Tag Archives: Religion in the Middle East

Alianak, “The Transition Towards Revolution and Reform”

This month, Oxford University Press releases The Transition Towards Revolution and Reform: The Arab Spring Realised?, by Sonia L. Alianak (University of Texas). The publisher’s description follows:

The Arab Spring created a transition toward democracy for the peoples of Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, who initially elected moderate Islamist parties to lead them out of economic deprivation and corruption. This study looks at the relative success of the move to democracy in these four Middle Eastern countries, comparing the secular leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and their desire for revolution with the monarchs of Morocco and Jordan and their priority of reform. In contrast with the monarchs, the secular leaders avoided resort to the palliative of religion to ensure the stability of their rule and were, as a result, unable to survive.

Conference: “The Making of Jerusalem” (Jerusalem, July 2-4)

The Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate of Jerusalem in hosting a conference, “The Making of Jerusalem: Constructed Spaces and Historic Communities,” from July 2 to July 4:

Jerusalem is one of the most contested cities around the world with a rich and complex history. With its web of sacred sites, quarters, and neighbourhoods, it represents a polyglot of historical communities. Today’s Jerusalem is a testament to its temporal, physical and demographic transformations over the centuries. The purpose of this inter-disciplinary conference is to explore various aspects in the making of the city while focusing on historic communities and their concept of – and relationship with – space (be it sacred or secular). It brings together papers from different fields such as history, the social sciences, art, literature, religious studies and area studies, emphasising the Early Modern and Modern periods.

Details are here.

Mecham & Hwang (eds.), “Islamist Parties and Political Normalization in the Muslim World”

This month, the University of Pennsylvania publishes Islamist Parties and Political 15245Normalization in the Muslim World, edited by Quinn Mecham (Brigham Young University) and Julie Chernov Hwang (Goucher College). The publisher’s description follows.

Since 2000, more than twenty countries around the world have held elections in which parties that espouse a political agenda based on an Islamic worldview have competed for legislative seats. Islamist Parties and Political Normalization in the Muslim World examines the impact these parties have had on the political process in two different areas of the world with large Muslim populations: the Middle East and Asia. The book’s contributors examine major cases of Islamist party evolution and participation in democratic and semidemocratic systems in Turkey, Morocco, Yemen, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh. Collectively they articulate a theoretical framework to understand the strategic behavior of Islamist parties, including the characteristics that distinguish them from other types of political parties, how they relate to other parties as potential competitors or collaborators, how ties to broader Islamist movements may affect party behavior in elections, and how participation in an electoral system can affect the behavior and ideology of an Islamist party over time.

Through this framework, the contributors observe a general tendency in Islamist politics. Although Islamist parties represent diverse interests and behaviors that are tied to their particular domestic contexts, through repeated elections they often come to operate less as antiestablishment parties and more in line with the political norms of the regimes in which they compete. While a few parties have deliberately chosen to remain on the fringes of their political system, most have found significant political rewards in changing their messages and behavior to attract more centrist voters. As the impact of the Arab Spring continues to be felt, Islamist Parties and Political Normalization in the Muslim World offers a nuanced and timely perspective of Islamist politics in broader global context.

Al-Arian, “Answering the Call”

Next month, Oxford University Press will publish Answering the Call: Popular Islamic Activism in Sadat’s Egypt by Abdullah Al-Arian (Georgetown University). answering the callThe publisher’s description follows.

When revolutionary hero Gamal Abdel Nasser dismantled and suppressed Egypt’s largest social movement organization during the 1950s, few could have imagined that the Muslim Brotherhood would not only reemerge, but could one day compete for the presidency in the nation’s first ever democratic election. While there is no shortage of analyses of the Muslim Brotherhood’s recent political successes and failures, no study has investigated the organization’s triumphant return from the dustbin of history.

Answering the Call examines the means by which the Muslim Brotherhood was reconstituted during Anwar al-Sadat’s presidency. Through analysis of structural, ideological, and social developments during this period in the history of the Islamic movement, a more accurate picture of the so-called “Islamic resurgence” develops-one that represents the rebirth of an old idea in a new setting.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s success in rebuilding its organization rested in large part on its ability to attract a new generation of Islamic activists that had come to transform Egypt’s colleges and universities into a hub for religious contention against the state. Led by groups such as al-Gama’ah al-Islamiyyah (The Islamic Society), the student movement exhibited a dynamic and vibrant culture of activism that found inspiration in a multitude of intellectual and organizational sources, of which the Muslim Brotherhood was only one.

By the close of the 1970s, however, internal divisions over ideology and strategy led to the rise of factionalism within the student movement. A majority of student leaders opted to expand the scope of their activist mission by joining the Muslim Brotherhood, rejuvenating the struggling organization, and launching a new phase in its history.

Answering the Call is an original study of the history of this dynamic and vibrant period of modern Egyptian history, giving readers a fresh understanding of one of Egypt’s most pivotal eras.

