This month, Edinburgh University Press will publish Twelver Shi’ism: Unity and Diversity in the Life of Islam, 632 to 1722 by Andrew Newman (University of Edinburgh). The publisher’s description follows.
As many as 40 different Shi`i groups existed in the ninth and tenth centuries yet only 3 forms have survived. Why is Twelver Shi`ism one of them?
As the established faith in modern Iran, the majority faith in Iraq and areas in the Gulf and with its adherents forming sizeable minorities elsewhere in the region, it is arguably the most successful branch of Shi’ism. This book charts its history and the development of the key distinctive doctrines and practices which ensured its survival in the face of repeated challenges. It argues that the key to the faith’s endurance has been its ability to institutionalise responses to the changing, often localised circumstances in which the community has found itself, thereby remaining remarkably resilient in the face of both internal disagreements and external opposition.
This December, Columbia University Press will publish Sectarian Politics in the Gulf: From the Iraq War to the Arab Uprisings by Frederic M. Wehrey. The publisher’s description follows.
Beginning with the 2003 invasion of Iraq and concluding with the aftermath of the 2011 Arab uprisings, Frederic M. Wehrey investigates the roots of the Shiʿa-Sunni divide now dominating the Persian Gulf’s political landscape. Focusing on three Gulf states affected most by sectarian tensions—Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait—Wehrey identifies the factors that have exacerbated or tempered sectarianism, including domestic political institutions, the media, clerical establishments, and the contagion effect of external regional events, such as the Iraq war, the 2006 Lebanon conflict, the Arab uprisings, and Syria’s civil war.
In addition to his analysis, Wehrey builds a historical narrative of Shiʿa activism in the Arab Gulf since 2003, linking regional events to the development of local Shiʿa strategies and attitudes toward citizenship, political reform, and transnational identity. He finds that, while the Gulf Shiʿa were inspired by their coreligionists in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon, they ultimately pursued greater rights through a nonsectarian, nationalist approach. He also discovers that sectarianism in the region has largely been the product of the institutional weaknesses of Gulf states, leading to excessive alarm by entrenched Sunni elites and calculated attempts by regimes to discredit Shiʿa political actors as proxies for Iran, Iraq, or Lebanese Hizballah. Wehrey conducts interviews with nearly every major Shiʿa leader, opinion shaper, and activist in the Gulf Arab states, as well as prominent Sunni voices, and consults diverse Arabic-language sources.
Next month, Ashgate will publish Alternative Islamic Discourses and Religious Authority edited by Carool Kersten (King’s College London) and Susanne Olsson Södertörn University Sweden). The publisher’s description follows.
Like anywhere else, the present-day Islamic world too is grappling with modernity and postmodernity, secularisation and globalisation. Muslims are raising questions about religious representations and authority. This has given rise to the emergence of alternative Islamic discourses which challenge binary oppositions and dichotomies of orthodoxy and heterodoxy, continuity and change, state and civil society. It also leads to a dispersal of authority, a collapse of existing hierarchical structures and gender roles. This book further argues that the centre of gravity of many of these alternative Islamic discourses is shifting from the Arabic-speaking ‘heartland’ towards the geographical peripheries of the Muslim world and expatriate Muslims in North America and Europe. At the same time, in view of recent seismic shifts in the political constellation of the Middle East, the trends discussed in this book hold important clues for the possible direction of future developments in that volatile part of the Muslim world.
Next month, Westview Press will publish a new edition of An Introduction to the Modern Middle East: History, Religion, Political Economy, Politics by David Sorenson (US Air War College). The publisher’s description follows.
Combining elements of comparative politics with a country-by-country analysis, author David S. Sorenson provides a complete and accessible introduction to the modern Middle East. With an emphasis on the politics of the region, the text also dedicates chapters specifically to the history, religions, and economies of countries in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf, the Eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa. In each country chapter, a brief political history is followed by discussions of democratization, religious politics, women’s issues, civil society, economic development, privatization, and foreign relations.
