The rise of autocrats around the world is the focus of the Distinguished Professor Lecture.  

Illinois State University’s Distinguished Professor Ali Riaz will present “The Rise of Autocrats—Democratic Backsliding and the Middle Class” at 5 p.m. November 9, in the Old Main Room of the Bone Student Center at Illinois State University.  

Dr. Riaz notes that less than half of the global population now lives under some sort of democracy. “We are witnessing the erosion, decay, and in some instances, outright collapse of democracy like never before,” said Riaz, who explores the new middle class as a supporter of rising authoritarianism across the globe.  

The event is free and open to the public.  

“We are witnessing the erosion, decay, and in some instances, outright collapse of democracy like never before.”

Distinguished Professor Ali Riaz

Riaz is an internationally recognized expert on democratization, political Islam, violent extremism, South Asian politics, and Bangladeshi politics with a specific interest in the interaction of politics and religion. He is a nonresident senior fellow of the Atlantic Council, and the president of The American Institute of Bangladesh Studies (AIBS).  

Testifying twice before the U.S. Congress, Riaz has served as an expert and consultant to national and international organizations and governments, including the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, D.C.; the International Expert Network on Islamism of the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Bertelsmann Foundation of Germany; Woodrow Wilson International Center; and the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum of the Social Science Research Council of the U.S.A.  

Among his many scholarly works, Riaz has penned and/or edited Religion and Politics in South Asia (2021), Voting in a Hybrid Regime: Explaining the 2018 Bangladeshi Elections (2019), Political Violence in South Asia, Lived Islam and Islamism in Bangladesh (2017), and Bangladesh: A Political History Since Independence (2016). His other notable works include: God Willing: The Politics of Islamism in Bangladesh (2004), Faithful Education: Madrassahs in South Asia (2008), Islamist Militancy in Bangladesh: A Complex Web (2008), and Islam and Identity Politics Among British-Bangladeshis: A Leap of Faith (2013). 

Riaz’s commentary is often sought by national media, with his expertise appearing in Deutsche Welle (DW), CNN, The EconomistThe Daily Star (Bangladesh)TRT (Turkey), and The New York Times among others.  

Those with questions on the lecture can email