H.O.P.E. Diversified Management, a non-profit whose focus is providing mental health services to underserviced communities. Mr. Aziz has over sixteen years’ experience in the Information Technology field and holds over 10 industry recognized certifications along with an Applied Associates Degree in Computer Information Systems. Mr. Aziz has developed specialized, entry-level IT training programs designed to aid inner-city community members. Mr. Aziz also pioneered an accredited training program with National Academy of Social Workers to educate social workers on how to effectively communicate with Muslim Families involved in the Child Welfare System. Mr. Aziz’s little brother was charged with conspiracy to support ISIL.

Church and State: How Separate Should They Be? @ Knight Conference Center
Oct 16 @ 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

With a new administration in power, the separation of church and state has again become a hot topic, fueling long-running debates about the balance of religious freedom and civil rights. In this discussion, panelists will debate questions such as:

  • Should individuals’ right to privacy — in making decisions about their health, family and other intimate matters — take precedence over government protections of religious organizations? Is it acceptable, for instance, for the government to fund foster care or adoption services with groups who do not support placing children in same-sex households? Or would that license discrimination against LGBTQ people?
  • Is it fair for religiously-affiliated businesses to abstain from providing employees healthcare provisions to which they morally object, like birth control? How do we balance the right of the employer with that of the employee? And where do we draw the line on defining religious groups and their rights versus those of individuals of other faiths or no faith?
  • Should pastors, priests and imams be free to express political views before their believers, or is that an unlawful mix of religion and politics by groups who enjoy tax-free status? Should government employees be able to refrain from some official duties because of religious objections?


Brendan O’Neill

Brendan O’Neill is editor of Spiked, a columnist for Reason, and a writer for The Spectator. Described by The Daily Telegraph as “one of Britain’s sharpest social commentators,” he has written and spoken widely on free speech, hate speech, and freedom of religion. He is a founder of Free Speech Now!, a campaign devoted to opposing all forms of censorship, and has spoken in favor of unfettered free speech on speaking tours in the U.K., Australia and the U.S.

Wendy Kaminer

Wendy Kaminer is an author, lawyer and civil libertarian. She has written about law, liberty and feminism for publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal. She is the author of eight books, including Free for All: Defending Liberty in America Today.

Cynthia Romero

Cynthia Romero is director of communications for Catholics for Choice and editor of its flagship magazine Conscience. Previously, she served as strategic communications advisor in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where she helped bolster public support for human rights and women’s empowerment in hotspots like South Sudan and Syria. A seasoned advocate for global human rights and press freedoms, she has been a frequent commentator on CNN en Español, Mashable, Fox News and other outlets.

Julianna S. Gonen

Julianna S. Gonen is the policy director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, responsible for overseeing NCLR’s federal policy initiatives and managing the day-to-day operations of the organization’s Washington, D.C., office. Prior to joining NCLR she was director of federal policy and advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights, where she advocated before the United States Congress, executive branch agencies, and in the courts for public policies at the federal level that protect and advance reproductive health and rights.

Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt

The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt is president of Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, Calif. She previously served for 13 years as senior minister of The Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York. Born and raised in Chicago, Ill., she is a graduate of Yale University and Drew Theological Seminary. Rev. Bray McNatt also worked as an editor and widely anthologized writer for more than 20 years before answering the call to ordained ministry. Her social justice work most recently included service as the convener of OccupyFaithNYC, a multi-faith economic justice organization founded in the spirit of Occupy Wall Street, and a co-convener of Moral Monday NYC, a multi-faith social justice group inspired by the Rev. Dr. William Barber. In 2002, she helped to found the Unitarian Universalist Trauma Response Ministry, created to provide culturally sensitive liberal religious responses to mass disaster and other significant trauma.

Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus is a research fellow in the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies and managing editor of the Cato Supreme Court Review. His research interests include constitutional law, civil and criminal law, legal and political philosophy, and legal history. His academic work has appeared in journals such as the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, the New York University Journal of Law and Liberty, the New York University Annual Survey of American Law, the Syracuse Law Review, and many others. His popular writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, Forbes, the Huffington Post, the New York Daily News, and others.


Catholics For Choice

Fall Religious Freedom Center Open House @ Knight Conference Center
Oct 16 @ 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Fall Religious Freedom Center Open House @ Knight Conference Center | Washington | District of Columbia | United States

Join us at the Newseum’s Knight Conference Center to learn about the Religious Freedom Center’s education programs and initiatives from current students, alumni and faculty.

Doors will open at 5 p.m. A light reception will precede the program.

WISE Up: Voices of American Muslims @ Knight Conference Center
Oct 17 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am

The rise of violent extremism is one of the greatest problems facing our world today, and it affects us all. Unfortunately, the blight of terrorism continues to be linked to Islam, causing severe reputation damage to the world’s second-largest religion and threatening our national unity.

