The Wheatley Institution

Sustaining Moderate Islam Symposium

April 5, 2012 at 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM

Assembly Hall, Hinckley Center

Participants include:

General John P. Abizaid

John P. Abizaid retired from the U.S. Army in May 2007 after thirty-four years of active service. At the time of his retirement, Abizaid was the longest-serving commander of U.S. Central Command, with responsibility for an area spanning twenty-seven countries in the Middle East, Southwest Asia, and the Horn of Africa. During a distinguished career, he commanded units at every level, serving in the combat zones of Grenada, Lebanon, Kurdistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Units under his command have included the 1st Infantry Division, a brigade in the 82nd Airborne Division, and two Ranger companies. Abizaid worked on the Joint Staff three times, the last as director. Following graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he rose from second lieutenant of infantry to four-star general.

He studied at the University of Jordan in Amman, received a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies from Harvard University, and is widely considered to be an expert in the field of Middle Eastern affairs. As such, Abizaid was one of the first to recognize the protracted nature of the ongoing conflict against religious-inspired extremists, which he once termed “The Long War.” He serves as the Distinguished Chair of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, is a Distinguished Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and works with the Preventative Defense Project at Stanford University and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Through the Washington Speakers’ Bureau, Abizaid is a sought-after speaker on leadership and international security.

A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies, he also serves as a director of the George Olmsted Foundation. Through his consulting company, JPA Partners LLC, Abizaid advises small businesses through Fortune 500 companies nationally and internationally, and serves as a board member for both USAA and RPM, Inc.

Khosrow B. Semnani

Khosrow Bayegan Semnani is a distinguished businessman and community leader residing in Salt Lake City, Utah. His business and corporate career expands over 30 years, beginning with the creation of S.K. Hart Engineering in 1980, leading to establishment of Envirocare of Utah in 1988. Envirocare quickly developed into the largest low-level nuclear waste disposal facility in the United States, processing and disposing of between 500,000 and 600,000 cubic yards annually. The company had a significant impact on Utah’s economy, bringing much needed capital to the state. In 2005 Semnani sold the company to a private consortium now known as the Energy Solutions, to focus on other business ventures and his philanthropic endeavors.

What distinguishes Semnani is his strong commitment to supporting a variety of community projects and initiatives. In 2005, he founded the Maliheh Free Clinic, a clinic devoted to providing access to quality medical care for those without healthcare in the community. Today the clinic is run almost entirely by volunteer doctors, nurses and support staff who have treated over 70,000 patients. 

He and his wife Ghazaleh also created the Semnani Family Foundation as an international foundation committed to helping solve some of the most troubling women and children’s global health and education issues. The foundation has supported and worked with the Catholic Relief Agency and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, among others, in extending humanitarian efforts worldwide. The Semnani Foundation has been awarded many accolades among which is  the Circle of Humanitarians award from the Red Cross in appreciation for their generous annual giving and support of Red Cross humanitarian efforts throughout the world. 

Semnani has also been a leader in providing funding and support to Islamic communities in Salt Lake City, and building of the Khadija mosque. He has also been a supporter of Brigham Young University’s Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) in translating ancient Persian and Arabic literature into English, as well as other projects that help build bridges between the United States and the Muslim world.  He also works extensively on human rights issues in his native country of Iran and around the world.

He has also served for eight years as Vice Chairman and for three years as Chairman of The Board of Trustees for Encyclopedia Iranica. Located at Columbia University, the Encyclopedia is a comprehensive research tool dedicated to the study of Iranian civilization in the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. He is currently a member of the National Advisory Board of the Middle East Center at University of Utah.

After completing his high school education in Iran, he earned a dual Bachelor of Science Degrees in Chemistry and Physics from Westminster College, and a Masters of Engineering Administration Degree from the University of Utah in 1977.  He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science degree from Southern Utah University for his outstanding work in the field of nuclear waste management. The Semnanis have three sons, and live in the Salt Lake area.

Asma Afsaruddin

Asma Afsaruddin is professor of Islamic Studies and chairperson of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University, Bloomington.  She received her Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the Johns Hopkins University in 1993 and previously taught at Harvard and Notre Dame universities.

Professor Afsaruddin is the author and/or editor of six books, including the forthcoming Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); the recently published Islam, the State and Political Authority: Medieval Issues and Modern Concerns (New York: Palgrave, 2011); The First Muslims: History and Memory (Oxford: OneWorld Publications 2008); and Excellence and Precedence: Medieval Islamic Discourse on Legitimate Leadership (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2002).  She has also written over fifty research articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries exploring issues as diverse as pluralism and dialogue in the Qur’an, moderation in Islamic thought; exegetical, legal, and ethical approaches to war and peace in Islam, political Islam and democracy, hadith criticism, roles of Muslim women, and Muslim-Christian relations. She lectures widely in the US, Europe, and the Middle East on these topics and frequently consults with US governmental and private agencies and media outlets on contemporary Islamic thought, inter-faith, and gender issues.

Afsaruddin is currently a senior editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Women (2012), chair of the board of directors of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, member of the advisory board of the Intertwined Worlds project based at the Woolf Institute, Cambridge University, and a member of the academic council of the Prince al-Waleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. Her research has been funded among others by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which named her a Carnegie Scholar in 2005.

Douglas M. Johnston

Douglas M. Johnston is President and Founder of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD) and a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Wheatley Institution. Prior to that he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Johnston has a broad range of executive experience in government, academia and the military, starting with ten years in the submarine service where, at the age of 27, he was the youngest officer in the US Navy to qualify for command of a nuclear submarine. Among his assignments in government, Johnston was a planning officer in the President’s Office of Emergency Preparedness, Director of Policy Planning and Management in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower). In academia, he taught international affairs and security at Harvard University and was the Founding Director of the Kennedy School’s Executive Program in National and International Security.

He is known for developing a new synergy for peacemaking based on the joint contributions of religion and politics, as articulated in his seminal work Religion: The Missing Dimension of Statecraft (Oxford University Press, 1994). Johnston has edited and authored several other books as well, including Foreign Policy into the 21st Century: The U.S. Leadership Challenge (CSIS, 1996); Faith-based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik (Oxford University Press, 2003); and Religion, Terror, and Error: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Challenge of Spiritual Engagement (Praeger Security International, 2011).

A distinguished graduate of the US Naval Academy, Johnston holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard University.

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