John Esposito in Sarajevo, October 2013
John Louis Esposito (born May 19, 1940) is an Italian American professor of Middle Eastern studies, Religious studies, and scholar of Islam, who serves as Professor of Religion & International Affairs and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He was also the Founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim–Christian Understanding at Georgetown.
For nearly twenty years after completing his Ph.D., Esposito had taught Religious studies (including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam) at the College of the Holy Cross, a Jesuit college in Massachusetts. At the College of the Holy Cross, Esposito held the Loyola Professor of Middle East Studies position, was the chair of the Department of Religious Studies, and director of the College of the Holy Cross' Center for International Studies. At Georgetown University, Esposito holds the position of University Professor and teaches as both Professor of Religion and International Affairs and Professor of Islamic Studies.
He published Islam and Politics in 1984, and Islam: The Straight Path in 1988. Both books sold well, going through many editions. In addition to more than 35 books, he is editor-in-chief of a number of Oxford reference works including The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, The Oxford History of Islam, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World (six vols.), and Oxford Islamic Studies Online.
In 1988, he was elected president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA). He has also served as president of the American Academy of Religion and president of the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies. He served as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy from 1999 to 2004 he was a member of the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100 Leaders, the High Level Group of the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations and the E. C. European Network of Experts on De-Radicalisation. He was an advisor to the award-winning, PBS-broadcast documentary Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet (2002), produced by Unity Productions Foundation. A recipient of the American Academy of Religion’s 2005 Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion and of Pakistan’s Quaid-e-Azam Award for Outstanding Contributions in Islamic Studies, in 2003 he received the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University Award for Outstanding Teaching.
Esposito founded the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in 1993 and is its founding director. The center received a $20 million endowment from Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal "to advance education in the fields of Islamic civilization and Muslim-Christian understanding and strengthen its presence as a world leader in facilitating cross-cultural and inter-religious dialogue."