Tag Archives: Religion in the Middle East

Gordis, “Menachem Begin”

Earlier this year, Schocken Books released “Menachem Begin: The Battle for bweginIsrael’s Soul,” by Daniel Gordis (Shalem College – Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows:

Reviled as a fascist by his great rival Ben-Gurion, venerated by Israel’s underclass, the first Israeli to win the Nobel Peace Prize, a proud Jew but not a conventionally religious one, Menachem Begin was both complex and controversial. Born in Poland in 1913, Begin was a youthful admirer of the Revisionist Zionist Ze’ev Jabotinsky and soon became a leader within Jabotinsky’s Betar movement. A powerful orator and mesmerizing public figure, Begin was imprisoned by the Soviets in 1940, joined the Free Polish Army in 1942, and arrived in Palestine as a Polish soldier shortly thereafter. Joining the underground paramilitary Irgun in 1943, he achieved instant notoriety for the organization’s bombings of British military installations and other violent acts.

Intentionally left out of the new Israeli government, Begin’s right-leaning Herut political party became a fixture of the opposition to the Labor-dominated governments of Ben-Gurion and his successors, until the surprising parliamentary victory of his political coalition in 1977 made him prime minister. Welcoming Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Israel and cosigning a peace treaty with him on the White House lawn in 1979, Begin accomplished what his predecessors could not. His outreach to Ethiopian Jews and Vietnamese “boat people” was universally admired, and his decision to bomb Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981 is now regarded as an act of courageous foresight. But the disastrous invasion of Lebanon to end the PLO’s shelling of Israel’s northern cities, combined with his declining health and the death of his wife, led Begin to resign in 1983. He spent the next nine years in virtual seclusion, until his death in 1992. Begin was buried not alongside Israel’s prime ministers, but alongside the Irgun comrades who died in the struggle to create the Jewish national home to which he had devoted his life. Daniel Gordis’s perceptive biography gives us new insight into a remarkable political figure whose influence continues to be felt both within Israel and throughout the world.

Russell, “Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms”

In October, Basic Books released “Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into 9780465030569the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East,” by Gerard Russell (Foreign Policy Centre – London). The publisher’s description follows:

In this spellbinding journey across the past and present of the Middle East, a former diplomat takes us into the fascinating religious communities that have survived for centuries under Muslim rule.

Despite its reputation for religious intolerance, the Middle East has long sheltered many distinctive and strange faiths: one regards the Greek prophets as incarnations of God, another reveres Lucifer in the form of a peacock, and yet another believes that their followers are reincarnated beings who have existed in various forms for thousands of years. These religions represent the last vestiges of the magnificent civilizations in ancient history: Persia, Babylon, Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs. Their followers have learned how to survive foreign attacks and the perils of assimilation. But today, with the Middle East in turmoil, they face greater challenges than ever before.

In Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms, former diplomat Gerard Russell ventures to the distant, nearly impassable regions where these mysterious religions still cling to survival. He lives alongside the Mandaeans and Ezidis of Iraq, the Zoroastrians of Iran, the Copts of Egypt, and others. He learns their histories, participates in their rituals, and comes to understand the threats to their communities. Historically a tolerant faith, Islam has, since the early 20th century, witnessed the rise of militant, extremist sects. This development, along with the rippling effects of Western invasion, now pose existential threats to these minority faiths. And as more and more of their youth flee to the West in search of greater freedoms and job prospects, these religions face the dire possibility of extinction.

Drawing on his extensive travels and archival research, Russell provides an essential record of the past, present, and perilous future of these remarkable religions.

Bouasria, “Sufism and Politics in Morocco”

This January, Routledge Press will release “Sufism and Politics in Morocco: Activism and Dissent” by Abdelilah Bouasria (George Mason University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Presenting a political history and sociology of Moroccan Sufism from colonialism to the modern day, this book studies the Sufi model of Master and Disciple in relation to social and political life, comparing the different eras of acquiescent versus dissident Sufism.

This comparative fieldwork study offers new perspectives on the connection between the monarchy and mystic realms with a specific coverage of the Boutchichi order and Abdessalam Yassine’s Al Adl Wal Ihsane, examining the myth of apolitical Sufism throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Drawing on Michel Foucault and James Scott, this book fuses thinking about the political dimension of Sufism, a “hidden transcript,” involving power struggles, patronage and justice and its esoteric spiritual ethics of care.

