March 25, 2005 Lamin Sanneh to Discuss "Sacred Truth and Secular Agency: Shaí'ah Norms and Political Enforcement" On April 7

Sanneh Is a Scholar in the Library's John W. Kluge Center

Press Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940
Public Contact: Robert Saladini (202) 707-2692

Lamin Sanneh, holder of the Chair of Countries and Cultures of the South at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress and D. Willis James Professor of Missions & World Christianity and professor of history at Yale University, will discuss “Sacred Truth and Secular Agency: Sharí’ah Norms and Political Enforcement” at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, in Room 119 of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.

The event, which is sponsored by the Kluge Center, is free and open to the public; no reservations are required.

In the current debate occurring within the Muslim world, there are differences of opinion about the role and identity of Islamic states as well as their future direction. According to Sanneh, Islamic fundamentalists blame national secular states for fragmenting contemporary Muslim global identity, which is leading to the West’s worldwide domination. To counteract this domination, Sanneh believes that these same fundamentalists endorse the establishment of an Islamic state, preferably a caliphate, under Sharí’ah penal law (Islamic code) along with the reinstatement of a Pax Islamica, which would prevent the West from further dominating their societies.

Moderates, Sanneh contends, believe that Sharí’ah enforcement could conflict with personal religious freedom and with the rights of equal citizenship for all, and they object to the politicization of religion for short-term gain. Sharí’ah as revealed law should be safeguarded from the consequences of political manipulation for personal gain. According to Sanneh, moderates, among them many of the leading jurists in Islam, have adopted a middle course by distinguishing “sacred truth” from “secular agency.” Religion as revealed truth is too significant for it not to affect all of life, but also too important for the state to co-opt as a human construct.

In his talk, Sanneh will use Nigeria as a case study to expand his theme.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate and energize scholarly discussion, distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and interact with policymakers in Washington. The Kluge Center houses senior Kluge Chairs, other senior-level chairs, senior distinguished scholars and nearly 25 postdoctoral fellows. For more information about any of the fellowships, grants and programs offered by the John W. Kluge Center, contact the Office of Scholarly Programs, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, DC 20540-4860; telephone (202) 707-3302, fax (202) 707-3595, or visit the Web at


PR 05-059
ISSN 0731-3527