VALPARAISO | A Valparaiso University assistant law professor has been named to a list of the world's most influential Muslims.
Faisal Kutty, 44, is among "The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims," compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan. The publication is part of an annual series that highlights how Muslims impact the world.
Kutty, who teaches comparative law, Islamic law and legal writing and reasoning at VU, appeared on the list two times previously. A native of Toronto, Canada, he specializes in human rights, national security law, business, community advocacy and Islamic law.
Kutty's interest in human rights was strengthened by a 2003 incident that happened to his father, Ahmad Kutty. Ahmad, an imam who teaches at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, flew to the United States for a conference. U.S. immigration officials jailed him in Fort Lauderdale and interrogated him for 16 hours, suspecting him of being connected to terrorist-related organizations.
Though the elder Kutty was eventually released, the incident fueled his son's resolve to protect the civil rights of all individuals.
"It reinforced my position that you need to get involved and try to effect changes," Faisal Kutty said. "Not just for Muslims, but for all Americans."
Kutty also acted as legal counsel to civil and human rights groups involved in the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen illegally detained in the United States in 2002 and deported to Syria.
In 2006, Kutty filed submissions challenging the legality and constitutionality of Canada’s "no-fly" list, known as Passenger Protect, on behalf of more than two dozen civil and human rights groups.
For his work with civil rights, he received the "I CAIR" award this year from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Though he is the only Muslim faculty member at VU's law school, the number of Muslim law students has grown in recent years from about four to between 15 and 20, he said.
Kutty said he feels at home and welcome at a conservative, religious-affiliated university such as Valparaiso.
"A lot of the values and ideals (of Christians and Muslims) are similar," he said. "The similarities between most of the world's religions far outweigh the differences."