Islam in the West Program

About the Program

Dr. Jocelyne Cesari

Dr. Jocelyne Cesari

The Islam in the West (IITW) program is an interfaculty initiative launched in 2003 with funds from the Office of the Provost at Harvard University. The Program’s mission is to enhance our knowledge on Muslim minorities in secular and democratic contexts in the West, assist undergraduate and graduate students from different schools and disciplines find guidance and resources, develop a collaborative group of Harvard faculty members from different disciplines with an interest in the subject, and to advance knowledge in an increasingly important area of research.

Western Europe and North America are home to rapidly expanding Muslim minorities, increasing the need for data on the relationship between Islam and democracy. The Islam in the West Program aims to contribute to the global debate on Islam through an in-depth examination of the religious, political, and social situations of American and European Muslims, and by illuminating the relationships of these communities with the Muslim world at large.

Jocelyne Cesari is Director of Islam in the West and Research Associate at the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program.

Collaboration among faculty and students at the Center for Middle Eastern StudiesCenter for European StudiesDepartment of Anthropology, Department of GovernmentDivinity School, and Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School ensures a robust, multidisciplinary program advancing cutting-edge research in the field.


Islamopedia provides web-based resources on contemporary Islamic thinking. It is a multi-dimensional website which aims to bridge the knowledge gap between Islamic scholars who possess expertise on Islam and Muslims, and media or policy makers who would benefit from this expertise but cannot access it. IslamopediaOnline goes beyond the plethora of “Islam 101” information currently available online and offers a comprehensive but selective database of fatwas and other religious and political decisions from Islamic authorities around the world, complemented by scholarly analyses, news, and educational resources.

The initiative was created by the Islam in the West Program with a Carnegie Corporation grant in 2007 and funded by the SSRC in 2010 and the Minerva Initiative in 2011 and 2012. Since the summer 2012 and because of the success of our country profiles, there has been an increase of visits to IslamopediaOnline reaching the range of 2000 unique visitors per day. The site’s visits come from over 100 different countries.

Euro-Islam was created in 2005 with a grant from the European Commission. It has become a digital clearing house for information and research on Islam and Muslims in Western Europe, the United States and Canada, and is used on a regular basis by researchers, media and policy makers.

In 2012-2-13, it received 100,000 unique visitors and 20% of the traffic is return traffic. The top audience is the US (about 30%), UK (12%), Canada (8%), Germany (4.5%), Spain (4.5%), India, Malaysia and Netherlands (3% each).

Both websites are built by a team of researchers, comprised of students, scholars and fellows, who are responsible for updating the database with new fatwas and commentaries, as well as creating new resources, such as country profiles.


Graduate Workshops

The Islam in the West Graduate Student Workshop provides a forum for graduate students working on topics related to Islam and Muslim communities in North America and Europe, with a particular focus on Muslim political participation and civic engagement. The monthly workshop encourages graduate students and professors to work together.

The primary focus of the 2014-2015 academic year will be to generate a discussion on Islam and democracy by comparing the new socio‐political developments in the Middle East and the reality of Muslim citizens in Europe and America. This comparison will examine the patterns of political participation of Muslims in minority and majority contexts.

The workshop serves as a student‐focused complement to an interdisciplinary research program, housed at the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program and co‐sponsored by the Minda De Gunzburg Center for European Studies and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, in collaboration with Harvard Law School, Harvard Divinity School and the Anthropology Department in FAS. All workshops are convened by Dr. Jocelyne Cesari.

Muslim and Democratic Politics Study Group

The Muslim and Democratic Politics Study Group Study is a joint initiative, co-organized by Hilary Rantisi on behalf of the Middle East Initiative at the Belfer Center, Jocelyne Cesari and Elizabeth Prodromou on behalf of the Center for European Studies. During the 2013-14 academic year, the Study Group aimed to provide an academic forum for faculty, graduate, undergraduate students, fellows and members of the academic community interested on topics related to secularization and the relationship between religion and politics.


  • Encyclopedia of Islam in America: The Islam in the West Program produced a major resource for increasing understanding of American Muslims in the Encyclopedia of Islam in America, a two-volume encyclopedia published in September 2007 by Greenwood Press. It contains the work of more than 30 contributors from across the country, providing readers with information on the religious, political, and cultural life of Muslims in the US.
  • Research: The Muslims in Boston Survey has developed since 2007 as an important pilot study on “Muslims after 9/11: Political Participation and Civic Engagement.” The overarching goal of this project is to gain a better understanding of the multiple ways in which Muslim Americans define themselves as believers, and as citizens, in a non-Muslim society in the post 9/11 context. The project investigates the religious practices, and political and civic participation of American Muslims, with a view to assessing how these factors influence integration into the wider secular society for various Muslim groups. US-based efforts build upon similar research we are conducting in Paris, London, Berlin, and Amsterdam, thus facilitating transnational comparisons regarding the state of Muslim engagement in the Western world. The objective data gathered will have critical implications for the development of more effective policies for encouraging citizenship and discouraging radicalization, thus leading to more healthy and pluralistic societies, in the US and internationally.


Muslims in the West bookbook_cesaricesariEncyclopedia Islam in the USIslam and democracyEuropean IslamMuslims France Cesari