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Book Panel — Entangled Domains by Rabiat Akande

January 24, 2023 

Book Launch and Panel Discussion — Entangled Domains: Empire, Law and Religion in Northern Nigeria

12:30pm to 2:00pm, Room 2027, Osgoode Hall Law School

Remote participation (by Zoom) also available

Registration Required:


Please join us for this book launch and panel discussion of Professor Rabiat Akande’s new book, Entangled Domains. Set in Colonial Northern Nigeria, this book confronts a paradox: the state insisted on its separation from religion even as it governed its multireligious population through what remained of the precolonial caliphate. Entangled Domains grapples with this history to offer a provocative account of secularism as a contested yet contingent mode of governing religion and religious difference. Drawing on detailed archival research, Rabiat Akande vividly illustrates constitutional struggles triggered by the colonial state’s governance of religion and interrogates the legacy of that governance agenda in the postcolonial state. This book is a novel commentary on the dynamic interplay between law, faith, identity, and power in the context of the modern state’s emergence from colonial processes.


Sam Moyn, Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and History, Yale University

Bonny Ibhawoh, Senator William McMaster Chair in Global Human Rights, McMaster University

Pamela Klassen, Professor and Chair, Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

Rabiat Akande, Assistant Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School


“Neutralizing Secularism: Religious Liberty and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” – Prof. Rabiat Akande (January 26, 2022)

January 26, 2022

“Neutralizing Secularism: Religious Liberty and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”

Professor Rabiat Akande
Via Zoom


Contestations pitting the notions of secularism and religious freedom against each other are ubiquitous in the contemporary world. This tension was, in fact, integral to the making of the modern notion of religious liberty in the aftermath of the Second World War. Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the paradigmatic legal encapsulation of the modern notion of religious liberty, was the product of an impassioned contestation between a Protestant ecumenical movement keen on securing the prerogative to spread the gospel to the “non-Christian world” on the one hand, and, on the other, a secularism in a peculiar alliance with the colonial state in Muslim Africa, an area of the world that held immense attraction for the global missionary enterprise. Through the lens of struggles between global protestant missionaries, transnational Muslim elites, and imperial administrators, this talk offers an alternative history of the modern notion of religious liberty, intervening in debates over the history of human rights and its place in the genealogy of religious liberty and secularism.

Rabiat Akande
 is an Assistant Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School. She works in the fields of legal history, law and religion, Islamic law and (Post)Colonial African law and society. Her forthcoming book is Constitutional Entanglements: Empire, Law and Religion in British Northern Nigeria (Cambridge University Press). 

The LRST is supported through the funds of the York Research Chair in Pluralism and Public Law

“Jews, Justice, and U.S. Indian Law” – Prof. David S. Koffman (December 3, 2021)

December 3, 2021

“Jews, Justice, and U.S. Indian Law”

Professor David S. Koffman
Via Zoom


This talk analyzes the work of a cadre of American Jewish lawyers, civil servants and intellectual New Dealers who turned centuries-long anti-Indian policy on its head and created the most progressive pro-Native policy the U.S. had ever known. Drawing from extensive, original archival research, the talk situates the work of this generally unknown chapter of modern Jewish advocacy in the twin contexts of American religious minorities’ commitment to liberalism on the one hand, and the ongoing realities and impacts of colonialism on the other.

David S. Koffman is the J. Richard Shiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry in the Department of History at York University. He is the author of The Jews’ Indian: Colonialism, Pluralism, and Belonging in America (Rutgers University Press, 2019), and the editor of No Better Home? Jews, Canada, and the Sense of Belonging (University of Toronto Press, 2021). He serves as the associate director of York’s Israel & Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies, and the editor-in-chief of the journal Canadian Jewish Studies / Études juives canadiennes.

The LRST is supported through the funds of the York Research Chair in Pluralism and Public Law

Watch the lecture:

“Unmasking the Hypocrisy of the Niqab Bans” – Dr Miriam Zucker (November 24, 2021)

November 24, 2021 – Co-sponsored with the IFLS

“Unmasking the Hypocrisy of the Niqab Bans”

Dr. Miriam Zucker
Via Zoom


In the last fifteen years many European countries have passed laws that ban the wearing of full-face Muslim veils in public places. In several cases reaching the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR),the court upheld such laws, based on the principle of “living together”. The ECtHR reasoned that the minimum requirements of life in society include the possibility of open interpersonal relationships, which it considered impeded by face-covering garments. Recently, the trend of banning these garments seems to have extended beyond the European continent. For example, Quebec’s “religious symbols” law obliges civil servants to carry out their functions without wearing religious face coverings.

Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many jurisdictions have made facemasks mandatory in public transport and public institutions. While these laws have transformed our public spaces, it appears that we manage to ‘live together’ in these face-covered public spaces. Considering these developments, my talk will question the coherency of the Muslim face veil bans.Miriam Zucker

Miriam Zucker received her SJD degree from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law
and her LLM from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  She researches the areas of Multiculturalism and Feminism, Law and Religion, and Constitutional Law, and she is the recipient of the Audre Rapport Prize for Scholarship on Gender and Human Rights (2021). 

