Sami Erdem is an Associate Professor in the Islamic Law department of Marmara University’s Faculty of Theology, Istanbul and is currently Senior Visiting Fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies. During his time at the Center, Erdem will be completing his research on “Perceptions of the Mecelle (Ottoman Civil Code) Through a Study of English Literature” and begin working on a new research topic, "Conceptions of Ijtihad in Late Ottoman Legal Thought". While at the Center, Dr. Erdem led the planning and organization of the first graduate student colloquium on Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies co-sponsored with the Diyanet Islamic Research Institute in April 2017.
His academic interests include late Ottoman law, Mecelle, codification of Islamic law in 19th and 20th centuries, caliphate, ijtihad and fatwa in modern times.
Betul Yurtalan is a Ph.D. student at Ankara University's Faculty of Divinity in Turkey. She is currently working on her dissertation examining the history of Islamic sects. Her research looks into the controversies of the Islamic fourth and fifth Islamic centuries when dimensions of Ismailism effected Sunni-Shiite relations.
Ikran Eum received a Ph.D. in Middle East Studies at the Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies from the University of Exeter, UK in 2004. During Dr. Eum's short term exchange scholar residency with the Center, she conducted research on the emergence of Korea's halal industry and local Islamophobic responses. She gave a presentation summarizing her research for Mason faculty, staff, and students on February 13, 2019. Dr. Eum currently works as a researcher at the GCC Institute, Dankook University in Korea, where she is conducting a project funded by the Ministry of Education entitled, "Gulf Vision 2030 and Partnership Building Strategy: Focused on Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran". As an area specialist, Dr. Eum also gives lectures related to Middle Eastern cultural and social studies for students, and in the workplace for businesses and civil servants. Her current research interests focus on consumerism and Islam, and family and gender issues in the Gulf countries.
Ali Yousofi is an associate professor of sociology at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad (FUM), Iran.His main field of interest is the sociology of religion and political sociology and the topic of his research proposal is “The Compatibility or Incompatibility of Islam and Democracy: Case study of Iran”. He tries to demonstrate in this research that both the concepts of Islam and democracy are interpretable and will in practice lead to a variety of religiousities and democratic attitudes. The religion of Islam plays a central role in the social life of Muslim societies and each type of religiosity offers a different interpretation of democracy. The main hypothesis of his research is that only some perceptions of Islam (religiosity) are compatible with some perceptions of democracy (democratic attitudes), but that some perceptions of each of them are incompatible with one another. The results of this research will be published as a book with the support of this Center.
Raissa von Doetinchem de Rande
Raissa von Doetinchem de Rande is a Ph.D. student in Princeton University's Religion Department and is currently in her fourth year of study. A native German, she received a B.A. in Theology from the University of Oxford (2012), a M.A.R. in Ethics from Yale University (2014) and a M.A. in Religion from Princeton University. During her time at the Center, she will be working on her dissertation entitled, "Greek Thought and the Limits of Fitra: Philosophical and Theological Debates Over Moral Knowledge from Ibn Sina to Ibn Tamiya". Her research project examines the philosophical discussions of fiṭra as first nature and looks at their implications for the status of law and ethical values.
Chris Taylor was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies and an instructor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at George Mason University. During his time at the Center, Taylor was working on a book manuscript, titled "Islamic Humanitarianism in Today's India: Civic Charity, Religious Revival, and the Governance of India's Muslim Majority". Taylor presented his research at Mason with a talk titled, "Islamic Charity in India Today: The Revival and Re-Invention of Zakat in a Liberalizing Economy".
Elif Zeynep Yilmaz
Elif Zeynep Yilmaz is currently a short term Visiting Scholar at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, George Mason University. She is currently an M.A. student in the Islamic History department of Istanbul Universty’s Faculty of Theology. During her time at the Center, Yilmaz will be conducting research for a new project, titled “Religious Conversions: The Social, Economic and Psychological Reasons and the Services Provided for the Converts.’’
