New York University’s Zvi Ben-Dor Benite, Aziz Huq, and Marion Holmes Katz have been named Carnegie Scholars by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Each of the 20 scholars selected this year will receive up to $100,000 for a period of up to two years to pursue research advancing the strategic work of the Corporation. This year’s scholars will all study themes focusing on Islam and the modern world.

The goals of the Corporation’s new emphasis on Islam are to encourage the development and expansion of the study of Islam within the United States and particularly, to stimulate thoughtful and original scholarship.

Ben-Dor Benite, an assistant professor in the Department of History, has received a Fulbright Fellowship, an Edmond Safra Pioneering Student Award, and a post-doctoral Fellowship at the Center for Historical Analysis at Rutgers University. Drawing on his own extensive academic background and on the significant body of work by Chinese Muslim intellectuals, Ben-Dor Benite will explore models for framing and understanding the presence of large Muslim populations in historically and demographically non-Muslim lands. Conversely, he will also examine to what extent the systems of non-Muslim lands shape the way Muslims are able to integrate into the larger, non-Muslim society. Specifically, Ben-Dor Benite will look at how modern Chinese Muslim intellectuals simultaneously redefined Islam and carved out a new space in the post-imperial context by analyzing original documents such as the interviews done by the students of Pang Shiqian, who translated the Qur’an into Chinese, and what sort of evidence provided by Ma Jian, a Confucian scholar turned Islamic Jurist.

Huq, associate counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and has done work with Muslim and Sikh communities around the world. Recent terrorist assaults have resulted in more stringent applications of European and North American legal regimes, which have been principally used against Muslim minorities, including stricter regulations on freedom of speech and association. Huq will analyze post-September 11th legislation in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and France by describing the new counterterrorism powers within legal, historical and political contexts and by examining whether this new legislation accomplishes the goal of curtailing radicalism or instead further marginalizes Muslim minority communities.

Katz, an associate professor in the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, has authored Body of Text: The Emergence of the Sunni Law of Ritual Purity (SUNY Press, 2002) and will use her Carnegie Scholars award to explore the participation of Muslim women in public congregational prayer and their access to mosques. The research will examine three possible scenarios: that Islamic law excludes women from the mosque; Islamic law excludes women from the mosque, but its authoritative sources permit them; and Islamic law permits women access to the mosque, but custom and convenience keep them away. Katz will explore how fitna, a term describing the dangers that may result from feminine powers of seduction, has been used in Islamic legal reasoning in different social and historical contexts. Katz’s research will postulate that Islamic law has been more accommodating to women’s agency than was previously recognized.

Previous NYU faculty named Carnegie scholars are: NYU School of Law professors Noah Feldman (2005), Richard H. Pildes (2004), and Stephen Holmes (2003), Michael Gilsenan (2003), a professor in the departments of Anthropology and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, and Bernard Haykel (2005), an associate professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. The first Carnegie scholars were selected in 2000.

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