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Understanding the Shia-Sunni conflict

Aug. 30, 2007 – Iranian studies scholar Dr. Vali Nasr will discuss the Shia-Sunni Conflict and how it contributes to the politics of change in the Middle East at the 15th Reza Ali Khazeni Memorial Lecture Series in Iranian Studies. Two lectures will take place on Thursday, September 6 at 4:30 p.m. in the Hinckley Institute of Politics Caucus Room in Orson Spencer Hall, room 255 and Friday, September 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Both lectures are free and open to the public.

Nasr, a specialist on political and social developments in the Muslim world, will examine the roots of the Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict in the Middle East that has followed the Iraq war. His lecture will outline the contours of the conflict in Iraq to explain why sectarian rivalries have escalated into a civil war and have now extended beyond Iraq. Since the start of the war sectarian identities have also shaped politics elsewhere in the region from Afghanistan to the Persian Gulf to Lebanon, as well as fueling Iran-Saudi Arabia rivalry for power and influence in the region.

Sectarianism has added a new layer of complexity to ongoing regional conflicts, influenced the language of politics, defined interests and alliances, colored ideological formulations, and tilted balance of power between communities, actors and states. Nasr will provide a framework for understanding these developments, how they fit in the political map of the region and what is their potential for continuing to influence politics in the Middle East.

Nasr is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and fellow at the Dubai Initiative at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He received his bachelor’s from Tufts University in international relations summa cum laude and was initiated into Phi Beta Kappa in 1983. Nasr earned his master’s from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in international economics and Middle East studies in 1984, and his Ph.D. from M.I.T. in political science in 1991.

The author of The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam will Shape the Future; Democracy in Iran: History and the Quest for Liberty and The Islamic Leviathan: Islam and the Making of State Power among others, Nasr has been the recipient of grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Social Science Research Council. He was a Carnegie Scholar for 2006 and has provided frequent expert commentary to CNN, BBC, National Public Radio, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, ABC News, CBS News and NBC News, and has been a guest on the Frontline, Larry King Live.

Sponsored by the Reza Ali Khazeni Memorial Foundation, College of Humanities and the Middle East Center at University of Utah, the goal of the Reza Ali Khazeni Memorial Lecture Series in Iranian Studies is to introduce the community to Iran’s rich civilization and heritage.

The memorial foundation was established in the memory of Reza Ali Khazeni, who was born in Tehran, Iran on June 7, 1968 and died in Salt Lake City on June 17, 1990. Reza Ali was concerned with social injustice and care of the elderly, homeless and the oppressed. The goal of the foundation is to assist individuals and organizations through grants, scholarships and awards in the study, experience and public discourse of these issues. The lecture series is a partial realization of this goal.

For further information please contact the Reza Ali Khazeni Memorial Foundation at 583-0620 or the Middle East Center at 581-6181.