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The Myth of 'Muslim Exceptionalism': A Critique

Date & Time:
January 18, 2019 | 2:00 pm
CHD 420
Dr. Mojtaba Mahdavi, ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies & Associate-Professor of Political Science (University of Alberta)


A decade after the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, the region remains in a deep and profound crisis. The “quiet encroachment” of counterrevolutionary forces and the consolidation of autocratic regimes have largely replaced hope with despair, and excitement with resentment. Such catastrophic conditions have contributed to the revival of an old Orientalist discourse of “Muslim Exceptionalism,” implying that Muslims are essentially and exceptionally immune to democratic movements, values and institutions, and “Islamic mindset” and modernity are mutually exclusive. This presentation problematizes the intellectual foundations of such arguments and provides an alternative account of contemporary Muslim contexts.


Dr. Mojtaba Mahdavi is the author and editor of numerous works on post-Islamism, contemporary social movements and democratization in the Middle East and North Africa, and modern Islamic political thought. He is the co-editor of Towards the Dignity of Difference: Neither ‘End of History’ nor ‘Clash of Civilizations’, and the guest-editor of Contemporary Social Movements in the Middle East and Beyond, among others. More information on his works can be found in: and

Sponsored by: Chair of Ethnic Studies, Department of Sociology, School of Languages, Linguistics, Literature & Cultures, Department of Religious Studies