Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World

Meet the Team

The Alwaleed Centre is home to a dynamic team of academic, teaching and Professional Services staff, as well as Visiting Fellows and a growing cohort of PhD Students.

Professor Frédéric Volpi, Director of the Alwaleed Centre

Frédéric Volpi

Frédéric Volpi is Professor in the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and Director of the Edinburgh Alwaleed Centre. 

He earned his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2000. Before coming to Edinburgh in 2018, he was as a Senior Lecturer in the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews. He also taught and researched at Sussex University, Bristol University, and Sciences Po., Paris.

Prof. Volpi is interested in the processes of democratization and authoritarianism in the contemporary Muslim world, in the role of Islamist actors in social and political mobilizations, in the construction of the discourse of political Islam, and in the contemporary regional and transnational dynamics of North Africa and the Mediterranean region.

Learn more about Professor Volpi's work

Contact Professor Frédéric Volpi

Dr Elvire Corboz, Deputy Director of the Alwaleed Centre

Dr Elvire Corboz

Elvire Corboz is Lecturer in Contemporary Islam and Middle East in the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and Deputy Director of the Alwaleed Centre.

She first studied Arabic and Islamic Studies (along with her other major in musicology) in Switzerland at the University of Geneva. She then earned an MPhil in modern Middle Eastern Studies, followed by a DPhil in Oriental Studies (2010), both from the University of Oxford. Before coming to Edinburgh, she worked as postdoctoral research associate and lecturer at Princeton University (2011-2013), lecturer at Rutgers University (2013-2014), and assistant professor at Aarhus University.

Dr Corboz's research interests are in contemporary Shi‘ism, with a particular focus on the Shi‘i clerical establishment and its transnational networks, Iraqi Shi‘i Islamism, as well as Shi‘i communities and institutions in the United Kingdom.  She is also interested in the study of Sunni-Shi'i relations, especially in European contexts.

Learn more about Dr Corboz's work

Contact Dr Elvire Corboz

Dr Giulia Liberatore, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow


Giulia Liberatore joined the Alwaleed Centre in 2017 as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow. She is interested in questions around gender, subjectivity and Islam, the politics of difference in Europe and religious pluralism.

She is currently working on a project on female Islamic scholarship and guidance in the UK, and teaching an Honours and MSc course on Muslims in Europe.

In October 2019 Giulia will begin her Lectureship at the Alwaleed and start a new ERC-funded project on Multi-Religious Encounters in Urban Settings with Ammara Maqsood (UCL) and Leslie Fesenmyer (Birmingham). The project will theorise inter-religious interactions in non-secular contexts through comparative ethnographic work in Italy, Pakistan, and Kenya.

Giulia has a PhD in Anthropology from the London School of Economics (LSE). Her monograph, which is based on her doctoral research, is entitled Somali, Muslim, British: Striving in Securitized Britain (2017) and was awarded the LSE Monographs on Social Anthropology/ Bloomsbury First Book Competition Prize 2016. The book chronicles the aspirations of different generations of Somali women as they respond to publicly charged questions of what it means to be Muslim, Somali, and British.

Between 2014-16 Giulia worked at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), University of Oxford first as a Research Officer on the Diaspora engagement in war-torn societies project, as part of the Oxford Diasporas Programme (2014), and subsequently as a Leverhulme Fellow (2015-16). During this time she also taught courses in anthropology, migration, and gender.

Learn more about Giulia Liberatore’s work

Contact Dr Giulia Liberatore

Dr Jona Fras, Alwaleed bin Talal Teaching Fellow in Arabic

Dr Jona Fras

Jona has studied Social Anthropology (MA, Edinburgh, 2011) and Arab World Studies (MSc, Edinburgh, 2013), and holds a PhD in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Edinburgh, on the topic of language in Jordanian radio.

He has been teaching at Edinburgh’s Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies department since 2013, primarily Arabic in both postgraduate and undergraduate programmes, but also other subjects such as Modern Middle Eastern History and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. In his new capacity as the Alwaleed bin Talal Teaching Fellow in Arabic he will be involved with undergraduate teaching of Arabic at IMES, but will also contribute to the Alwaleed Centre’s research and outreach activities. He is particularly interested in the pedagogical aspects of teaching Arabic – including developing novel language pedagogy techniques – as well as the teaching and learning of Arabic as a global language, a theme with strong links to the position of Islam in the contemporary world.

Learn more about Jona's work

Contact Dr Jona Fras

Tom Lea, General Manager

Tom Lea

Tom is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, holding both an MA in Religious Studies and an MSc in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.

After a period living and working in France, Tom returned to Edinburgh in 2007 to take up the post of Outreach and Development Officer for the Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association. He also assumed responsibility for coordinating Edinburgh’s Just Festival. This background in faith-based community work and project management has proved invaluable in Tom's role at the Alwaleed Centre, which he took up in September 2010.

