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Islamic Law: An Examination of Human Rights Issues in Today’s Muslim Societies

December 22, 2017

Portrait: Hassan Abdel Salam

Portrait: Hassan Abdel Salam
Photo by Cullen Kobayashi, CLAgency student

At an early age Hassan Abdel Salam was exposed to multiple languages like English, French, and Arabic. He and his family regularly engaged with neighbors from multiple religious faiths. Growing up in this multicultural area of Quebec, Hassan was immersed in a diverse community throughout his childhood, and this upbringing ignited his interest in studying human rights. 

Assistant Professor Abdel Salam joined the faculty in the Institute of Global Studies and the Department of Sociology this fall. “One of my main areas of research is examining the relationship between the history of Islamic law and how it interacts with human rights,” says Abdel Salam. “I am thinking about this not only from a historical standpoint or comparative approach, but also about how Islamic jurists and everyday Muslims conceptualize human rights.”

“I’m also looking at the relationship between moral ideas and Islamic law,” he says. Abdel Salam examines Islamic legal rulings, called fatwas, in his research to see how orthodox Muslims perceive human rights. He plans to interview Islamic jurists, clerics, and imams and study their Islamic legal opinions on human rights questions. Abdel Salam intends to begin these interviews in the United States in early 2018. 

As part of his research agenda, Abdel Salam also intends to investigate how Islamophobia escalates to genocide. Myanmar is the focal point of this research, where the Rohingya people are undergoing mass persecution by the Myanmar army and police. The Rohingya make up a small percentage of the country’s population and are being targeted for being Muslim. “I am trying to understand how memories are being changed and how people go from being part of society to being displaced. Currently, countless refugees are fleeing the country,” Abdel Salam says.

Through his research specific to the United States, Abdel Salam hopes to examine how devout Muslims in the contemporary era conceptualize religious devotion and how they express their faith in regions where they are a minority. “I’m interested in conducting ethnographic research, as well as conducting interviews with American Muslims,” he says. “The hope is to explore how Muslims express their devotion within American society.” In the process Abdel Salam intends to also explore how American Muslims cope and struggle with Islamophobia. 

Abdel Salam looks forward to exploring his research questions here at the University of Minnesota. “It’s pretty amazing to be able to conduct my research in Minneapolis, a city that has a substantial Muslim population,” he says. “I’m intrigued to see how this particular community of American Muslims and migrants are connected to events, movements, and phenomena in the Muslim world.”

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.