In this updated and revised second edition, An Introduction to the Modern Middle East includes new material on the Arab Spring, the changes in Turkish politics, the Iranian nuclear issues, and the latest efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma. Introductory chapters provide an important thematic overview for each of the book’s individual country chapters and short vignettes throughout the book offer readers a chance for personal reflection.
On November 21, the Foreign Policy Association in New York City will host a panel, “Fault Lines of Faith: Reporting from Myanmar, Bosnia and Northern Ireland”:
For the past two years, the long-repressed country of Myanmar has been undergoing a fragile transition to more democratic practices. But with freer speech and assembly have come new tensions between the majority Buddhists in the country and minority Muslim populations. More than half the country’s provinces have seen violence, with hundreds of people dead; a Buddhist nationalist movement has been rising in popularity despite allegations that it is stirring anti-Muslim sentiment.
Kira Kay and Jason Maloney will screen and discuss their reporting from Myanmar, and also from two other locations profiled in the “Fault Lines of Faith” series, Northern Ireland and Bosnia. While they vary widely in geography and culture, the regions profiled in the “Fault Lines” series share multiple root causes to their sectarian tensions: questions of nationhood and self identity; marginalization from political power and resources; a climate of human rights abuse and lack of access to justice. The series title depicts these deep societal challenges as much as the more obvious tensions at the surface of these conflicts.
Details are here.
Next month, New York University Press will publish Islam Is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority by Zareena Grewal (Yale University). The publisher’s description follows.
In Islam Is a Foreign Country, Zareena Grewal explores some of the most pressing debates about and among American Muslims: what does it mean to be Muslim and American? Who has the authority to speak for Islam and to lead the stunningly diverse population of American Muslims? Do their ties to the larger Muslim world undermine their efforts to make Islam an American religion?
Offering rich insights into these questions and more, Grewal follows the journeys of American Muslim youth who travel in global, underground Islamic networks. Devoutly religious and often politically disaffected, these young men and women are in search of a home for themselves and their tradition. Through their stories, Grewal captures the multiple directions of the global flows of people, practices, and ideas that connect U.S. mosques to the Muslim world. By examining the tension between American Muslims’ ambivalence toward the American mainstream and their desire to enter it, Grewal puts contemporary debates about Islam in the context of a long history of American racial and religious exclusions. Probing the competing obligations of American Muslims to the nation and to the umma (the global community of Muslim believers), Islam is a Foreign Country investigates the meaning of American citizenship and the place of Islam in a global age.
This month, Stanford University Press will publish The Civilizing Mission in the Metropole: Algerian Families and the French Welfare State During Decolonization by Amelia H. Lyons (University of central Florida). The publisher’s description follows.
France, which has the largest Muslim minority community in Europe, has been in the news in recent years because of perceptions that Muslims have not integrated into French society. The Civilizing Mission in the Metropole explores the roots of these debates through an examination of the history of social welfare programs for Algerian migrants from the end of World War II until Algeria gained independence in 1962.
After its colonization in 1830, Algeria fought a bloody war of decolonization against France, as France desperately fought to maintain control over its most prized imperial possession. In the midst of this violence, some 350,000 Algerians settled in France. This study examines the complex and often-contradictory goals of a welfare network that sought to provide services and monitor Algerian migrants’ activities. Lyons particularly highlights family settlement and the central place Algerian women held in French efforts to transform the settled community. Lyons questions myths about Algerian immigration history and exposes numerous paradoxes surrounding the fraught relationship between France and Algeria—many of which echo in French debates about Muslims today.
