Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im delivers Distinguished Lecture at NUS Law

Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im (Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law, Emory Law)

The Centre for Asian Legal Studies (CALS) at NUS Law hosted a Distinguished Lecture by Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im (Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law, Emory Law), on 23 May 2019.

The lecture titled “The Challenge of Self-Determination in a Neo-Colonial World: Islam and the State on Muslim Terms” asked how can Muslims and all other post-colonial communities transcend the limitations of political, developmental, intellectual and other dependencies deliberately promoted by European colonial administrations to facilitate the domination and exploitation of colonised communities around the world. For instance, why should the independent state be defined in terms of secular or non-secular although that classification is incoherent for Muslims throughout the world?

Speaking to an audience made up of members from research institutes, legal academia and practitioners, Professor An-Na’im argued that the challenge of “naming” should be organised and coordinated through a global scholarly exchange and transformation. For post-colonial Muslims, this challenge includes acknowledging the benefits of colonial experiences, while striving for meaningful and inclusive development of indigenous social scientific theory and practice, which should be shared with, rather than operating in isolation from, the rest of the world. Such dynamic and creative intellectual independence requires a complex mix of humility and self-confidence, democratic governance and economic collaboration, etc. At the same time, one must guard against neo-colonial imperialism by investing all necessary human and material resources to uphold empirical indigenous sovereignty instead of relying on slogans like “human rights” because the concept, content and practice of human rights itself needs to be liberated from post-colonial dependency.

The lecture was followed by a question and answer session chaired by Associate Professor Arif A Jamal (NUS Law).

About the Speaker

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory University, where he focuses on cross-cultural human rights issues, with an emphasis on Islam. He is also a faculty member of the Emory College of Arts and Sciences and the Emory University Center for Ethics. He directs projects on women and land in Africa and Islamic Family Law. During the fall 2009 semester, he was a Visiting Professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at Georgetown University where he taught "The Future of Islamic Law," and a senior fellow at the Berkley Center. He is the author of African Constitutionalism and the Role of Islam (2006), Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari‘a (2008), Muslims and Global Justice (2011) and What is an American Muslim? Embracing Faith and Citizenship (2014). Professor An-Na'im holds LLB Degrees from the University of Khartoum and the University of Cambridge, and a PhD in Law from the University of Edinburgh.

L-R: Chairperson for the lecture Associate Professor Arif A Jamal (NUS Law) and Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im

Associate Professor Jaclyn Neo ’03 (NUS Law) with Professor Antony Anghie (NUS Law) on her left

Ambassador Mohamad Alami Musa (S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU) giving his comments

Associate Professor Michael William Dowdle (NUS Law) sharing his views

Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im answering questions from the audience
L-R: Associate Professor Arif A Jamal (NUS Law) and Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im