Seyed Mohammad Ali Taghavi
Seyed Mohammad Ali Taghavi is currently a Visiting Scholar at Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, George Mason University. He is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran. He received his BA and MA from Tehran University and his PhD from the University of Hull, the UK. His research interests are: Islamic and Western political thought as well as Middle Eastern studies. His publications include The Flourishing of Islamic Reformism in Iran: Political Islamic Groups in Iran (1941-61), RoutledgeCruzon: London, 2005 and Foundations of Political Thought and Practice in Islam, Tehran: SAMT (The Centre for Researching and Composing University Textbooks in the Humanities), 2013 (in Persian). He recently published a piece titled, "Sectarian Conflict Among Muslims and the Need for Political Recognition of Differences" on the Ali Vural Ak Center's online publication, Maydan.
David W. Montgomery is the Director of Program Development for CEDAR--Communities Engaging with Difference and Religion; an American Association for the Advancement of Science Policy Fellow; Associate with the Central Asia Program at George Washington University; and Research Associate with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. He has conducted long-term anthropological field research in Central Asia and the Balkans, where his work focuses on the transmission of religious and cultural knowledge; the expressions of everyday religious life; and the social aspects of religious change. He has taught at the University of Pittsburgh, Emory University, and Boston University. His publications include: Living with Difference: How to Build Community in a Divided World (2015, University of California Press, coauthored with Adam Seligman and Rahel Wasserfall); Practicing Islam: Knowledge, Experience, and Social Navigation in Kyrgyzstan (forthcoming, University of Pittsburgh Press); Negotiating Well-being in Central Asia (2013, editor; special issue of Central Asian Survey); and The Politics of Well-being in Central Asia (2015, editor; special issue of Central Asian Affairs).
Akin Kiren is a Ph.D. Candidate at Istanbul University in Turkey, and is currently a Dissertation Fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies. During his time at the Center, Kiren will be conducting research for his dissertation, titled "Ottoman-Iranian Relations in the context of Pan-Islamic Policies During the Abdulhamid II Era", which aims to fill the gap regarding how the relations between Iran and the Ottoman Empire in this period were shaped within the scope of a sensitive issue: "religion" or "religious sect". After completing his studies at the Center, Kiren plans to go to Iran for the last phase of his research.
Ulan Bigozhin is currently a Dissertation Fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies. He was awarded an MA by the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University. Prior to beginning his doctoral studies in Social/Cultural Anthropology at Indiana University in 2012, Bigozhin worked as a manager in the School of Social Science and Humanities at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan. Currently ABD, he completed his fieldwork in northern Kazakhstan near the shrine complex of Isabek Ishan in 2013, and is actively writing his dissertation, tentatively titled “State, Shrine, and Sacred Lineage in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan.” In this Ph.D. research project, Bigozhin touches on issues of religious nationalism, state and sacred family (qozha) in post-Soviet, post-colonial Kazakhstan.
Taha Egri is a Ph.D. Candidate at Istanbul University in Turkey and a Dissertation Fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies. During his time at the Center, Egri is conducting research for his dissertation, titled "Political Economy of Revolutions: The Case of Egypt", which explores the economic reasons underlying the upheaval that shook the Arab world, and identifies the relation between the economic structure and political transformation in Egypt.
Randa Kayyali completed her Ph.D. in Cultural Studies at George Mason University and is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies. During her time at the Center, Kayyali will be conducting research for a new project, titled "Finding Islam in US Official Records on Ancestry, Ethnicity, and Race", which aims to trace the connection of religion to regional, ethnic, and racial ascriptions of Americans who are Muslim as well as those who are assumed to be Muslim by culture.
Daniel Beben was a Ph.D. Candidate in the departments of History and Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University and was a Dissertation Fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies. His research explores the formation and articulation of new forms of religious and communal identity in Central Asia, Iran, and Afghanistan during the period between the 15th and 19th centuries, particularly among minority Shi'i and Sufi Muslim communities. During his time at the Center, Beben was completing his dissertation, titled "The Legendary Biographies of Nasir-i Khusraw: Authority and Textualization in Early Modern Persian Isma'ilism", which examines the history of the Isma'ilis of Central Asia, a minority community who reside primarily in the Badakhshan region of eastern Tajikistan and northeastern Afghanistan.