Next month, University of Chicago Press will publish Negotiating in Civil Conflict: Constitutional Construction and Imperfect Bargaining in Iraq by Haider Ala Hamoudi (University of Pittsburgh School of Law). The publisher’s description follows:
In 2005, Iraq drafted its first constitution and held the country’s first democratic election in more than fifty years. Even under ideal conditions, drafting a constitution can be a prolonged process marked by contentious debate, and conditions in Iraq are far from ideal: Iraq has long been racked by ethnic and sectarian conflict, which intensified following the American invasion and continues today. This severe division, which often erupted into violence, would not seem to bode well for the fate of democracy. So how is it that Iraq was able to surmount its sectarianism to draft a constitution that speaks to the conflicting and largely incompatible ideological view of the Sunnis, Shi’ah, and Kurds?
Haider Ala Hamoudi served in 2009 as an adviser to Iraq’s Constitutional Review Committee, and he argues here that the terms of the Iraqi Constitution are sufficiently capacious to be interpreted in a variety of ways, allowing it to appeal to the country’s three main sects despite their deep disagreements. While some say that this ambiguity avoids the challenging compromises that ultimately must be made if the state is to survive, Hamoudi maintains that to force these compromises on issues of central importance to ethnic and sectarian identity would almost certainly result in the imposition of one group’s views on the others. Drawing on the original negotiating documents, he shows that this feature of the Constitution was not an act of evasion, as is sometimes thought, but a mark of its drafters’ awareness in recognizing the need to permit the groups the time necessary to develop their own methods of working with one another over time.
In September, Random House published Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation About the Issues That Divide and Unite Jews and Muslims by Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali. The publisher’s description follows.
Rabbi Marc Schneier, the eighteenth generation of a distinguished rabbinical dynasty, grew up deeply suspicious of Muslims, believing them all to be anti-Semitic. Imam Shamsi Ali, who grew up in a small Indonesian village and studied in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, believed that all Jews wanted to destroy Muslims. Coming from positions of mutual mistrust, it seems unthinkable that these orthodox religious leaders would ever see eye to eye. Yet in the aftermath of 9/11, amid increasing acrimony between Jews and Muslims, the two men overcame their prejudices and bonded over a shared belief in the importance of opening up a dialogue and finding mutual respect. In doing so, they became not only friends but also defenders of each other’s religion, denouncing the twin threats of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and promoting interfaith cooperation.
In Sons of Abraham, Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali tell the story of how they became friends and offer a candid look at the contentious theological and political issues that frequently divide Jews and Muslims, clarifying erroneous ideas that extremists in each religion use to justify harmful behavior. Rabbi Schneier dispels misconceptions about chosenness in Judaism, while Imam Ali explains the truth behind concepts like jihad and Shari’a. And on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the two speak forthrightly on the importance of having a civil discussion and the urgency of reaching a peaceful solution.
As Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali show, by reaching a fuller understanding of one another’s faith traditions, Jews and Muslims can realize that they are actually more united than divided in their core beliefs. Both traditions promote kindness, service, and responsibility for the less fortunate—and both religions call on their members to extend compassion to those outside the faith. In this sorely needed book, Rabbi Schneier and Imam Ali challenge Jews and Muslims to step out of their comfort zones, find common ground in their shared Abrahamic traditions, and stand together and fight for a better world for all.
Next month, Cambridge will publish Islam, Youth, and Modernity in the Gambia: The Tablighi Jama’at, by Marloes Janson (University of London). The publisher’s description follows.
This monograph deals with the sweeping emergence of the Tablighi Jama’at – a transnational Islamic missionary movement that has its origins in the reformist tradition that emerged in India in the mid-nineteenth century – in the Gambia in the past decade. It explores how a movement that originated in South Asia could appeal to the local Muslim population – youth and women in particular – in a West African setting. By recording the biographical narratives of five Gambian Tablighis, the book provides an understanding of the ambiguities and contradictions young people are confronted with in their (re)negotiation of Muslim identity. Together these narratives form a picture of how Gambian youth go about their lives within the framework of neo-liberal reforms and renegotiated parameters informed by the Tablighi model of how to be a “true” Muslim, which is interpreted as a believer who is able to reconcile his or her faith with a modern lifestyle.