March 27, 2006

HARRISONBURG—Dr. Abdulaziz Sachedina, professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Virginia, will speak at James Madison University on “Islam, Democracy, and Human Rights” on Wednesday, April 5, 2006, at 6:00 p.m. in HHS 2301. The lecture, which qualifies as a passport event for JMU students, is sponsored by the Muslim Student Association, the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and the Student Government Association.

Born in Tanzania, Dr. Sachedina received baccalaureate degrees from Aligarh Muslim University in India and Ferdowsi University in Iran before earning his doctorate in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Toronto. He also studied Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh and usul) at the madrasa (religious academy) of the Ayatollah F.H. Milani in Mashhad, Iran, which was also attended by Iran’s current “supreme leader,” Ali Khamenei.

Dr. Sachedina has taught at the University of Virginia since 1976 and has also been visiting professor at Wilfrid Laurier, Waterloo and McGill Universities in Canada, Haverford College and the University of Jordan, Amman. He has lectured widely in East Africa, India, Pakistan, Europe, and the Middle East. Professor Sachedina is a core member of the Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a key contributor to its Preventive Diplomacy Program’s efforts to link religion to universal human needs and values in the service of peace-building. Among other works, he is the co-author of Human Rights and the Conflict of Cultures: Western and Islamic Perspectives on Religious Liberty (University of South Carolina Press, 1988) and author of Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism (Oxford University Press, 2001). He is presently working on a major study on Islamic Biomedical Ethics.

Dr. Sachedina is also the object of a fatwa (religious edict) issued by Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who declared that “his views on issues…are based on incorrect understandings, and are incompatible with religious…standards, caus[ing] confusion in the minds of Muslims,” who are “enjoined from inviting him to lecture…and not to approach him for answers to questions pertaining to beliefs.” For his part, Dr. Sachedina, who met with Ayatollah al-Sistani several times in the 1990s, has told the Washington Post that he carries “no grudge” against the cleric.

In addition to his public lecture, Dr. Sachedina will also lead a Nelson Institute roundtable discussion for JMU faculty.