Mohammed El Shafie, philosophy graduate from The American University in Cairo (AUC) and recipient of the HSBC Bank Egypt Public School Scholarship, now steps up to a new challenge as he enters his first year at Harvard Law School this fall. With a long list of academic feats behind him, El Shafie, who is visually impaired, looks to the future with fervor in the hopes of using his law degree to effect significant change. “I hope to work toward bringing the Islamic and Western worlds closer to one another,” he affirmed.El Shafie was resolute in his plans even as he started applications to law schools, noting in his speech at President Francis J. Ricciardone’s inauguration that his dream was “to avert the danger of terrorism by establishing a genuine philosophical foundation for a true understanding between East and West.”
El Shafie looks back at AUC as a catalyst that exposed him to numerous fields, drawing out various interests in him. He ultimately chose to pursue a major in philosophy, observing great value in the study of the theories that form the fundamentals of political thought. He has shown devotion to his scholarly work even outside of the classroom, participating in international conferences and reigning in impressive awards for his writing.
“AUC’s liberal arts education allowed me to see a great deal more than I would have otherwise,” he affirmed. “Professors in the philosophy department were always very willing to discuss theories with me. This is an experience that I don’t think I could have found at another institution.”
In addition to discussing philosophical works with his professors, El Shafie was active in extracurricular activities, writing for AUC Times magazine, helping as a radio program manager and regularly participating in the Philosophy Club. In Fall 2015, El Shafie was awarded the Dr. Ahmed and Ann M. El-Mokadem Study Abroad Scholarship to participate in an exchange program with the University of Michigan. El Shafie is also a skilled and passionate classical pianist who has performed at several events.
“These activities allowed me to see AUC as an educational institution that is part of a community,” El Shafie reflected. “It taught me that the best kinds of educational institutions understand the needs of their communities.”
With the goal of promoting discussion and engagement among students of diverse backgrounds, El Shafie founded a reading society that brought together participants from AUC, Oxford and several other American universities. Named MensCiceronis, the group regularly meets to dissect the classics of Western and Judeo-Islamic political philosophy. Students who were physically available would meet on AUC’s campus, joined by students abroad through Skype. “The group has proven to be quite a success,” El Shafie noted. “It has been a space for dialogue between people of different cultures and has enriched us all very much.”
Beyond his University activities, El Shafie, demonstrated a passion for teaching Braille and helping to increase the number of Braille translations available to visually impaired individuals. He worked with the Egyptian Parents Association for the Visually Impaired, teaching Braille reading and writing, Braille music, adaptive technology, Microsoft Word and English in different programs. He volunteered with Bookshare, working on scanning and proofreading books for Braille translation. He also took the initiative of developing the first draft of an electronic Braille edition of Shakespeare’s complete works.
Having explored the philosophies underlying political theory, El Shafie will now begin to make his mark on another university community as he continues to work toward fusing theory and practicality through the study of the written law. “Through studying law, I hope to be able to combine law and philosophy, theoretically and practically, so I can achieve change,” he said.