Dr. Maimul Ahsan Khan
Area of Study:
Maimul Ahsan Khan is currently Professor of Law at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. His expertise ranges from human rights to Muslim legal issues and the law and politics of the Middle East, Central and South Asia. Since beginning his academic career in1988, he has had extensive experience lecturing in Bangladesh and in the U.S. (1998-2006), and has authored over 20 books and scholarly articles in English, Russian, and Bengali, including Human Rights in the Muslim World: Fundamentalism, Constitutionalism, and International Politics (2003), which was described by reviewer Charles Howard as “a useful resource on constitutionalism and Islamic History, law and theology”. Professor Khan’s most recent book, Islamic Financing and Banking: From Traditional Views to Arab Spring was published by Lincoln University College Press in March 2012.
As a student in the former Soviet Union and later as a professor in Bangladesh, he refused to remain silent when he observed political interference in higher education. Endemic corruption in the established systems of governance particularly in education and the judiciary had pushed him to be a social activist “with no political ambition”.
As a leading scholar of jurisprudence and comparative law, he was Chair of the Law Department at the University of Dhaka and advocated legal reforms aimed at making university education and governance in Bangladesh less corrupt. His work on human rights issues and his open opposition to a number of government policies led to increasing hostility towards him, first within the university and then from the government itself. Threats from all directions and levels of the university administration soon left him professionally vulnerable and isolated. When he refused to yield to partisan pressures, he faced more immediate and violent acts of intimidation from armed student branches. Fearing for his life and the well-being of his family, he left the country, hoping that the situation would improve enough to allow a quick return. He secured a position as a visiting Fulbright scholar at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and also served as a visiting scholar at Hokkaido University in the spring of 1999.
During his time abroad it became clear that the situation in Bangladesh remained too dangerous for his return and he received notice from the university that he had lost his professorship. In 2002, he applied to the newly-founded Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) for assistance. SRF, in partnership with the Scholars at Risk Network, approached the University of California at Davis, which was eager to have Professor Khan join the faculty with a co-hosting partnership with the University of California at Berkeley. Invited to continue beyond the SRF fellowship as Professor in the School of Law at UC Davis, he taught at there until 2006 and completed a Master’s degree in International Commercial Law. While in the U.S., he also served as a Country Specialist on Afghanistan for Amnesty International. In spite of persistent challenges in Bangladesh, he was able to return and eventually secured his position in the University of Dhaka’s Department of Law.
Professor Khan was awarded his Ph.D. in 1985 from Tashkent State University for his research on jurisprudence, with special emphasis on Islamic legal postulates as applied in the constitutional development of Middle Eastern countries. He has often been invited as a guest speaker and taken part in lessons provided by different religious communities such as the U.S.-based Mormon, Quaker, Methodist, and Bahai communities. His appreciation for communication across religions informed his book entitled The Vision and Impact of Fethullah Gülen: A New Paradigm for Social Activism (NY, 2011), which illuminates the necessity of interfaith-dialogue between world religions, an endeavor first propounded by the Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Chicago in 1893.
IIE and the SRF are pleased to have the opportunity to celebrate some of the accomplishments Professor Khan has achieved during and since he received one of the program’s inaugural fellowships ten years ago.