Tag Archives: Islam

In Turkey, the Clash of Civilizations Continues

In academic and policymaking circles in the West, one hears a great deal about universal human rights. These rights, it is said, apply to everyone, everywhere; they are inherent in human nature. It’s an interesting idea. The problem is, not everyone agrees. That’s putting it mildly. Whole civilizations reject the Western conception of universal human rights, including, principally, freedom of expression and freedom of religion. We can tell ourselves that the conflict is temporary and superficial, that other civilizations are moving inexorably toward our understanding. We have international agreements! But much suggests the clash is profound and perduring.

Events in Turkey over the past weekend provide more evidence. On Saturday, 100,000 people gathered in the city of Diyarbakir to protest the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the French journal, Charlie Hebdo. One hundred thousand people – that’s hardly a fringe phenomenon. According to an account in a Turkish newspaper, speakers condemned the notion that freedom of expression extended to insults against the Prophet. Protesters held up placards with phrases such as “‘Damn those saying “I am Charlie,” and ‘May Charlie’s Devils not defame the Prophet.’”

These sentiments are not limited to the reaches of Anatolia. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu personally expressed his support for the protesters. At a meeting of the ruling AKP party in Diyarbakir, he sent greetings to the protesters, to “each and every brother who defends the Prophet Muhammad here.” (Ironically, Davutoğlu represented Turkey at the solidarity rally in Paris the weekend after the Charlie Hebdo attacks).  And, on Sunday, a court in Ankara ordered Facebook to block users’ access to pages containing content deemed insulting to the Prophet. According to the New York Times, Facebook immediately complied.

Of course, not everyone in Turkey endorses these actions, but that’s not the point. Throughout the country, and in many other places across the globe, millions disagree, profoundly, with how the West understands things. They are not about to change their minds. We need to pay attention. The clash of civilizations continues.

“Muslims and Political Participation in Britain” (Peace, ed.)

This March, Routledge Press will release “Muslims and Political Participation in Britain” edited by Timothy Peace (University of Stirling, UK).  The publisher’s description follows:

This new volume showcases the latest research into Muslim political participation both in terms of electoral politics and civil society initiatives.

Muslims play a prominent role in British political life yet what do we actually know about the involvement of British Muslims beyond the existence of a handful of Muslim MPs? What is unique about political participation in Muslim communities? All the major parties actively seek to court a ‘Muslim electorate’ but does such a phenomenon exist? Despite the impact that Muslims have had on election campaigns and their roles in various political institutions, research on this topic remains scant. Indeed, much of the existing work was couched within the broader areas of the participation of ethnic minorities or the impact of race on electoral politics. The chapters in this volume address this lacuna by highlighting different aspects of Muslim participation in British politics. They investigate voting patterns and election campaigns, civil society and grassroots political movements, the engagement of young people and the participation of Muslims in formal political institutions.

Written in an accessible style, this book will be of interest to students and scholars of political participation and religious studies.

Kersten, “Cosmopolitans and Heretics”

This January, Oxford University Press released “Cosmopolitans and Heretics: New Muslim Intellectuals and the Study of Islam” by Carool Kersten (King’s College, London).  The publisher’s description follows:

Cosmopolitans and IslamDramatic political events involving Muslims across the world have put Islam under increased scrutiny. However, the focus of this attention is generally limited to the political realm and often even further confined by constrictive views of Islamism narrowed down to its most extremist exponents. Much less attention is paid to the parallel development of more liberal alternative Islamic discourses. The final decades of the twentieth-century has also seen the emergence of a Muslim intelligentsia exploring new and creative ways of engaging with the Islamic heritage. Drawing on advances made in the Western human sciences and understanding Islam in comprehensive terms as a civilisation rather than restricting it to religion in a conventional sense their ideas often cause controversy, even inviting accusations of heresy. Cosmopolitans and Heretics examines three of these new Muslim intellectuals who combine a solid grounding in the Islamic tradition with an equally intimate familiarity with the latest achievements of Western scholarship in religion. This cosmopolitan attitude challenges existing stereotypes and makes these thinkers difficult to categorise. Underscoring the global dimensions of new Muslim intellectualism, Kersten analyses contributions to contemporary Islamic thought of the late Nurcholish Madjid, Indonesia’s most prominent public intellectual of recent decades, Hasan Hanafi, one of the leading philosophers in Egypt, and the influential French-Algerian historian of Islam Mohammed Arkoun. Emphasising their importance for the rethinking of the study of Islam as a field of academic inquiry, this is the first book of its kind and a welcome addition to the intellectual history of the modern Muslim world.

