IBL Chair of Contemporary Islam

The Faculty of Political Sciences at Ghent University has a long tradition of research on the non-Western world. The ‘Conflict and Development’ department researches processes of political change in the global South. The Middle East and North Africa Research Group, under the leadership of Prof. Sami Zemni, focuses on the Middle East and North Africa.

It goes without saying today that this region, the European Union’s closest neighbour, is not only crucially important in terms of geopolitics but is also related to many challenges and questions on a societal level. The Arab spring revolutions that began around a decade ago have had palpable impacts even in our own cities and villages. The Syrian uprising that led to the largest flow of refugees since the Second World War also raises many questions for European and Belgian populations. Migration, a phenomenon that has obviously been around for far longer, has also had an impact on how people of different origins live together, often with different religious or cultural customs and habits. The major political shifts in the Middle East are also related to social issues in our own society: from the radicalisation of young people who want to take up arms against the Assad regime in Syria to questions regarding the place and role of Islam in society,... such questions often lead to heated and difficult debates. 

Gaining a better understanding of the current changes in Islamic thought that have a significant impact on political processes in the Middle East and North Africa can help both parties develop a better understanding, and also can also help stimulate problem-solving knowledge in a world where conflicts continue to break out.


To consolidate the teaching and research of the Middle East and North Africa Research Group by awarding doctoral grants for three years, and postdoctoral grants for 2 years. These grants are necessary in order to better understand current changes within Islam and to make this knowledge accessible in an adequate manner both through teaching as well as externally (public opinion, media).

To consolidate and improve the effectiveness of research and dissemination of this knowledge through teaching and to the general public.

To develop structural collaboration with the CISMOC - Centre interdisciplinaire d'études de l'Islam dans le monde contemporain (IACCHOS) (Prof. Brigitte Maréchal) of UCLouvain.


InBev-Baillet Latour Fund


2015-2021 (prolonged in 2018)


Prof. Sami Zemni is professor in political and social sciences, affiliated with the Centre for Conflict and Development Studies where is coordinator of The Middle East and North Africa Research Group (MENARG). His field of expertise is the Middle East and North Africa, with a particular interest in political Islam. He focuses in particular on developments in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and also on democratisation as well as conflict in the Arab world. As former director of the Centre for Islam in Europe (CIE, 2002-2007), he has also written on issues of migration, integration, racism and Islamophobia.