Junaid Jahangir

Top 40 Under 40 2017

Photography Cooper & O’Hara

Age: 39

Job Title: Assistant Professor, Economics, at MacEwan University; Writer; Activist

Why He’s Top 40: He works to further the dialogue against Islamophobia and homophobia and serves as a role model for marginalized groups

Junaid Jahangir quotes Leonardo Da Vinci: “Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.”

It’s a fitting challenge he could pose to any of his students, but he intends the message for a larger audience. By day he’s a positively reviewed, well-liked professor at MacEwan University, but, over the past eight years, he has become a prolific and outspoken activist for minorities, especially the Muslim LGBTQ community. “Much of my work – I’ve published a book, a book chapter, articles – became a secondary career,” Jahangir says. “It just happened and I felt a pressing need to respond, and one thing led to another and opportunities came my way and I just said yes.”

Jahangir, who once worked as a research assistant for religious scholars in Pakistan, is interested in theology and with how to make sense of ancient texts so that they are applicable in our contemporary lives. His thorough understanding and study of the texts makes him feel empowered to discuss them, whether he’s writing his Huffington Post column or being interviewed on CBC Radio.

“I would like other people in the Muslim community to not be limited by a certain streak of Muslim thought that is predominant in Muslim spaces today,” Jahangir says. “I want them to learn the tradition, know it thoroughly, and then question things. You need to think critically, reflect on things, and then make up your mind – and hopefully their minds will take them towards liberation and human rights and compassion and mercy, as opposed to dogmatic positions which ended up oppressing whether its people of different religions, women, sexual minorities or anyone else.”

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