Organized by the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies and co-sponsored by the Osgoode Colloquium on Law, Religion & Social Thought

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“In Your Face: Law, Justice and Niqab-Wearing Women” – Professor Natasha Bakht (November 25, 2020)

Clicking on this button brings the user to see a poster. The poster contains the title and description of the talk, as well as an image of a woman wearing a niqab.November 25, 2020

“In Your Face: Law, Justice and Niqab-Wearing Women”

Professor Natasha Bakht
Via Zoom


“The niqab is incompatible with gender equality.” “Women are forced by the men in their families to wear the niqab.” “Wearing a niqab makes living together impossible.” This talk will examine such claims made by the majority to constrain the lives of a small minority. The rampant spread of legislation banning face veils globally has transformed niqab-wearing from a non-existent issue to a spectacular threat to the nation state. Even educated, sophisticated scholars and judges who claim to accept and even welcome diversity will “draw the line” at the niqab. Relying on interviews with niqab-wearing women from Ontario and Quebec, Bakht helps to refocus understandings of the niqab from the perspective of the wearer. Bakht then analyzes popular and Clicking on this image brings the user to see an image of Professor Natasha Bakht.legislative objections to the niqab, revealing their specious logic. By hearing some of the experiences of niqab-wearing women and analyzing objections and legal proscrip­tions of the niqab, the hope is that we might get to know niqab-wearing women and ourselves better.

Natasha Bakht is a full professor of law at the University of Ottawa and the Shirley Greenberg Chair for Women and the Legal Profession. Her research focuses on the intersection of religious freedom and women’s equality. Her new book In Your Face: Law, Justice and Niqab-Wearing Women in Canada (Irwin Law, 2020) analyzes niqab bans while also drawing on interviews with niqab-wearing women to reveal their complex identities and multiple motivations for dressing in this way. 

In collaboration with:

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“Buddhist Religious Freedom, in Victory and in Defeat” – Prof Jolyon Thomas (October 21, 2020)

Clicking on image allows user to see the title of the poster. The poster contains a description of the event, as well as a backdrop.October 21, 2020

“Buddhist Religious Freedom, in Victory and in Defeat”

Professor Jolyon Thomas
Via Zoom


U.S. officials who occupied Japan after World War II claimed that the defeated country totally lacked religious freedom. However, this tidy narrative masked a messy history. Japan’s 1889 constitution had guaranteed religious freedom, and over subsequent decades Japanese clerics had fiercely debated and vigorously defended the religious freedom clause. Yet even as Buddhists in Japan generally used religious freedom to secure privileges for themselves while excluding “foreign” religions like Christianity, Japanese Buddhists living in the U.S. Territory of Hawai`i tried and failed to get the American guarantee of religious freedom to work for them. For example, although the landmark 1927 Supreme Court case Farrington v. Tokushige upheld the right of Japanese Americans to educate their children at Buddhist-operated language schools, racist depictions of Buddhism as “un-American” made it impossible for the plaintiffs to use religious freedom law in making their case. Thomas juxtaposes competing claims about religious freedom inImage contains picture of Professor Jolyon Thomas. the Japanese and U.S. empires to show that religious freedom is never simply present or absent in any given polity, nor has “it” ever been just one thing in any time or place.

Jolyon Thomas is Assistant Professor and Interim Graduate Chair of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His research on religion investigates media, law, politics, education, and capitalism in Japan and the United States. He is the author of Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan (University of Chicago Press, 2019) and Drawing on Tradition: Manga, Anime, and Religion in Contemporary Japan (University of Hawai`i Press, 2012).

In collaboration with:

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Watch the lecture:

“Do Rivers Have Rights? Indigenous Sovereignty on the Klamath River” – Dr Dana Lloyd (October 22, 2019)

Image contains picture of the poster event. It has the title “Do Rivers Have Rights?  Indigenous Sovereignty on the Klamath River" and text describing the event as well as who is hosting the event and giving the talk.October 22, 2019

“Do Rivers Have Rights?  Indigenous Sovereignty on the Klamath River”

Dr Dana Lloyd (Washington University at St Louis)
12:30pm to 2:00pm, Room 2027 Osgoode Hall Law School


This paper rethinks the notion of Indigenous sovereignty through the story of the Yurok Tribe of Northwest California and its ongoing efforts to heal the Klamath River, to which they refer as their “bloodline.” These struggles have taken different forms in different times in history: they range from the fish wars of the first half of the twentieth century, through administrative appeals to remove dams from the river in the early 2000s, to the recent resolution of the Yurok Tribal Council to recognize the Klamath River as a rights-bearing person.

Sovereignty means, in federal Indian law, the recognition of the Yurok treaty rights by US courts; but, perhaps more meaningfully, to the nation itself sovereignty means the ability of the Yurok Tribal Court to make Image of Dr Dana Lloyd.decisions on Yurok everyday life based on traditional values, and with close attention to the river and its fish, that play a vital role in the economic, cultural, and spiritual identities of the Yuroks.

