Since the Republic of Azerbaijan’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Dr. Nariman Gasimoglu, a renowned Qur’anic scholar and leading intellectual in Azerbaijan’s pro-democracy movement, has immersed himself in scholarly and public discourse on democratization and the role of Islam in Azerbaijani society. Throughout his academic career, he has risked his own security to pursue research on these controversial topics.
In September 2012, Dr. Gasimoglu began an IIE-SRF fellowship at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, where he is expanding his most recent work on “Commonalities between the Bible and the Koran from Ecotheological Perspectives”. He was previously awarded an IIE-SRF fellowship in 2007 at the Central European University in Budapest that allowed him to conduct research on “The Koran in Non-Arabic Languages: Linguistic and Theological Challenges” and to revise the first-ever Azeri translation of the Qur’an. Upon returning to Azerbaijan, his theological challenge to conservative religious interpretations on hot-button social, religious and political issues once again resulted in threats to his security.
After earning a Ph.D. in the Modern Political History of the Middle East from the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Sciences in 1986, Dr. Gasimoglu quickly established himself as a preeminent analyst on Islamic thought and practice in the post-Soviet states, publishing widely on topics ranging from comparative theology to Palestinian political history in books, academic journals, and magazines. In addition, he has played a leading role in defending democracy, women’s rights, environmental stewardship and pluralism in Azerbaijan today, and is the founder and chairman of the Azerbaijan Center for Religion and Democracy, a non-governmental organization focused on democracy building, civil society development and countering fundamentalist currents amongst Azeri youth. A colleague at the University of Baku lauds him as “one of the best, if not the best, Koranic scholar in the former Soviet Union” and “one of the very few barriers preventing the spread of fundamentalism in southern Russia and in Central Asia.”
Dr. Gasimoglu has taught Arabic and Qur’anic studies at several Azerbaijani institutions of higher education, including Khazar University, the Higher Diplomatic College, and Baku State University. His international academic experience includes a Fulbright research fellowship at California State University Northridge, and a visiting professorship at Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, as well as participation in academic conferences in Europe, Central Asia, and North and South America.