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Meet the Fellows: 2016 Newcombe Fellow Ahmed Ibrahim

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This is one of a series of posts featuring Fellows from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation network.

The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation is the nation’s largest and most prestigious award for Ph. D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values. The 2016 class of Fellows includes Ahmed Ibrahim, a Ph.D. candidate at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. When deciding on his research, Mr. Ibrahim felt an anthropological approach was the best way to explore the Shari’a courts of his homeland:

I was born in a small town in southern Somalia in the 1980s. After the collapse of the state in early 1991 and the ensuing conflict, many Somalis sought refuge in neighboring countries. After spending a few years in the refugee camps in Kenya, my family was eventually resettled in the U.S.

In 2006, I was in the middle of my undergraduate studies when a group of Shari’a courts united and suddenly took over Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia. Since the collapse of the state in 1991 Mogadishu had been the playground of warlords and militias. So when the courts came on the scene and evicted the warlords out of the city many Somalis, both at home and in the diaspora, greeted this development with excitement. The Shari’a courts experiment was short lived, however, as they were disbanded under an Ethiopian invasion ni late 2006.

In the course of my undergraduate studies I developed a keen interest in religion and in particular Islamic movements. I decided to pursue this interest further in graduate school by focusing on the Shari’a court movement in Mogadishu. Anthropology, because of its in-depth methodological approach, was best suited to the kind of in-depth and on the ground research I wanted to undertake. I spent a year and half between 2014 and 2015 doing research on the Shari’a courts.

Mr. Ibrahim’s dissertation title is The Shari’a Courts of Mogadishu: Beyond “African Islam” and “Islamic Law.” For more information on the 2016 Newcombe Fellows and to see a list of their dissertation titles, click here.


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