Photo of Souad Ali on panel with Senegalese leaders

Professor provides expertise on role of tolerance in Islam, democracy

By

Roxane Barwick

Souad T. Ali, associate professor of Arabic literature and Middle East/Islamic studies in the School of International Letters and Cultures, was awarded a U.S. Speaker and Specialists Grant by the U.S. Department of State to participate in a program in Senegal this summer titled “Ramadan: Sufism and Democracy,” which focused on the role of tolerance in both Islam and democracy and the importance of religious freedom and tolerance in America. 

The program featured several lectures delivered by Ali including, “Sufism and Democracy in the Senegalese Context,” “Women and Democracy in Sufism,” “Interfaith Dialogue: Comparative Viewpoints on ‘How’ and ‘Why’ in Senegalese and U.S. Contexts,” “Sufism and Democracy: Deep Roots for Modern Practice in Senegal,” “Interfaith Dialogue in Sufism and in a Democracy: Origins and Practical uses in Arabic Pedagogical Contexts,” and a keynote lecture on “Sufism and Democracy: A Religious Studies Viewpoint.”

In addition, Ali participated in several panel discussions with local Senegalese Sufi religious leaders and Islamic scholars hosted by the U.S. Embassy, the University of Chiekh Anta Dioup, the West African Research Center (WARC) in Dakar, as well as the four Senegalese Sufi Orders. She also met with Senegalese students in a session at the embassy library.

“The students were very interested in education in the U.S., and about the similarities and differences between the U.S. and Senegal on the issues of Islam, women, secularism and democracy,” says Ali who also shared with them specific information about educational programs at Arizona State University. 

On the heels of her visit to Senegal, Ali has recently been invited to attend a reception hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sept. 13, in celebration of Eid Al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday commemorating the conclusion of the month of Ramadan, at the Department of State in Washington, D.C.

Ali is head of classics and Middle East studies at ASU, a Fulbright Scholar, the president of the American Academy of Religion/Western Region, an executive committee member of the International Association of Intercultural Studies, Cairo Egypt and Bremen Germany, a board member of the Sudan Studies Associate of North America, and author of "A Religion, Not A State: Ali’Abd al-Raziq’s Islamic Justification of Political Secularism," which topped Amazon’s list for “Bestselling New and Future Releases in Turkey” in 2010.