Commins, “Islam in Saudi Arabia”

In February, I.B.Tauris will release “Islam in Saudi Arabia” by David Dean Commins (Dickinson College). The publisher’s description follows:

In the popular imagination, Saudi Arabia is a monolithic and static relic from an earlier age, wedded to a reactionary interpretation of Islam and led by an authoritarian monarchy whose alliance with a retrograde religious establishment has assured its survival. David Commins challenges this view by tracing the origins and evolution of the Saudi state from its eighteenth century roots through the present day. For Commins, Saudi Arabia’s contemporary social and political order is the product of dynamic historical and ongoing struggles, both internal (pitting dynasts against religious traditionalists, Wahhabi true believers against non-Wahhabis and their more liberal Wahhabi allies, and an old guard against a younger generation habituated to a world of social media, cable television, and consumerism) and external (including threats from imperial powers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Arab nationalists in the 1950s-60s, Saddam’s Iraq in the 1990s, and, currently, Iran and al-Qaeda). Commins tracks the Al Saud’s efforts to balance and overcome these challenges, in the process creating a system whose defining characteristics are contradiction and ambiguity.

Rajan, “Al Qaeda’s Global Crisis”

In February, Routledge Press will release “Al Qaeda’s Global Crisis: The Islamic State, Takfir and the Genocide of Muslims” by V.G. Julie Rajan (Rutgers University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Al Qaeda's Global CrisisThis book focuses on the crises facing Al Qaeda and how the mass killing of Muslims is challenging its credibility as a leader among Islamist jihadist organizations.

The book argues that these crises are directly related to Al Qaeda’s affiliation with the extreme violence employed against Muslims in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the decade since 9/11. Al Qaeda’s public and private responses to this violence differ greatly. While in public Al Qaeda has justified those attacks declaring that, for the establishment of a state of ‘true believers’, they are a necessary evil, in private Al Qaeda has been advising its local affiliates to refrain from killing Muslims. To better understand the crises facing Al Qaeda, the book explores the development of Central Al Qaeda’s complex relationship with radical (mis)appropriations and manifestations of takfir, which allows one Muslim to declare another an unbeliever, and its unique relationship with each of its affiliates in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The author then goes on to consider how the prominence of takfir is contributing to the deteriorating security in those countries and how this is affecting Al Qaeda’s credibility as an Islamist terror organization. The book concludes by considering the long-term viability of Al Qaeda and how its demise could allow the rise of the even more radical, violent Islamic State and the implications this has for the future security of the Middle East, North Africa and Central/South Asia.

This book will be of much interest to students of political violence and terrorism, Islamism, global security and IR.

Steenbrink, “Catholics in Independent Indonesia:1945-2010″

In February, Brill will release “Catholics in Independent Indonesia: 1945-2010” by Karel Steenbrink (Utrecht University). The publisher’s description follows:

Catholics in Independent Indonesia: 1945-2010 concludes Steenbrink’s three volume historical account of Catholicism in Indonesia with a detailed report of the survival and growth of this minority religion in Muslim Indonesia since its independence in 1945. Colonial Catholicism survived in the independent Republic of Indonesia during the nationalist Sukarno regime (1945-1965) and regained a new dynamic during the general religious revival that was part of the New Order of Soeharto after 1965. From a Dutch-inspired institution it became a fully Indonesian steered community with a modern and international character. The second half of the book will deal with the different regional developments in this vast country.

 

“The Shi’a in Modern South Asia” (Jones & Qasmi, eds.)

This March, Cambridge University Press will release “The Shi’a in Modern South Asia: Religion, History and Politics” edited by Justin Jones (University of Oxford) and Ali Usman Qasmi (Lahore University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Shia in ModernThe Shi‘i communities of South Asia, roughly 60 million people, represent, after those of Iran, the second largest grouping of Shi’as in the Muslim world. Until recently our knowledge of them has not matched their numbers. Indeed, they have suffered from the paradox of being both highly visible but in scholarly terms largely invisible. Where the Shi‘a live in South Asian towns and cities, arguably, no community has been more visible or more audible: visible because of their great processions at Muharram; and audible, certainly at Muharram, but also throughout the year in their majalis, as they recount the events of Karbala, often transmitting them by loudspeaker to the muhalla. The essays in this volume illustrate how scholars are beginning to develop a grasp of religious change amongst the Shi’as over the past two centuries to match that which has been achieved for the Sunnis. The following themes, all present to a greater or lesser extent in modern scholarship on the Shi‘a of South Asia, run through these essays: there is the role of political power, but also its lack, in establishing and shaping Shi‘i communities; there is the centrality of the tragedy of Karbala to Shi‘i identity and to the Shi‘i sense of community; there is the tendency, as time moves towards the present, for Shi‘i practices of pluralism and inclusiveness to weaken in favour of exclusiveness; then, associated with this development, there is the impact of religious reform, and significant religious change, which compares suggestively with religious change in the Sunni world; there is the enduring impact of Iran, the Shi‘i centres in Iraq and more recently Shi‘i activism in the Lebanon; and finally there is the specific role of women in fashioning Shi‘i devotion and community. The contributions to this volume add to the understanding of power and the shaping of Shi‘i communities.