Addressing the lacuna in English language literature on the Boutchichi Sufi order in Morocco, this book will be of interest to students and scholars of Islamic Studies, Comparative Politics and the MENA region.

Dionigi, “Hezbollah, Islamist Politics, and International Society”

This month, Palgrave Macmillan releases “Hezbollah, Islamist Politics, and International Society,”  by Filippo Dionigi (Middle East Centre of the London School of Economics and Political Science). The publisher’s description follows:

How do the norms of the liberal international order influence the activity of Islamist movements? This book assesses the extent to which Islamist groups, which have traditionally attempted to shield their communities from ‘external’ moral conceptions, have been influenced by the principles that regulate international society. Through an analysis of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Filippo Dionigi concludes that international norms are significant factors changing Islamist politics. We are still far from an accomplished resolve of the tension between Islamist communitarianism and liberal normative views, but a precarious equilibrium may emerge whereby Islamists are persuaded to rethink the idea of an allegedly ‘authentic’ Islamic morality as opposed to the legitimacy of international norms.

Mouline, “The Clerics of Islam”

This November, Yale University Press will release “The Clerics of Islam: Religious Authority and Political Power in Saudi Arabia” by Nabil Mouline (French National Center for Scientific Research).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Clerics of IslamFollowers of Muhammad b. ’Abd al-Wahhab, often considered to be Islam’s Martin Luther, shaped the political and religious identity of the Saudi state while also enabling the significant worldwide expansion of Salafist Islam. Studies of the movement he inspired, however, have often been limited by scholars’ insufficient access to key sources within Saudi Arabia. Nabil Mouline was granted rare interviews and admittance to important Saudi archives in preparation for this groundbreaking book, the first in-depth study of the Wahhabi religious movement from its founding to the modern day. Gleaning information from both written and oral sources and employing a multidisciplinary approach that combines history, sociology, and Islamic studies, Mouline presents a new reading of this movement that transcends the usual resort to polemics.

Event: “The Race Against ISIS: Efforts to Preserve Ancient Christian Culture in the Middle East” (Dec. 2)

On Tuesday, December 2 at noon, Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom will host Dr. Amal Marogy, originally from the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, to discuss “The Race Against ISIS: Efforts to Preserve Ancient Christian Culture in the Middle East.”

As ISIS continues to wage a campaign to eradicate the entire Christian presence and every trace of that ancient community’s existence in northern Iraq, a treasure of Christian patrimony, consisting of relics and manuscripts testifying to nearly two millennia of Christianity, is being systematically destroyed. Dr. Amal Marogy, originally from the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, fears that the ongoing jihadist religious cleansing of this 1,600-year-old Christian community means that Iraq’s Aramaic language and culture is in danger of dying out. ISIS has already burned some 1,500 biblical manuscripts held at the fourth-century monastery of St. Behnam, which was seized last summer in Nineveh. While some manuscripts, including those of Mar Behnam, have been digitized, many others have not.

Dr. Marogy is on an urgent mission to record the social history of her region, Duhok, and its Aramaic songs, prayers, and poetry. In 2013, she founded the Aradin Charitable Trust to help preserve Aramaic and the Christian heritage throughout the Middle East. She is an Affiliated Researcher in Neo-Aramaic Studies at Cambridge University and was previously Director of Studies in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at King’s College.

Register for the event, which is in Washington, D.C., here.

You can also live stream the event on Hudson’s homepage.

“Armenian Christianity Today: Identity Politics and Popular Practice” (Agadjanian, ed.)

Last month, Ashgate Publishing released Armenian Christianity Today: Identity Politics and Popular Practice, edited by Alexander Agadjanian (Russian State University for the Humanities). The publisher’s description follows:

Armenian Christianity Today examines contemporary religious life and the social, political, and cultural functions of religion in the post-Soviet Republic of Armenia and in the Armenian Diaspora worldwide. Scholars from a range of countries and disciplines explore current trends and everyday religiosity, particularly within the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC), and amongst Armenian Catholics, Protestants and vernacular religions.

Themes examined include: Armenian grass-roots religiosity; the changing forms of regular worship and devotion; various types of congregational life; and the dynamics of social composition of both the clergy and lay believers. Exploring through the lens of Armenia, this book considers wider implications of ‘postsecular’ trends in the role of global religion.

