Amra Sabic-El-Rayess’s scholarship ranges from corruption in higher education to the stealth tactics of a radical Islamic sect.
She has even opined on Melania Trump’s footwear. Yet her real focus is how societies slide into madness and what hinders their efforts to rebuild.
Before coming to the United States, Sabic-El-Rayess, a Bosnian Muslim, witnessed Yugoslavia’s dissolution. She has since powerfully documented how far her native land remains from becoming a democratic society.
Rather than wage a “hearts and minds battle with bombs and bombast from on high,” America must engage with moderate Islamic communities."
— Amra Sabic-El-Rayess, Associate Professor of Practice
Exhibit A: an education system in which bribery and “favor reciprocation” are the chief currencies. The “non-pecuniary” nature of the latter is critical, Sabic-El-Rayess, Associate Professor of Practice, argued last year in the International Journal of Educational Development, because it secures education as the province of those in power.
Such injustices breed equally dangerous backlashes, as Sabic-El-Rayess has documented in her studies of Saudi-born Salafism, an ultraconservative form of Islam that has spread globally and in Bosnia. The Salafi win converts “from the margins of the powerless” to the cause of “saving Islam from destruction by the West” by any means necessary. Rather than wage a “hearts and minds battle with bombs and bombast from on high,” Sabic-El-Rayess writes, America must engage with moderate Islamic communities — an outcome, she acknowledges, that looks less and less likely. Writing in January in The Huffington Post, she worried that the new First Lady would appear at her husband’s inauguration in stiletto heels given to her by the Bosnian Serb shoemaker Bema — a choice, she warned, that might be construed as endorsement of the Russian-backed secession movement by Bosnian Serbs: “Melania’s Inaugural shoes, in their stylish turn, may signal that Bosnia is once again up for grabs. Our only hope is that America’s new First Lady spends the remaining days before her coronation reflecting on the gravity of her every step.”