In 1993, seminal political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote, “Islamic concepts of politics differ from and contradict the premises of democratic politics.” (The Third Wave, Page 267).

Fast forward 25 years. The Muslim-majority nations are now more democratic than ever. Arab Spring has unleashed new dynamics noting both progress and reversals. There is a simultaneous rise of political freedoms and authoritarianism in the Muslim world. The generalized assertion that Huntington made about incompatibility between Islamic politics and democratic politics may have been outlived by the experience. The real question now is not an ideological one, but more empirical. How Muslim societies have dealt with Islamic Democrats in power and how they have been transformed after assuming power?

Istanbul Network for Liberty is pleased to announce its fifth international conference on “Democratic Transitions in the Muslim World” to discuss one of the most sensitive issues of international politics today: compatibility of Muslim societies with the liberal democracy. The conference will be organized by Istanbul Network for Liberty on 27th-28th November 2017 in collaboration with the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) at IAIS, Kuala Lumpur.

This document presents tentative agenda of the conference along with abstracts and profiles of authors, academics and scholars who have confirmed their participation in the conference. For any inquiries, please write to CEO, Istanbul Network for Liberty, Ali Salman at

Democratic Transitions in the Muslim World

Conference Agenda


27 November 2017

8.30 AM

Registration & Refreshments

9.00 AM

9.30 AM

Welcome Remarks & Overview of Conference

Ali Salman, CEO of Istanbul Network

Professor Dr. Mohammad Hashim Kamali, CEO International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies

Opening Address

Malaysia: Roots of a Democratic Society

YAM Tunku Zain Al-‘Abidin ibni Tuanku Muhriz

Keynote Address

‘Religion and State are Twin Brothers’: Classical Muslim Political Theory

Dr. Muhammad Khalid Masud

Former Director General Islamic Research Institute, and former Chairman of Council of Islamic Ideology, Pakistan

10.30 AM

Morning Tea & Group Photo

11.00 AM

Session 1: History of Democratic Transition

Chair: Abdulwahab Alkebsi (Deputy Director, CIPE, Washington DC)

“Democratic Transition in the Muslim World: Prerequisites and Obstacles”

Dr. Syed Farid al-Atas, National University of Singapore

“Deconstructing a Dilemma: Democracy versus Islam”

Dr. Alim Yilmaz, Middle East Technical University, Turkey

“Political Attitudes of Islamism: A Brief Historical Perspective within Democratization”

Dr. Hasan Yucel Basdemir, Board Member, Quarterly Liberal Thought, Turkey

12.30 PM


1.30 PM

Session 2: Narrative on Islam and Democracy

Chair: Ozlem Caglar Yilmaz (General Coordinator, Association for Liberal Thinking, Turkey)

“Democratic Transitions: Are There Recipes for Success?

Dr. Deina Abdelkader, Middle East Center at Harvard University, USA

“Re-reading the relation between Islam and Democracy in a critical way: The Hermeneutical Alternative”
Dr. Kemal Bayram, Associate Professor, Marmara University, Turkey

“The rise and fall of the Iranian Reformists”

Dr. Seyed Emamian, Sharif University of Technology, Tehran

“The Nurturing of Democratic Ethos: The Challenges of Empowering Democratic Ideas in Malay-Indonesian Societies”

Dr. Azhar Ibrahim, National University of Singapore

3.00 PM

Tea Break

3:30 PM

Session 3: Socio-economic currents behind Transition

Chair: Dina Zaman (Executive Director, IMAN Research, Malaysia)

“Is Democracy Alien to Muslims?”

Dr. Khalil Ahmad, Pakistan

“Delivering on promises to the Muslim middle class: who’s delivering to whom”

Elma Berisha, Asian Institute of Finance, Malaysia

“Democracy in Bosnia: Updates from a Muslim country in Europe”

Dr. Edo Omercevic, Executive Director, Center for Advancement of Free Enterprise, Bosnia and Herzegovina

5.00 PM

DAY 1 Concludes


28 November 2017

8.30 AM

Networking & Refreshments

9.00 AM

Keynote Address

Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf
General Secretary of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Supreme Council, Indonesia

10.00 AM

Session 1: Islamic Political Parties

Chair: Dr. Maszlee Malik (International Islamic University, Malaysia)

“Islamic Political Parties through the lens of their Electoral Manifestos  in Pakistan”

Dr. Husnul Amin, Executive Director, Iqbal International Institute for Research and Dialogue (IRD), Pakistan

“Evolution of Islamism in Malaysian Politics: The Splintering of the Islamic Party of Malaysia and the Spread of Progressive Ideas”
Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Senior Visiting Fellow, ISEAS, Singapore

“Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazal) Pakistan: From Political Conservatism to Modernity: A Case Study from 2002–2017”

Fida Ur Rahman, Qurtuba University of Science & IT, Pakistan

11.30 AM

Tea Break

12.00 PM

Session2: Islamic Political Parties

Chair: Dr. Deina Abdelkader (Middle East Center at Harvard University, USA)

“AK Party’s Democratization Perspective: Plus and Minuses”

Dr. Abdurrahman Babacan, Istanbul Medipol University, Turkey



“A Critical Assessment of Hamas’ ‘Democratic Transformation’ and its Impact on Palestinian Politics”

Dr. Nehad Khanfar, Middlesex University, London

1.00 PM


2.00 PM

Session 3: Religious Freedom, Radicalization and Democratic Fundamentals

Chair: Abdulwahab Alkebsi (Deputy Director, CIPE)

“Jakarta Local Election 2017: Revival of Radical Islamism and Islamist Agenda?”

Muhammed Iksan, Paramadina University, Indonesia

“Islam and Peace: Constructing Alternative Narrative in Pakistan”

Dr. Imdad Hussain, Forman Christian College University, Pakistan

“Criminalization of Diverse Opinion in Developing Countries through Judicial Framework: Bangladesh Perspective”

Dr. M. Shahadat Hossain, Bangladesh Islami University, Bangladesh

“Democratization of Post-Taliban Afghanistan: Prospects and Challenges”

Professor Dr. Wahahuddin Ra’ees, Department of Political Science, International Islamic University, Malaysia

3.30 PM


4.00 PM

Session 4: Consequences of Political Islam

Chair: Dr. Mohd. Farid Mohd Shahran (Director, Institute for Understanding of Islam in Malaysia, IKIM)

“Rise of the Islamists and Democratisation of the Arab World in the Post-Arab Spring: Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt from Politics to Prison”

Dr. Rafiullah Azmi, Jamia Millia Islamia, India

“Evolving Interplay of Islam and Politics from Islamist to Islamic Democrats”

Waqas Ahmad, International Islamic University, Pakistan

“From Political Islam to Democrat Muslim: A Case Study of Rashid Ghannouchi’s Influence on ABIM, IKRAM, AMANAH and DAP”

Dr. Maszlee Malik, International Islamic University Malaysia

5.30 PM

Vote of thanks

Dr. Mohamed Azam

Deputy CEO, IAIS

Wan Saiful Wan Jan
Chairman, Istanbul Network for Liberty

6.oo PM




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