Agora Speaker Series 2022 - Dr Adam Duker

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Teaching the Reformation in Egypt: Pursuing Academic Freedom under the gaze of President Sisi, a Saudi Billionaire, and a Captured University Administration

Dr Duker will explore his nearly four-year experience as the Islamic Middle East’s only religious studies professor at a non-sectarian university. He will document his experience holding the Abdulhadi H. Taher Chair in Comparative Religions – the Muslim world’s largest humanities endowed chair – at the American University in Cairo (AUC). I will also chronicle his time directing the Comparative Religions program and teaching the history of the European Reformations in a country that denies its citizens the right to compare religions. This tenure included his extra-judicial detainment at the hands of armed religious extremists.

This presentation will discuss the dangers of university administrations becoming captured by wealthy individuals at the expense of individual academic freedoms. He will discuss the need for US-taxpayer funded institutions abroad to be held accountable when it comes to the First Amendment, especially when they lobby for additional US federal grants on the grounds that they are “American” institutions. At stake here is the freedom of respectful dissent to propaganda and established orthodoxies – in short, the future of unrestricted search for the truth in “western” academic institutions located outside the bounds of those protections that define liberal democracies.

Finally, Dr Duker will explore the question that animated his work in Egypt: does Islam need a Reformation? He will argue that the frequently restated thesis is false and misguided. Instead of calling for an Islamic Reformation today, we would do better to realize that the Muslim world is currently engaged in a process of Reformation. He will argue that the question isn’t “does Islam need a Reformation.” Rather, we should be asking: “what model of Reformation are we currently witnessing,” and “which models remain open for MENA countries and Islamic sects to roughly approximate in the future?”