Wright State faculty member Awad Halabi wins Fellowship award to conduct research in Jerusalem on Islamic activist

Awad Halabi, associate professor of history and religion in the College of Liberal Arts

Awad Halabi, Ph.D., associate professor of history and religion at Wright State University, received a Fellowship award to conduct research in Jerusalem focusing on an Islamic activist who reflects historical shifts in Palestinian identity.

The $7,000 US Fellowship award from the U.S.-based Palestine American Research Center will enable Halabi to work in Jerusalem and possibly Amman, Jordan, next spring for up to four months.

“My research focuses on an Islamic activist who reflects the shifts in Palestinian identity from the late-Ottoman period in Palestine to the end of British rule after World War II,” said Halabi.

The study will examine the life of Arab and political figure Shaykh `Abd al-Qadir al-Muzaffar from 1917 to 1949.

“The research can reveal how this historical figure shaped questions about national identity, colonialism and religious practice in Palestine from the closing days of Ottoman rule to the end of British colonialism,” Halabi said.

Al-Muzaffar began his political career as a mufti (legal scholar) in the Fourth Ottoman army. Immediately after World War I, he attempted to recruit the new Arab government in Damascus to support the Palestinian cause against Zionism.

During British rule in Palestine, he became an active supporter of the Palestinian national movement and served in prominent Islamic and nationalist groups. Throughout this period, he met with high-ranking British officials, led political demonstrations and delivered public speeches and sermons.

“His contribution to these issues emerges from his unique ability to blend his stature as a religious leader who easily incorporated religious rhetoric and idioms to address modern political issues,” said Halabi.

During the British mandate in Palestine, al-Muzaffar exemplified how Palestinian political leaders, particularly the elite, promoted a conservative form of diplomatic opposition to British colonial rule, avoiding militancy and violence.

Halabi’s current project, “Palestinian Rituals of Identity: The Prophet Moses Festival in Jerusalem, 1850–1948,” examines the different social and political groups that participated in Palestine’s largest Islamic celebration. It is under review with The University of Texas Press.

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