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Hameed O. Agberemi - Interview
Describe your motivations for conducting this research project?
For believing Muslims, religion suffuses every facet of life and no system of rights that ignores this is able to secure the legitimacy required for it to be considered worthy of adoption or enforcement. I believe secular approaches that discount religion in efforts geared towards the protection of human rights in Islamizing societies are doomed to fail. An earnest engagement of religion, even though problematic, is inevitable. As the political psychology of globalization and hegemony are brought more sharply into focus for Muslims through the exercise of power over politics, media, and discourse globally, contestations have strengthened considerably and are today witnessed within Islamisms mainly through the politics of recognition. The control over women's roles, appearance, and sexuality is central to the identity politics of resistance. So are the re-definition of the non-Muslim other and the intensification of difference - with the rise in exclusion and strife that this generates. Activism by secular human rights actors is perceived as no more than a Western effort to impose its values on Muslim society to serve an imperial political and cultural hegemony; and is thus hotly resisted. Because of internal diversity, possibilities abound to draw on Islam's own resources to mediate between the specificity and exclusivity that religion would ordinarily dictate and the universality required by human rights. Such possibilities will not fall under the charge of symbolizing an imposed foreign agenda. Successfully achieving this mediation in practical advocacy is not only possible, it is imperative to preserve any chance of peace, development, and societal well-being in Southwestern Nigeria.
What is your research plan for the project?
The first three months are being spent developing a conceptual model for mapping out existing attitudes and designing advocacy activities. The six-month field work will involve engaging Islamists, lawyers, social scientists, and human rights activists to test out my model. At present, I am working on the conceptual model.
Describe the biggest challenge that you've experienced thus far during your research efforts.
My greatest challenge has been how to anticipate possible methodological problems that may arise during actual research implementation.
Along the way, how has your design or idea for research evolved?
Initially, my research-project had been focused on exploration, basically evaluation and assessment. Gradually, it became obvious that its advocacy component would have to be substantial for the project outcome to be as meaningful as I would desire. I have had to redesign the project as I have proceeded.
What do you think might be the biggest challenges that you'll face during your field research?
The biggest challenge is bound to come from the cynicism that pervades Muslim society about the place of human rights in a global context where the effects of power are so obvious, violations of human rights are so widespread, and even the most longstanding champions have flouted human rights and international legality with impunity. I must hope that this can be overcome. I am equally hopeful that my fieldwork will not be too adversely affected by the logistical problems that may arise from continuing economic and socio-political crises in Nigeria, ranging from fuel and electric power-shortages to frequent total strikes by workers.
What are your future-plans for the project or for work in the broad field of human rights?
I intend to continue my involvement in advocacy in the long-term, as well as take up extensive writing. I also wish to later begin teaching and consulting.
What specific results do you expect to see at the conclusion or your research?
I am for now unable to determine any specifics, but I expect broad confirmation of both the legitimacy and workability of a rights paradigm within Islamism in Southwestern Nigeria.
How might your conceptual model and field research be implemented and communicated in various communities and contexts, and in your homeland?
I will be doing a considerable amount of writing. I also intend to write at least a book on my findings. The first book will be discussed at various levels of government, within the Islamist intellectual community as well as in the larger academic community. Given my involvement in the Nigerian Peace and Conflict Studies community and my interactions with numerous Muslim groups, I believe my work will be a significant contribution within the context of ongoing social transformations. Since for the community- the overwhelming majority of whom are believers- human rights can only have their moral depth when connected to religion, I expect that my work will be a resource for human rights organizations as well.
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Hameed O. Agberemi - Research-in-Progress Documents
Presentation - "Overcoming Obstacles to the Articulation of Human Rights in Islamizing Societies Within the Global Context of American Power and International Islamist Jihad"
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