Nathan French

Areas of expertise

  • Global jihadist movements (al-Qa'ida, ISIS)
  • Islamic legal theory and theology
  • Religious violence
  • Religion and public policy
  • History and philosophy of religion

Nathan FrenchAssistant Professor
200E Upham Hall
(513) 529-4305

Vision for students: "As a teacher within the disciplines that inform the study of religion, I encourage students to build skills for inquiry and personal growth. These skills will equip them to contribute to a vibrant civic life, in both local and global communities."


B.A., Religion (Centre College, 2006)
M.A., Islamic & Near Eastern Studies (Washington University in St. Louis, 2008)
Ph.D., Religious Studies (UC Santa Barbara, 2013)

International experience: Dr. French has lived and studied in the United Kingdom, Egypt, and Jordan. Since 2015, he has traveled yearly with Miami students to the Sultanate of Oman and the United Arab Emirates.


REL 101 - Introduction to the Study of Religion ("Bush, Bin Ladin, and Religion")
REL 226 - Introduction to Islam
REL 355 - Religion and Law
ITS 365 - Law, Violence, and Humanitarian Intervention
REL 376 - Global Militant Islamisms
REL 399U - Miami in Oman and UAE ("Arabian Gulf Economies in Social Transition")

In his classroom, Dr. French works with students to develop their intercultural perspectives in an applied fashion. To do this, he works with students to translate complex research into new perspectives, and to translate histories and ideas into meaningful points of civic engagement and personal transformation.

Sample assignment: In REL 226, students pursue a semester-long research project, out of which they produce a public relations and education campaign.


Dr. French is currently completing his first book, And God Knows the Martyrs: Theodicy, Violence, and Asceticism in Jihadi-Salafism (forthcoming), one of the first major research projects to analyze the jurisprudence of contemporary Jihadi-Salafism. Drawing on over a hundred legal arguments (fatwās) and other Jihadi-Salafi writings on the subject of martyrdom operations ("suicide bombings"), Dr. French uncovers how Jihadi-Salafis rearrange the basic objectives of the Shariʿa around a utilitarian principle of maximizing general welfare and promoting religion above all other concerns—including life, which most Muslim jurists, historically, held to be primary to all other objectives.

Beyond the department

Dr. French is an affiliate with the program in International Studies (part of the Department of Global and Intercultural Studies), where he offers a regular course on "Law, Violence, and Humanitarian Intervention." He is also an affiliate with the minor in Middle East and Islamic Studies.

He is director of Miami's study abroad program in Oman & UAE, which runs during Miami's winter term.