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Last modified: Wednesday, April 3, 2013

IU professor appointed as scholar at U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

April 3, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Jamsheed K. Choksy, professor of Iranian studies and incoming chair of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, has been chosen as a scholar of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom for 2013.

Jamsheed Choksy

Photo by Aaron Bernstein

Jamsheed K. Choksy

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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world, dedicated to defending the universal right to freedom of religion or belief. It reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations and makes policy recommendations to the president, the secretary of state and Congress.

"IU's exceptional facilities, world-class faculty and inspiring students provide unique opportunities for my research on strategic areas of the developing world. All of them have made this appointment at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom possible, and I remain most grateful," said Choksy, who teaches in IU's School of Global and International Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Choksy serves as a member of the National Council on the Humanities, which oversees all activities of the National Endowment for the Humanities. He also is on the international editorial board of the Encyclopedia Iranica.

"Professor Choksy is an ideal selection for the Commission on International Religious Freedom. He has a rare combination of outstanding scholarly achievement on a wide range of topics that provide him with perspective on the value of religious freedom throughout history," said Larry Singell, dean of the IU College of Arts and Sciences. "He has also written widely on contemporary conflicts that permit him to speak to the importance of religious freedom in today's world. Indiana University is fortunate to have someone of his background and expertise on the commission."

As a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Scholar, Choksy will research the Arab Spring's impact on religious freedom across the Middle East.

"Dictators and monarchs are being ousted, but can sectarianism and communalism be stemmed? Essentially the removal of autocrats is not bringing freedoms essential for individual and collective well being," Choksy said. "Rather, years of tensions hitherto repressed by force are erupting, threatening to fragment transitional societies, and impeding the rise of truly inclusive and representational nations.

"The U.S. has much at stake politically, economically, socially and diplomatically in Egypt, Syria, Kuwait and Bahrain -- all countries in the midst of rapid change -- and in regional allies like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq, plus foes such as Iran, who also are experiencing the impact of restless populations," he added. "Those states require governments that are both legally fair and perceived to be fair by all religious constituencies. Only then can stability, reconciliation and prosperity be achieved. This study will examine possible scenarios and solutions, and then make policy recommendations to the U.S. government."

Choksy has been a recipient of an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, an American Philosophical Society Fellowship, and two research grants from the American Academy of Religion.

His research examines the development of sectarian communities in Central Asia, the Near East and South Asia -- where he has traveled extensively -- through interdisciplinary approaches involving anthropology, archaeology, history, languages, linguistics, literatures, numismatics and religious studies.