 

Massad, “Islam in Liberalism”

This January, University of Chicago Press will release “Islam in Liberalism” by Joseph A. Massad (Columbia University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Islam in LiberalismIn the popular imagination, Islam is often associated with words like oppression, totalitarianism, intolerance, cruelty, misogyny, and homophobia, while its presumed antonyms are Christianity, the West, liberalism, individualism, freedom, citizenship, and democracy. In the most alarmist views, the West’s most cherished values—freedom, equality, and tolerance—are said to be endangered by Islam worldwide.

Joseph Massad’s Islam in Liberalism explores what Islam has become in today’s world, with full attention to the multiplication of its meanings and interpretations. He seeks to understand how anxieties about tyranny, intolerance, misogyny, and homophobia, seen in the politics of the Middle East, are projected onto Islam itself. Massad shows that through this projection, Europe emerges as democratic and tolerant, feminist, and pro-LGBT rights—or, in short, Islam-free. Massad documents the Christian and liberal idea that we should missionize democracy, women’s rights, sexual rights, tolerance, equality, and even therapies to cure Muslims of their un-European, un-Christian, and illiberal ways. Along the way he sheds light on a variety of controversial topics, including the meanings of democracy—and the ideological assumption that Islam is not compatible with it while Christianity is—women in Islam, sexuality and sexual freedom, and the idea of Abrahamic religions valorizing an interfaith agenda. Islam in Liberalism is an unflinching critique of Western assumptions and of the liberalism that Europe and Euro-America blindly present as a type of salvation to an assumingly unenlightened Islam.

“The Routledge Handbook of Religions and Global Development” (Tomalin, ed.)

This January, Routledge Press will release “The Routledge Handbook of Religions and Global Development” by Emma Tomalin (University of Leeds, UK).  The publisher’s description follows:

Routledge Handbook of Religions and Global DevelopmentThis Handbook provides a cutting-edge survey of the state of research on religions and global development. Part one highlights critical debates that have emerged within research on religions and development, particularly with respect to theoretical, conceptual and methodological considerations, from the perspective of development studies and its associated disciplines. Parts two to six look at different regional and national development contexts and the place of religion within these. These parts integrate and examine the critical debates raised in part one within empirical case studies from a range of religions and regions. Different religions are situated within actual locations and case studies thus allowing a detailed and contextual understanding of their relationships to development to emerge. Part seven examines the links between some important areas within development policy and practice where religion is now being considered, including:

  • Faith-Based Organisations and Development
  • Public Health, Religion and Development
  • Human rights, Religion and Development
  • Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Religion
  • Global Institutions and Religious Engagement in Development
  • Economic Development and Religion
  • Religion, Development and Fragile States
  • Development and Faith-Based Education

Taking a global approach, the Handbook covers Africa, Latin America, South Asia, East/South-East Asia and the Middle East. It is essential reading for students and researchers in development studies and religious studies, and is highly relevant to those working in a range of disciplines, from theology, anthropology, and economics, to geography, international relations, politics, sociology, area studies and development studies.

Rosati, “The Making of a Postsecular Society”

In January, Ashgate Publishing will release “The Making of a Postsecular Society: A Durkheimian Approach to Memory, Pluralism and Religion in Turkey” by Massimo Rosati (University of Rome ‘Tor Vergata’). The publisher’s description follows:

Drawing on the thought of Durkheim, this volume focuses on societal changes at the symbolic level to develop a new conceptualisation of the emergence of postsecular societies. Neo-Durkheimian categories are applied to the case of Turkey, which in recent years has shifted from a strong Republican and Kemalist view of secularism to a more Anglo-Saxon perspective. Turkish society thus constitutes an interesting case that blurs modernist distinctions between the secular and the religious and which could be described as ‘postsecular’.

Presenting three symbolic case studies – the enduring image of the founder of the Republic Atatürk, the contested site of Ayasofia, and the remembering and commemoration of the murdered journalist Hrant Dink – The Making of a Postsecular Society analyses the cultural relationship that the modern Republic has always had with Europe, considering the possible implications of the Turkish model of secularism for a specifically European self-understanding of modernity.

Based on a rigorous construction of theoretical categories and on a close scrutiny of the common challenges confronting Europe and its Turkish neighbour long considered ‘other’ with regard to the accommodation of religious difference, this book sheds light on the possibilities for Europe to find new ways of arranging the relationship between the secular and the religious. As such, it will appeal to scholars of social theory, the sociology of religion, secularisation and religious difference, and social change.