Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

The Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy

Fall 2011 Conference

clough center for the study of constitutional democracy


Thursday, October 13 - Friday, October 14, 2011
Heights Room at Boston College

Organizers: Ali Banuazizi (Political Science, Islamic Civilizations and Societies) and Intisar Rabb (Law School), Boston College

Recent events in the Middle East and North Africa have dramatically brought to the surface key questions that have long been brewing in the region: religion, democracy, and constitutional design. The fire began in Tunisia, spread to Egypt, and now lights movements in Libya, Bahrain, and elsewhere. Many commentators query whether this is to the promise or peril of the region, as they juxtapose stability with democracy and express abiding concerns about the place of Islam in the region. What tensions are likely to arise as these states try to fashion new political and economic institutions to secure broader participation of citizens, respect for the rule of law, and accountability of rulers? Do religious currents pose challenges to these ideals, and what constitutional provisions may limit or accommodate any conflict? This conference will explore these timely and enduring questions that are likely to face the region and foreign policy for some time to come.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

4:30 pm–6:00 pm

opening keynote & reception

Democratic Aspirations and Sharīʿa Idealization: On the Cultural Ambivalence of Muslim Democratization

Robert Hefner, Boston University

Friday, October 14, 2011

9:00–9:15 am

Welcome & Opening Remarks

9:15–10:45 am

panel i Secularism, Religion

Mirjam Künkler, Princeton University
Arash Naraghi, Moravian University
Samer Shehata, Georgetown University
Chair: Jonathan Laurence, Boston College

This panel will explore existing models of secular or quasi-secular governance in the MENA region and elsewhere. French-style laicite, European nominal establishment but public secularism, and American-style free expression without establishment appear in varied ways in the region. While most countries in the region have separated mosque from state formally, can the resulting arrangements be deemed secular? What are the challenges and possibilities for secular governance given popular religious commitments? Alternatively, what are the challenges and possibilities for governance that carves out a public role for religion while forbidding its establishment?

11:00–12:30 pm

panel ii Democracy

Eva Bellin, Brandeis University
Amaney Jamal, Princeton University
Güneş Murat Tezcür, Loyola University
Chair: Kent Greenfield, Boston College

This panel will consider the substantive and procedural obstacles to democracy, particularly in light of current anxieties—whether warranted or not—over electoral outcomes in which Islamist- or military-backed groups could subvert the democratization process after a victory at the polls. Does democratization require minimum commitments to liberal values beyond fair elections and guarantees of popular sovereignty?

1:00–2:00 pm


2:00–4:00 pm

panel iii Constitutional Tensions & Accommodations

Aslı Bâli, University of California, Los Angeles
Nathan Brown, George Washington University
Tamir Moustafa, Simon Fraser University
Chair: Vlad Perju, Boston College

This panel will attempt to bring the previous two sessions together. Drawing on the very different experiences in recent years of constitution-making in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the ongoing attempt at constitutional reform in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and elsewhere, the panel will identify constitutional requisites and limitations in promoting democratic governance in MENA states.

Co-sponsored by BC Law School, Program in Islamic Civilizations and Societies, and Political Science Department