Prof. Ali Mazrui Passes On

Professor Ali Al'amin Mazrui
Professor Ali Al’amin Mazrui

Scholar and political writer, Professor Ali Mazrui has died in the United States.

Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar and Governor Hassan Joho in neighboring Kenya confirmed the death and declared preparations to bury him in Mombasa were underway. Joho said the Coast region had lost a great man, a scholar, academic professor of  Islamic and African studies.

“My friend Professor Ali Mazrui, your intellect amazed the world.” He added. MUHURI’s Khalif Khelif said Mazrui had been unwell citing his family. Khelif said Prof Mazrui died on Sunday night.

“He had wished to be buried in Mombasa’s historical Fort Jesus area. Plans are underway to fly the body here,” said Khelif. The scholar was born on 24 February 1933 in Mombasa. He was a political writer on African and Islamic studies and North-South relations.

He is an Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities and the Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York.

He once served as the first non-president chancellor of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture Technology (JKUAT) under the Kibaki regime.

PROFESSOR ALI MAZRUI

Mazrui was born on February 24, 1933. He has been an academic, professor, and political writer on African and Islamic studies and North-South relations. He was born in Mombasa, Kenya.

Mazrui studied at schools in Mombasa, in Kenya. Mazrui obtained his B.A. with Distinction from Manchester University in Great Britain in 1960, his M.A. from Columbia University in New York in 1961, and his doctorate (DPhil) from Oxford University (Nuffield College) in 1966.

Upon completing his education at Oxford University, Mazrui joined Makerere University (Kampala, Uganda), where he served as head of the Department of Political Science and Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. He served at Makerere University until 1973, when he was forced into exile by Idi Amin. In 1974, he joined the faculty of the University of Michigan as professor and later was appointed the Director of the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (1978–1981).

In 1989, he was appointed to the faculty of Binghamton University, State University of New York as the Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities and the Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies (IGCS).

In addition to his appointments as the Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities, Professor in Political Science, African Studies, Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture and the Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies (IGCS), Mazrui also holds three concurrent faculty appointments as Albert Luthuli Professor-at-Large in the Humanities and Development Studies at the University of Jos in Nigeria, Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large Emeritus and Senior Scholar in Africana Studies at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York and Chancellor of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi, Kenya. In 1999, Mazrui retired as the inaugural Walter Rodney Professor at the University of Guyana, Georgetown, Guyana. Mazrui has also been a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University, The University of Chicago, Colgate University, McGill University, National University of Singapore, Oxford University, Harvard University, Bridgewater State College, Ohio State University, and at other institutions in Cairo, Australia, Leeds, Nairobi, Teheran, Denver, London, Baghdad, and Sussex, amongst others.

In 2005, Ali Mazrui was selected as the 73rd topmost intellectual person in the world on the list of Top 100 Public Intellectuals by Prospect Magazine (UK) and Foreign Policy (United States).

In addition to his academic appointments, Mazrui also served as President of the African Studies Association (USA) and as Vice-President of the International Political Science Association and has also served as Special Advisor to the World Bank. He has also served on the Board of the American Muslim Council, Washington, D.C.

Mazrui’s research interests included African politics, international political culture, political Islam and North-South relations. He is author or co-author of more than twenty books. Mazrui has also published hundreds of articles in major scholastic journals and for public media. He has also served on the editorial boards of more than twenty international scholarly journals. Mazrui is widely consulted by heads of states and governments, international media and research institutions for political strategies and alternative thoughts.

He first rose to prominence as a critic of some of the accepted orthodoxies of African intellectuals in the 1960s and 1970s. He was critical of African socialism and all strains of Marxism. He argued that communism was a Western import just as unsuited for the African condition as the earlier colonial attempts to install European type governments. He argued that a revised liberalism could help the continent and described himself as a proponent of a unique ideology of African liberalism.

At the same time he was a prominent critic of the current world order. He believed the current capitalist system was deeply exploitative of Africa, and that the West rarely if ever lived up to their liberal ideals and could be described as global apartheid. He has opposed Western interventions in the developing world, such as the Iraq War. He has also long been opposed to many of the policies of Israel, being one of the first to try to link the treatment of Palestinians with South Africa’s apartheid.

Especially in recent years, Mazrui has also become a well known commentator on Islam and Islamism. While rejecting violence and terrorism Mazrui has praised some of the anti-imperialist sentiment that plays an important role in modern Islamic fundamentalism. He has also argued, controversially, that sharia law is not incompatible with democracy.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Mazrui was also the creator of the television series The Africans: A Triple Heritage, which was jointly produced by the BBC and the Public Broadcasting Service (WETA, Washington) in association with the Nigerian Television Authority, and funded by the Annenberg/CPB Project. A book by the same title was jointly published by BBC Publications and Little, Brown and Company.

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