An-Nai'm Honored for Human Rights Scholarship

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Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im (left) and Provost Earl Lewis

By April Bogle

Emory University has awarded Abdullahi An-Na-im the 2006 Marion V. Creekmore Award for Internationalization for his efforts to build upon human rights scholarship to effect positive social change around the world. An internationally recognized scholar on Islam and human rights, An-Na'im is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law and a senior fellow in the Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR) at Emory.

At Emory since 1995, he has striven to promote a liberal modernist understanding of Islam consistent with international human right standards, and to put scholarship in the service of improving human rights, in particular for women, children, and religious minorities living in Islamic nations.

An-Na'im's 20 years of scholarship and advocacy in this area stems from his personal experience as a Muslim from Northern Sudan struggling to reconcile his Islamic faith and identity with his commitment to universal acceptance of and respect for human rights. In 1968, while a law student at the University of Khartoum, Sudan, An-Na`im joined the Islamic reform movement of Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, which was suppressed in 1984. In 1985, he left Sudan and has lived in exile since, though he has been able to visit four times since 2003 as an American citizen.

An-Nai'm is the author and editor of 15 books, including African Constitutionalism and the Contingent Role of Islam (2006) and Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil liberties, human rights and international law (1990), which has been translated into Arabic, Indonesian, Russian and Farsi. He has published more than 50 articles and book chapters on human rights, constitutionalism, Islamic law and politics. Over the past decade An-Na`im’s work has attracted nearly $2 million of support from the Ford Foundation for a series of multiyear, international research projects, including studies on women and land rights in Africa, Islamic family law, and an Islam and Human Rights fellowship program, which brought to Emory over a dozen scholar-activists from Islamic nations advocating for social change in their home countries. His current project is a two-year study on the future of Islamic law – Shari’a – and the role of religious neutrality in Islamic societies.

An-Na`im holds an LL.B. from the University of Khartoum, Sudan, an LL.B. from the University of Cambridge, England, and a PhD in Law from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Before coming to Emory, he served as Executive Director of Africa Watch from 1993-95, now the African Division of Human Rights Watch, in Washington, DC.

"An-Na`im has made it his life-long ambition to develop a genuine Islamic theory and practice of human rights, democratization, and rule of law,” said Frank Alexander, interim dean of Emory University School of Law, professor of law, and CSLR co-director. “The original canons of Islam, he argues, are filled with teachings that are consistent with – and sometimes go beyond – modern democratic and human rights principles embraced by many nation-states and the international community. Modern Islam, he argues, needs to rediscover its own human rights and democratic heritage. An-Na`im now stands at the height of his intellectual powers and the world now stands at the height of its need for understanding of and reconciliation with the Islamic world."

The Creekmore Award, named for Emory’s first vice provost for international affairs Marion Creekmore, was established in 2000 by Coca-Cola executive and Emory benefactor Claus M. Halle and is given each year to an Emory faculty member who excels in the advancement of the University's commitment to internationalization. More information is available through the Office of International Affairs.

Prior to receiving his award, An-Nai'm hosted a seminar about being a religious minority in the United States and Europe. In attendance were Connie Buchanan, senior program officer, The Ford Foundation; Deepika Bahri, associate professor and director of Asian studies at Emory; Ihsan A. Bagby, associate professor of Islamic Studies, University of Kentucky; Sam Cherribi, senior lecturer, Emory; and Abbas Barzgar, PhD candidate, Emory.



The Center for the Study of Law and Religion is home to world class scholars and forums on the religious foundations of law, politics, and society. It offers expertise on how the teachings and practices of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have shaped and continue to transform the fundamental ideas and institutions of our public and private lives. The scholarship of CSLR faculty provides the latest perspectives, while its conferences and public forums foster reasoned and robust public debate.

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