Tom manages all aspects of the Alwaleed Centre's administration including its many projects across Scotland and the UK, working closely with Muslim communities, schools, local authorities, the police and the Scottish Government to encourage a deeper understanding and appreciation of Islam and Islamic culture. He also plays a key role in developing the Alwaleed Centre's relationships with other universities, both in the UK and across the world.

Tom is a member of the BBC's Scottish Religious Advisory Committee, the Scottish Joint Committee for Religious and Moral Education and is Chair of the Edinburgh Just Festival Board of Directors. He is also manages the British Associaiton for Islamic Studies - the UK's only learned society and professional organisation focused on enhancing research and teaching about Islam and Muslim cultures and societies in UK higher education.

Contact Mr Tom Lea


0131 650 6686

Nadin Akta, Outreach and Projects Coordinator

Nadin Akta

Nadin moved to Scotland from Syria in 2008.

Her interests in communication and cooperation across cultures led to her graduating with a Masters in Intercultural Business Communication and TESOL from Edinburgh Napier University in 2014.

Since finishing her studies, Nadin has worked and volunteered with a number of different Scottish local councils and third sector organisations, helping to support ethnic minority communities and encourage dialogue and communication across cultures and religions. When Scotland began to welcome significant numbers of Syrian refugees in 2015, Nadin began working closely with Scottish local authorities to help encourage a better understanding of Syrian culture, religion and tradition and support Syrian families as they settled into their new lives and communities.

Nadin is the cofounder of an award-winning tutoring scheme for Syrian teenagers at the University of Edinburgh which matches Arabic-speaking students from across the University with Syrian school pupils to help them on their educational journey, raise their confidence and meet new people.

In her role as Outreach and Projects Coordinator at the Alwaleed Centre, Nadin works closely with key partners in local and national government, education and the wider public sector to help improve public understanding of Islam and challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims.

Contact Ms Nadin Akta


0131 650 4165

Professor Hugh Goddard, Honorary Professorial Fellow

Hugh Goddard

Hugh was the Founder-Director of the Alwaleed Centre from 2009 - 2017.

He was an undergraduate in Oxford, where he studied Islamic History under Albert Hourani, and then took his doctorate from the Centre for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations in Birmingham, where his supervisor was David Kerr. He has worked and studied in the Middle East, in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, and has also undertaken a number of research visits to other regions of the Islamic World, including Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Malaysia, Indonesia and Central Asia.

Prior to moving to Edinburgh he worked in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies in the University of Nottingham, where he served as Professor of Christian-Muslim Relations from 2004.

Learn more about Professor Goddard's work

Contact Professor Hugh Goddard

Dr Ewan Stein, Alwaleed Senior Research Fellow, Islamic Discourses and the State

Dr Ewan Stein

Ewan Stein is Senior Lecturer in International Relations in the School of Political and Social Science, University of Edinburgh. He received his PhD in International Relations  form the London School of Economics and holds MAs in both Arab Studies (Georgetown University) and Arabic (University of Edinburgh).

Ewan works on the intersection between international relations and, particularly Islamist, social movements in the Middle East. He is interested in the ways in which Islamic discourses have shifted over time as part of state hegemonic projects, how social movements have influenced and challenged such discourses, and how ideological and social dynamics within states shape relations among them.

Learn more about Dr Stein's work

Contact Dr Ewan Stein

Dr Khadijah Elshayyal, Visting Fellow 

Dr Khadijah Elshayyal

Khadijah Elshayyal completed her PhD in History at Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2013.

She studied History at King's College London, followed by an MA in Legal and Political Theory from UCL. Khadijah has experience working in the Muslim media sector, and has also conducted research on various aspects of ethnic minority political engagement.

Her PhD thesis looked at the development of identity politics among UK Muslims between the years 1960-2010, with a specific focus on issues relating to freedom of expression. She has particular interests in the ongoing development of identity and political expression among British Muslim groups and networks that are less often in the public spotlight, such as those working with women and young people.

Additionally, she is interested in how the discourse around, and practise of representation is developing within and between Muslim communities, as well as externally.

Learn more about Dr Elshayyal's work

Contact Dr Khadijah Elshayyal

Dr David H. Warren, Associate Fellow

Dr David Warren

David Warren received his PhD from the University of Manchester, and works on Islam, politics and contemporary Islamic law. He has studied and conducted fieldwork in a range of countries across the Arab World from Morocco to Yemen, and is currently writing a book on the Arab Spring and its aftermath in Egypt. David joined the Alwaleed Centre in 2016 after a year in the United States at Harvard and Brandeis. He received his Arabic training primarily at the University of Damascus, and has been a student of Islamic jurisprudence in Mauritania. David's languages include Arabic, Persian, and Bengali.

He was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Alwaleed Centre from 2016-2019 researching the contemporary discourses of high profile ulama in the Gulf. During his time with the Centre he launched a ground-breaking Open Online Course entitled "The Sharia and Islamic Law: An Introduction" which will run until 2022.

He will shortly begin a Fellowship at Washington University in St Louis.

Learn more about Dr. Warren's work.

Contact Dr David Warren