Mara Leichtman is associate professor of Anthropology at Michigan State University. Her book, Shi‘i Cosmopolitanisms in Africa: Lebanese Migration and Religious Conversion in Senegal, is forthcoming with Indiana University Press. Dr. Leichtman has edited (with Dorothea Schulz) a special journal issue of City and Society on Muslim Cosmopolitanism: Movement, Identity, and Contemporary Reconfigurations (2012) and (with Mamadou Diouf) the book New Perspectives on Islam in Senegal: Conversion, Migration, Wealth, Power, and Femininity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). During her time at the Center, Leichtman worked on a book manuscript with co-author Rola el-Husseini titled, "New Perspectives on Lebanese Shi'ism", and also collected data for a new research project on the "NGO-ization of Shi'i Islamic Futures".
Akif Demirci is the General Secretary of Istanbul Sehir University completing his Ph.D. at Marmara University in Turkey, and was a Dissertation Fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies. During his time at the Center, Demirci worked toward completing his dissertation, titled "Turkish Nationalism and its Ties to Ottoman Pluralism: The Role of Higher Education in Resolving Tensions with Imperial and Islamic Universalism".
Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen is Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Copenhagen, and was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies. He is the author of Defining Islam for the Egyptian State: Muftis and Fatwas of the Dar al-Ifta, and Islam on Arab TV (in Danish), among other titles. He is also the co-editor (with Bettina Graf) of The Global Mufti: The Phenomenon of Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, and (with Naomi Sakr and Donatella Della Ratta) of Arab Media Moguls, forthcoming in 2015. During his time at the Center, Skovgaard-Petersen worked on several book chapters and journal articles related to his research on a number of subjects, including transformations of Islamism, international ulama institutions, clericalism in mainstream Arab television, the pan-Arab news channels, and institutional reform in Syria.
Ertugrul Zengin is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Pollitical Science Department at Galatasaray University in Turkey, and was a Dissertation Fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies. During his time at the Center, Ertugrul conducted research for his dissertation, titled "Raiders as a Social Movement: The Institution of Islamist Subject and its Actions in Turkey".
Dr. Iqbal Unus holds a Ph.D. from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia (Nuclear Physics, 1977). Notwithstanding his training, he has focused his professional career on the emerging Muslim presence in America, gaining distinctive insight into the growth of the Muslim American community. He is a board member of The Fairfax Institute (TFI) at the International Institute of Islamic Thought. Earlier, he was secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). He has published several articles in Islamic Horizons, a book chapter in The Muslims' Place in the American Public Square, two children’s books, and abridged Apostasy in Islam: A Historical and Scriptural Analysis. He serves on the Research Committee for The US Mosque Survey 2011. At the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, he is working on a book about Muslim leadership in America from the mid-1960's to the mid-1980's. He is also a Visiting Fellow at the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. Beginning in 1970, he has served in several community leadership roles, including president of Muslim Students Association of the U.S. and Canada (1975), and Majlis (Board) member of ISNA. He received a lifetime service award from Council of American Islamic Relations in 2011 and from ISNA in 2012.
Kadir Ustun is a political analyst currently completing his doctoral studies at Columbia University. He is the Research Director at the SETA Foundation in Washington, DC and is also Assistant Editor of the peer-reviewed academic journal Insight Turkey. He has taught courses both at Columbia and George Mason University on a wide array of subjects, including Islamic civilization, cinema in Africa and Asia, and globalization. His articles on Turkey’s role in Middle East politics have been featured in a number of Turkish and English publications, and he has presented his research at several conferences in the United States and Turkey.
Dr. Yelken received his B.A. in Sociology from Ankara University, his M.A. in Sociology from Middle East Technical University, and earned his Ph.D. in Sociology from Sakarya University in Turkey. He began his academic career as a Research Assistant at Afyon Kocatepe University and is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Selcuk University. He has also taught several courses as a guest lecturer at Pamukkale University, Erciyes University and Mardin Artuklu University, and he is an active member of the British Sociological Association. Among Dr. Yelken’s academic and intellectual interests are civil society and the public sphere, sociology of the community, human rights, contemporary sociological theories, and the history of sociology in the Islamic world. His research has appeared in several academic journals and book chapters, and he is also the author of two books in Turkish, titled Cemaatin Dönüşümü, Geç modern dönemde cemaat sosyolojisi (Transformation of the Community: the Community in the Late-Modern Era of Sociology) and Tarih Sosyolojisi (The Sociology of History). Dr. Yelken’s current research project is “Civil Society in the Islamic World”.