Panelists will discuss how the continued linkage between terrorism and Islam has resulted in a highly polarized political climate, in which hate speech and other forms of Islamophobia are becoming increasingly prevalent. Panelists will also explain how extremist groups use hate crimes against Muslims to legitimize their narrative that the West is waging war on Islam, which helps them recruit adherents and spread their ideology. Finally, panelists will introduce their community-led campaign, WISE Up: Knowledge Ends Extremism, in which over 60 Muslim, Christian, Jewish, other faith and civic experts are working together to counter extremism, hate crimes, Islamophobia, and terrorism committed in the name of Islam; showing that Muslims are speaking out against all forms of hate.


Rabiah Ahmed

Rabiah Ahmed serves as director of media and public affairs for the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). Rabiah has produced and managed a wide array of creative campaigns, including CAIR’s Muslims Care community volunteer program and Beyond Stereotypes, a media relations outreach effort. More recently, she helped launch My Faith, My Voice, a grassroots effort by American Muslims to speak out on issues affecting Islam in America through social media. Prior to joining MPAC, Rabiah founded Mirza PR, a public relations and event management firm specializing in strategic communication for the American Muslim community.

Wa’el Alzayat

Wa’el Alzayat is CEO of Emgage, a leading Muslim American civic engagement organization, and adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He previously spent a decade serving in various policy positions at the U.S. Department of State, including as senior policy advisor to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, Syria outreach coordinator for Ambassador Robert Ford, and special assistant to U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey. Wa’el was also a provincial affairs officer in Anbar, Iraq, for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad during the Iraq War troop surge of 2007-08. He is a member of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, and a contributing author of the WISE Up policy paper.

Scott Cooper

Scott Cooper serves as director of national security outreach for Human Rights First, a nonprofit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York, D.C., Houston, and Los Angeles. He leads Human Rights First’s efforts to build partnerships with members of the military and national security communities as well as national security-focused think tanks and research institutions. Prior to joining Human Rights First, Scott served in the Marine Corps. An expert on civil-military relations, air power, and national security issues, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Washington Quarterly, Policy Review, Proceedings and The Marine Corps Gazette. He is a contributor to WISE Up: Knowledge Ends Extremism.

Daisy Khan

Daisy Khan is founder and executive director of the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE), a women-led organization committed to peace building, equality and justice for Muslims around the globe. A frequent speaker and media commentator, Daisy lectures on various issues, including Islam in America, women’s rights within Islam, and violent extremism. She launched the WISE Up campaign, and served as editor on its 350-page report, “WISE Up: Knowledge Ends Extremism.”

Arsalan Suleman

Arsalan Suleman is the former U.S. Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). In that role, Suleman engaged with OIC member countries and civil society leaders on key foreign policy issues and areas of mutual interest, such as human rights, countering violent extremism, health, education, entrepreneurship, and science and technology. He previously served for four years as counselor for multilateral affairs in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), where he focused on global human rights policy related to freedom of expression and freedom of religion in the Middle East, North Africa, and South and Central Asia. He is a member of the Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council, and a contributor to “WISE Up: Knowledge Ends Extremism.”

Blasphemy Laws: Religious Suppression and Political Authoritarianism @ Knight Conference Center
Oct 17 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Blasphemy laws violate fundamental human rights, including the right to free speech. Of the world’s 195 countries, 71 have blasphemy laws. This panel will present the status of blasphemy laws in the world today, and examine the use of these laws in some countries to stifle dissent. This panel will also discuss the origins of blasphemy in Islam and uses and abuses of blasphemy in the Muslim world today.

Elizabeth Cassidy from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) will present the Commission’s findings on the world’s blasphemy laws, demonstrating that rather than protect religious freedom, they often invite abuse and lead to violence. In addition to examining the use of these laws in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the panel will examine more recent trends, such as the Yarovaya Laws introduced in Russia in 2016 ostensibly to counter terrorism.


Dr. Ilhan Cagri

Dr. Ilhan Cagri is senior policy fellow for religious freedom at the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). Her research includes the Human Rights Report Card for Muslim Countries that scores a number of Islamic governments on their approach to human rights. In the U.S., Dr. Cagri engages with communities and government agencies to address religious and racial discrimination. As an advocate for religious freedom worldwide, Dr. Cagri works to promote awareness of at-risk religious communities and bring about solutions to the problems they face.

Elizabeth K. Cassidy

Elizabeth K. Cassidy is the director of international law and policy for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. She manages USCIRF’s annual report process, supervises policy and research staff, and oversees a substantive portfolio that includes U.N. issues, international and comparative law issues, and U.S. refugee and asylum policy. Before USCIRF, Ms. Cassidy worked on international human rights issues in the non-governmental and academic sectors.

