Jarislowsky Chair in Religion and Cultural Change

The Jarislowsky Chair in Religion and Cultural Change was established in 2006 thanks to a generous contribution from Stephen A. Jarislowsky to Simon Fraser University. The Chair is intended to promote interdisciplinary research and programming focused on the intersection of religion, politics, and social transformation, broadly defined.

The Jarislowsky Chair is held by Professor Tamir Moustafa, who came to SFU from the University of Wisconsin in 2007. Moustafa’s current research explores the public debates that are generated as a result of dual constitutional commitments to Islamic law and liberal rights in Malaysia and Egypt. In both countries, constitutional provisions enshrining Islamic law and liberal rights lay the seeds for legal friction, and courtrooms serve as important sites of contention between groups with competing visions for their states and societies. The project explores how litigation provokes and shapes competing conceptions of national and religious identity, resolves or exacerbates contending visions of Islamic law, and ultimately bolsters or undermines public perceptions of government legitimacy. Moustafa’s research is additionally supported through the Carnegie Corporation of New York, as a Carnegie Research Scholar.

The Jarislowsky endowment also supports lectures and other programming along the theme of religion and cultural change. In its first two years, over a dozen events were organized, including a major international workshop on “The Decline of Secularism in Egypt,” which featured a keynote address by Dr. Adel Omar Sherif, Deputy Chief Justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt. The Jarislowsky lecture in Religion and Cultural Change also brings leading public intellectuals and/or social activists to deliver major lectures to SFU and the broader Vancouver public. In 2009, the Jarislowsky endowment co-sponsored a lecture by Tariq Ramadan and in 2010 SFU hosted Zainah Anwar, founder of the group Sisters in Islam and Musawah, the global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family.