Dr. Walker obtained his Ph.D in Politics and Public Policy from Princeton University. He received his M.A. in International Relations from Yale University. He currently is a Fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, DC. Dr. Walker has held various appointments with think tanks, universities and the United States Embassy in Turkey. He has written numerous articles in journals on public policy, international relations and is working on a co-authored book Turkey and its Neighbors forthcoming 2012. Fluent in Japanese and Turkish, Dr. Walker plans to spend his year at the center researching Imperial Legacies in Turkish and Japanese Foreign Policy.
Ahmet Selami Çaliskan
Mr. Caliskan received his B.A. in Mechanical Engineering from the Technical University of Istanbul and his M.A. in International Relations from Marmara University in Turkey. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Sciences at Marmara University, with a particular focus on theological and philosophical contributions in the history of the Scientific Revolution. Mr. Caliskan’s research project aims to examine the relationship between medieval Islamic philosophy and scientific-technological innovations. He is fluent in Turkish and English and also possesses reading knowledge of Arabic, German and Ottoman Turkish.
Dr. Doğan holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the Free University of Berlin. He received his B.A. and M.A. in Sociology from Istanbul University. Prior to teaching at Istanbul Commerce University, Dr. Doğan also worked as a Research Assistant at the institution. He is currently working on his post-doctoral research project, “The Concept of State in the Turkish Mind: From the Ottoman to the Turkish Republic.” Dr. Dogan is fluent in Turkish, German and English.
Dr. Duran studied at Boğaziçi University before receiving his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science and Public Administration from Bilkent University in Turkey. In addition to working as a Research Assistant at Bilkent University and Sakarya University, Dr. Duran has taught in theDepartment of International Relations at Sakarya University and the Department of Political Science and International Relations at İstanbul Şehir University. He currently heads the Department of International Relations and is the Dean of Graduate Studies at İstanbul Şehir University. Dr. Duran’s research interests include Islamism, Turkish political life, the history of Turkish-Islamic political thought and Turkish foreign policy. His previous courses include Turkish Political Life I and II, History of Turkish-Islamic Thought, Political Science, Turkish Foreign Policy I and II, Globalization. Dr. Duran’s current research project is entitled “The Idea of the West in Turkey.” He is fluent in Turkish, English and Ottoman Turkish.
Dr. Simsek received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Uludag University in Turkey, where he also worked as a Research and Teacher Assistant in Arabic. His dissertation focused on “Diya’ al-Din ibn al-Athir’s Contribution to Classical Arabic Literature.” Dr. Simsek was a visiting scholar at Hartford Seminary and at the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. His area of study includes the history of Islamic thought, modern Islamic thought, Christian-Muslim relations, and Arabic literature. His research language skills are in Turkish, Ottoman Turkish, English, Arabic and Persian. Dr. Simsek’s publications include Reader in Religion and Philosophy (Alfa Publication, Istanbul, 2004).
Dr. Köse was a research fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University in 2009-2010. He completed his doctoral studies at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (ICAR) of George Mason University. Köse’s dissertation, Re-Negotiating Alevi Identity: Values, Emotions and the Contending Visions on Future, focuses on the transformation of Alevi identity within the post-1980 milieu of Turkey. His current research interests include Ethnic-sectarian and identity based conflicts, approaches to inter-cultural reconciliation, Alevi issues in Turkey, Kurdish issues, and Iran nuclear negotiations. Köse has published academic articles in Insight Turkey, Akademik Ortadoğu, İnsan Hakları Araştırmaları. Hs has written several book chapters and policy reports and has contributed to research projects at SETA. Dr. Köse has also taught at George Mason University.