Mallat, “Philosophy of Nonviolence: Revolution, Constitutionalism, and Justice beyond the Middle East”

Next month, Oxford University Press will release “Philosophy of Nonviolence: Revolution, Constitutionalism, and Justice beyond the Middle East” by Chibli Mallat (S.J. Quinney School of Law at the University of Utah). The publisher’s description follows:

In 2011, the Middle East saw more people peacefully protesting long entrenched dictatorships than at any time in its history. The dictators of Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen were deposed in a matter of weeks by nonviolent marches. Imprecisely described as ‘the Arab Spring’, the revolution has been convulsing the whole region ever since. Beyond an uneven course in different countries, Philosophy of Nonviolence examines how 2011 may have ushered in a fundamental break in world history. The break, the book argues, is animated by nonviolence as the new spirit of the philosophy of history.

Philosophy of Nonviolence maps out a system articulating nonviolence in the revolution, the rule of constitutional law it yearns for, and the demand for accountability that inspired the revolution in the first place. Part One–Revolution, provides modern context to the generational revolt, probes the depth of Middle Eastern-Islamic humanism, and addresses the paradox posed by nonviolence to the ‘perpetual peace’ ideal. Part Two–Constitutionalism, explores the reconfiguration of legal norms and power structures, mechanisms of institutional change and constitution-making processes in pursuit of the nonviolent anima. Part Three–Justice, covers the broadening concept of dictatorship as crime against humanity, an essential part of the philosophy of nonviolence. It follows its frustrated emergence in the French revolution, its development in the Middle East since 1860 through the trials of Arab dictators, the pyramid of accountability post-dictatorship, and the scope of foreign intervention in nonviolent revolutions. Throughout the text, Professor Mallat maintains thoroughly abstract and philosophical arguments, while substantiating those arguments in historical context enriched by a close participation in the ongoing Middle East revolution.

Walzer, “The Paradox of Liberation”

In March, Yale University Press will release “The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions” by Michael Walzer (Emeritus Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study).  The publisher’s description follows:

Paradox of LiberationMany of the successful campaigns for national liberation in the years following World War II were initially based on democratic and secular ideals. Once established, however, the newly independent nations had to deal with entirely unexpected religious fierceness. Michael Walzer, one of America’s foremost political thinkers, examines this perplexing trend by studying India, Israel, and Algeria, three nations whose founding principles and institutions have been sharply attacked by three completely different groups of religious revivalists: Hindu militants, ultra-Orthodox Jews and messianic Zionists, and Islamic radicals.

In his provocative, well-reasoned discussion, Walzer asks why these secular democratic movements have failed to sustain their hegemony: Why have they been unable to reproduce their political culture beyond one or two generations? In a postscript, he compares the difficulties of contemporary secularism to the successful establishment of secular politics in the early American republic—thereby making an argument for American exceptionalism but gravely noting that we may be less exceptional today.

Curiel, “Islam in America”

This February, I.B. Tauris Publishers will release “Islam in America” by Jonathan Curiel.  The publisher’s description follows:

Islam in AmericaIslam is a hidden ingredient in the melting pot of America. Though there are between 2 and 8 million Muslims in the USA, Islam has traditionally had little political clout compared to other minority faiths. Nonetheless it is believed to be the country’s fastest-growing religion, with a vibrant culture of theological debate, particularly regarding the role of women preachers. In Islam in America, Jonathan Curiel traces the story of America’s Muslims from the seventeenth-century slave trade to the eighteenth-century immigration wave to the Nation of Islam. Drawing on interviews in communities from industrial Michigan to rural California, Curiel portrays the diversity of practices, cultures and observances that make up Muslim America. He profiles the leading personalities and institutions representing the community, and explores their relationship to the wider politics of America, particularly after 9/11. Islam in America offers an indispensable guide to the social life of modern Islam and the diversity of contemporary America.