Dana Lloyd is a postdoctoral research associate at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. She holds a PhD in Religion from Syracuse University and an LLM from Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Law. She is currently working on a book manuscript, entitled A Hollow Freedom, on the US Supreme Court case Lyng v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association (1988).

In collaboration with:

The Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University 

The LRST is supported through the funds of the York Research Chair in Pluralism and Public Law

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“Rabbinic Law as Culture” – Prof Chaim Saiman (March 5, 2019)

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“Rabbinic Law as Culture: How the Rabbis Transformed Jewish Law into a Way of Talking about Everything”

Prof Chaim Saiman (Villanova University)
12:30pm to 2:00pm, Room 2010 Osgoode Hall Law School


Though typically translated as “Jewish law,” the term “halakhah” is not an easy match for what is usually thought of as law. This is because the rabbinic legal system has rarely wielded the political power to enforce its many detailed rules, nor has it ever been the law of any state. Even more idiosyncratically, the talmudic rabbis claim that the study of halakhah is a holy endeavor that brings a person closer to God—a claim no country makes of its law.  In this talk, and drawing on his recent book, Saiman will trace how generations of rabbis have used concepts forged in talmudic disputation to do the work that other societies assign not only to philosophy, Image of Prof Chaim Saiman.political theory, theology, and ethics but also to art, drama, and literature. In the world of halakhah everything is law, but law is also everything, such that even law that serves no practical purpose can provide surprising insights into timeless questions about the very nature of human existence.

Chaim Saiman is a Professor of Law at Villanova University.  Saiman’s work focusses on Jewish law, insurance law, and private law.  He has served as a visiting professor at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Hebrew University, and the University of Toronto, and has been appointed as an arbitrator on rabbinical courts and an expert witness in insurance law and Jewish law in federal courts.  He is the author of Halakhah: The Rabbinic Idea of Law (Princeton, 2018).

In collaboration with:

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“Historicizing the Global Politics of Religious Freedom” Prof Matthias Koenig (October 23, 2018)

Image describing the event "Historicizing the Global politics of Religious Freedom".October 23, 2018

“Historicizing the Global politics of Religious Freedom”

Professor Matthias Koenig (University of Göttingen)
12:00pm to 2:00pm, Room 318 Jackman Humanities Building
Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

RSVP Required:

Religion has become an increasingly salient marker of symbolic and social boundaries in nation-states across the world. In both immigration and post-colonial settings, state authorities and social activists struggle over the public recognition of religious differences and the accommodation of religious minorities. These struggles, whether inside or outside the courtroom, widely draw upon scripts of religious freedom and minority rights as institutionalized in constitutional and international law. In an attempt to historicize neo-institutional world polity theory, this paper scrutinizes the transregional entanglements in which these scripts emerged. Drawing on a relational dataset of bilateral treaties in the long 19th century, it describes how norms of religious freedom and minority rights, spreading through the network of sovereign states, were universalized and institutionalized in international law. It shows that this process was highly influenced by power configurations between empires, nation-states and social movements, including missionary organizations, Image of Professor Matthias Koenig.ethno-religious minorities, and transnational associations. As these configurations have left traces in competing interpretations of global scripts, their knowledge is indispensable for understanding contemporary politics of religious difference.

Matthias Koenig is Full Professor of Sociology at the University of Göttingen and Max Planck Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. He has held visiting positions at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris, the University of Toronto, the University of Michigan, and Harvard University. He has published widely on sociological theory, human rights, religion and immigrant integration; his most recent book is Religion and National Identities in an Enlarging Europe (co-edited with W. Knöbl & W. Spohn, Palgrave 2015).

In collaboration with:

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“Reforming Islamic Family Law in Lebanon: A Political Anthropology of Religion” Dr Jean-Michel Landry (November 21, 2018)

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“Reforming Islamic Family Law in Lebanon: A Political Anthropology of Religion”

Dr Jean-Michel Landry (McGill University)
12:30pm to 2:00pm, Room 2027 Osgoode Hall Law School

RSVP Required:

What does legal activism tell us about the way Islamic family law is constructed and applied in the Middle East? Over the last decades, the problem of gender-based custody allocation has sparked intense mobilizations across the region. In Lebanon, Sunni and Shi‘i citizens led two parallel campaigns to modify the shari‘a-derived norms enforced in custody disputes. Their efforts produced perplexing results: while Sunnis Lebanese succeed in modifying the legislation, the Shi‘a failed to bring about even a modicum of change. How could two parallel campaigns mobilized around the same issue, launched in the same country, and executed at the same time produce such opposite results? By following courses of action taken by Sunni and Shi‘i activists, paying attention to their mistakes, failures and achievements, we gain a new Image of Dr Jean-Michel Landry.perspective on the making of religion-based family law, and its entanglement with the legal grammar of secularism.

Jean-Michel Landry is a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at McGill University and an affiliated researcher at the Institut Français du Proche-Orient. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2016.  His work focuses on secularism, religion, gender and political anthropology. He received the 2016 Best Dissertation Award from the Association of Middle East Anthropology for his dissertation, entitled The Practice of Shi‘i Jurisprudence in Contemporary Lebanon.

In collaboration with:

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UT Study of Religion