Asma T. Uddin

Asma T. Uddin is the director of strategy for the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, a nonprofit at the intersection of Islam and religious freedom in both the West and Muslim-majority countries. Uddin previously served as a counselor with Becket, a nonprofit law firm specializing in U.S. and international religious freedom cases. She has been published by numerous law reviews and prominent university presses. Uddin is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and also serves on the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights’ panel of experts on freedom of religion or belief. Uddin graduated from The University of Chicago Law School, where she was a staff editor at The University of Chicago Law Review.

Melissa Rogers

Melissa Rogers is a nonresident senior fellow in governance studies. She recently served as special assistant to the president and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, during the Obama administration. Melissa also was chair of the inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Prior to that she was director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School. She has also served as executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Her expertise includes the First Amendment’s religion clauses, religion in American public life, and the interplay of religion, policy, and politics.

Andrew Kornbluth works for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, focusing on the countries of the former Soviet Union. He has written for the Atlantic Council, The Moscow Times, and Ukrainskyi Tyzhden. He holds a Ph.D. in Eastern European history from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.A. from Columbia University.

Qamar-ul Huda

Qamar-ul Huda is the director of the Security and Violent Extremism Program at the Center for Global Policy. Prior to joining CGP, Dr. Huda was a senior policy advisor to the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs. He specializes in political Islam, civil society organizations, education policies and security issues within the Muslim world. He served in a secondee capacity in the Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism as the first director of the Department of Dialogue and Collaboration, working closely with Hedayah, a counterterrorism organization based in Abu Dhabi. Dr. Huda also worked at the U.S. Institute of Peace as a senior expert and scholar of Islam, and focused on conflict resolution, peace-building research and field training for civil society members.

This program is co-sponsored by the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Due: Early Admissions & Scholarships Applications
Nov 1 all-day
Due: Early Admissions & Scholarships Applications

Spring 2018 Admissions

Early admissions applications for the Spring 2018 courses are due no later than Wednesday, November 1, 2017. Applicants who successfully submit their application by 11/1/17 will be eligible for merit-based scholarships.


Masterpiece Cakeshop: A Public Moot Court @ Knight Conference Center
Nov 13 @ 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Heralded as a potential landmark Supreme Court case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission centers on a Colorado cake artist, Jack Phillips, who refused on the basis of his religious beliefs to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony.

The engaged couple sued Phillips under Colorado law, and the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case on Dec. 5. The case strikes at the heart of American civil society: What does tolerance in a free and pluralistic society look like? Which civil rights are at stake? Can one support both same-sex marriage and artists like Jack Phillips? What is the road ahead?

Join Supreme Court litigators David Cortman of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Ria Tabacco Mar of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for a debate on the merits and implications of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. A “bench” of U.S. Supreme Court reporters will moderate and time will be allotted for audience Q&A.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)

Practical Skills for the Public Scholar @ Boston, Massachusetts | The 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion
Nov 17 @ 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Practical Skills for the Public Scholar @ Boston, Massachusetts | The 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion | Boston | Massachusetts | United States

In this extraordinary time of political and social unrest, scholars of religion are frequently called upon – or feel compelled – to share their knowledge and perspective with those outside the academy. In this role as public scholars, they may speak with journalists, write for a broad audience, engage with policymakers or elected officials, meet with religious communities or local schools, or more. At this workshop, participants will work with professionals from government, the media, advocacy groups and others in a series of case studies, simulations, and conversations designed to hone the practical skills of the public scholar.

In this three-hour workshop, participants will be given the opportunity participate in two practically-focussed sessions of 80 minutes each, following a short introductory session. A range of professionals has been invited to facilitate 5 sessions.

When you sign up for the workshop please email Steve Herrick ([email protected]) to indicate your preferences for sessions (label them 1-5, with 1 for the most preferred). There are 10 spaces per session and each session will run twice during the afternoon.

  • Liz Kineke, CBS, How to Respond to Requests for Information from Journalists
  • Vanessa Zoltan, Harvard University, Learning How to Speak for Camera and Radio
  • Simran Jeet Singh, Trinity University, The Effective Use of Social Media
  • Susan Brooks Thistlewaite, Chicago Theological Seminary, Writing for the Internet
  • Evan Berry, American University, Bridging the Gap between Policy and Academic Research

This program is being presided over by Professor Emma Tomalin from the University of Leeds and Benjamin P Marcus, Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute.

This program is a part of the Public Scholars Project, which is co-sponsored by the AAR Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion and the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute.