Associate Professor Asim Ijaz Khwaja and Assistant Professor Tarek Masoud of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (HKS) have been named 2009 Carnegie Scholars by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The honorees were selected for their compelling ideas and commitment to enriching the quality of the public dialogue on Islam.

Khwaja and Masoud are among a class of 24 well-established and promising young thinkers, analysts, and writers who will receive two-year grants of up to $100,000 from the foundation. Khwaja, an economist, was cited for his research on how the pilgrimage to Mecca affects individual pilgrims’ economic, social, ethical, and cultural outlooks. Masoud, a political scientist, was cited for his work on Islamic political parties and elections in the Middle East.

“I hope that my research on the impact of the Hajj pilgrimage on the pilgrim will inform the wider academic debate on the nature and interaction of religious and nonreligious beliefs in Islam,” said Khwaja. “The Carnegie Scholars Program is truly a unique opportunity to expand my academic research in economics in new directions, and interact with researchers from other disciplines such as religion, history, political science, and sociology.”

Masoud said, “This is a great honor and encouragement to me as I begin my work. It will give me the freedom to ask some big questions, and the resources to dig for convincing answers. And to be named a Carnegie Scholar along with Professor Khwaja, with whom I’ve been talking about Islam and politics since I arrived at the Kennedy School, is icing on the cake.”

“Much of the recent research on Islamic political and social structures has allowed for a more thorough understanding of their profound impact upon and contribution to regional and global communities,” said HKS Dean David T. Ellwood. “Asim Khwaja and Tarek Masoud are emerging as two of the leading scholars in this field, and I am thrilled to hear of their selection as Carnegie Scholars.”

Commenting on the 2009 Carnegie Scholars and the program’s focus on Islam, Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, said, “We are cultivating a diverse scholarly community spanning a range of disciplines with the expectation that their voices will help Americans develop a more complex understanding of Muslim societies here and throughout the world — revealing Islam’s rich diversity. Only through vibrant dialogue, guided by bold and nuanced scholarship, can we move public thinking into new territory.”

The Carnegie Scholars Program allows independent-minded thinkers to pursue original projects oriented toward catalyzing intellectual discourse as well as guiding more focused and pragmatic policy discussions. Scholars are selected not only for their originality and proven intellectual capacity, but for their demonstrated ability to communicate their ideas in ways that can catalyze public discourse.

Each year, nominations for Carnegie Scholars are invited from more than 500 nominators representing a broad range of disciplines and institutions, including academia, research institutes, nonprofit organizations, the media, and foundations. Nominators are asked to identify original thinkers who have the ability — or promise — to spark academic and public debate, and whose work transcends academic boundaries.

For additional information,

Samuel H. Beer, Harvard scholar, dies at 97