Constitutional design colloquium brings together experts on Muslim world

Maddie Elkins, Reporter

A Northwestern School of Law colloquium series on constitutional law in the Muslim world is convening leading scholars to bring a deeper and more nuanced understanding of constitutional design in the region.

The series was convened by law Profs. Erin Delaney and Kristin Stilt and features experts on the Middle East, constitutional experts and leading scholars on the Muslim world discussing contemporary issues of constitutional design, as well as social, religious and historical debates relevant to the region. The first talk was held Monday and focused on Iran.

The discussions aims to raise awareness and focuses on one country at a time, pairing together an expert on the country and one on constitutional law to touch on a broad range of issues. Talks scheduled for this fall focus on Iran, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Indonesia, and later talks will to look at Egypt, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Turkey and Malaysia.

“Because the Muslim world is very diverse and there’s a wide range of issues, we’re trying to cover as many models as possible,” said law graduate student Salma Waheedi, who organized the series. “We’re not advocating a particular system or a particular design as much as we’re trying to get the conversation going and see what lessons we can learn.”

Waheedi said discussions range from countries with traditionally Islamic models to more secular designs. She said the series aims to look at the interaction between political systems and Islamic legal issues.

The series is sponsored by the School of Law; NU Equality, Development and Globalization Studies; and the Buffett Center. Stilt has contributed her own research grant funds from the the Guggenheim Foundation, with support from the Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation, to engage with people from the community and around the world.

Delaney said that inspiration for the series came in part from Stilt’s own academic interests, and part from a shared belief in the importance of a contextualized understanding of a country.

“The idea is to have something that is interdisciplinary and detailed to understand how these countries are struggling with democracy and Islam,” Delaney said.

Waheedi said Monday’s audience consisted mainly of academics. Both Delaney and Waheedi emphasized that though the series is convened by the School of Law, it is open to the whole of NU as well as anyone in the community interested in attending.

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