Baron, “The Orphan Scandal”

Next month, Stanford University Press will publish The Orphan Scandal: Christian Missionaries and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood by Beth Baron The Orphan Scandal(The Graduate Center, CUNY).  The publisher’s description follows.

On a sweltering June morning in 1933 a fifteen-year-old Muslim orphan girl refused to rise in a show of respect for her elders at her Christian missionary school in Port Said. Her intransigence led to a beating—and to the end of most foreign missions in Egypt—and contributed to the rise of Islamist organizations.

Turkiyya Hasan left the Swedish Salaam Mission with scratches on her legs and a suitcase of evidence of missionary misdeeds. Her story hit a nerve among Egyptians, and news of the beating quickly spread through the country. Suspicion of missionary schools, hospitals, and homes increased, and a vehement anti-missionary movement swept the country. That missionaries had won few converts was immaterial to Egyptian observers: stories such as Turkiyya’s showed that the threat to Muslims and Islam was real. This is a great story of unintended consequences: Christian missionaries came to Egypt to convert and provide social services for children. Their actions ultimately inspired the development of the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamist groups.

In The Orphan Scandal, Beth Baron provides a new lens through which to view the rise of Islamic groups in Egypt. This fresh perspective offers a starting point to uncover hidden links between Islamic activists and a broad cadre of Protestant evangelicals. Exploring the historical aims of the Christian missions and the early efforts of the Muslim Brotherhood, Baron shows how the Muslim Brotherhood and like-minded Islamist associations developed alongside and in reaction to the influx of missionaries. Patterning their organization and social welfare projects on the early success of the Christian missions, the Brotherhood launched their own efforts to “save” children and provide for the orphaned, abandoned, and poor. In battling for Egypt’s children, Islamic activists created a network of social welfare institutions and a template for social action across the country—the effects of which, we now know, would only gain power and influence across the country in the decades to come.

Haider, “The Origins of the Shī’a: Identity, Ritual, and Sacred Space in Eighth-Century Kūfa”

This July, Cambridge University Press will publish The Origins of the Shī’a: Identity, Ritual, and Sacred Space in Eighth-Century Kūfa by Najam Haider (Barnard College). The publisher’s description follows.

The Sunni-Shi’a schism is often framed as a dispute over the identity of the successor to Muhammad. In reality, however, this fracture only materialized a century later in the important southern Iraqi city of Kufa (present-day Najaf). This book explores the birth and development of Shi’i identity. Through a critical analysis of legal texts, whose provenance has only recently been confirmed, the study shows how the early Shi’a carved out independent religious and social identities through specific ritual practices and within separate sacred spaces. In this way, the book addresses two seminal controversies in the study of early Islam, namely the dating of Kufan Shi’i identity and the means by which the Shi’a differentiated themselves from mainstream Kufan society. This is an important, original and path-breaking book that marks a significant development in the study of early Islamic society.

“Popular Protest in the New Middle East” (Knudsen & Ezbidi eds.)

Later this month, I.B. Taurus releases Popular Protest in the New Middle East: Islamism and Post-Islamist Politics, edited by Are Knudsen (Christian Michelsen Institute- Norway) and Basem Ezbidi (Birzeit University). The publisher’s description follows:

In the wake of the protests that spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa in late 2010 and early 2011, Islamist movements of varying political persuasions have risen to prominence. This is especially the case in post-Mubarak Egypt and post-Ben Ali Tunisia. Popular Protest in the New Middle East examines Islamist approaches to political participation and integration and asks whether regional trends can be discerned with respect to either the strategy of disparate movements or the challenges they face. It offers analysis of the ideologies and actions of these movements, ranging from countries where Islamism is in control of the state as an Islamic theocracy (Iran), the ruling party (for example, Turkey), part of the ruling coalition (Lebanon), or a parliamentary minority (such as in Jordan or Yemen). Are Knudsen and Basem Ezbidi’s analysis of the various experiences of protest, participation and integration make this book vital for researchers of the impact of religion on politics (and, indeed vice versa).

American Christians Issue Call to Action on Behalf of Mideast Christians

Yesterday, more than 200 American Christians issued a statement calling for action on behalf of persecuted Mideast Christians. The statement explains that the rise of Islamist extremism in the region threatens the presence of the Christian community, especially in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. It details atrocities recently suffered by Mideast Christians and calls for specific actions on the part of the United States government.

Signers of the statement include Cardinal Donald Wuerl, National Association of Evangelicals’ chair Leith Anderson, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, Secretary General Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe of the United Methodists, and Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Oshagan Cholayan. Among lay civic leaders, signers include Robert George of Princeton University, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, journalist Kirsten Powers, George Marlin, chair of Aid to the Church in Need-USA, and Lynne Hybels of Global Engagement of the Willow Creek Church.

I am honored to be among the statement’s signers. For the full text of the statement, please click here.

Mozaffari, “Forming National Identity in Iran”

This month, I.B. Tauris released Forming National Identity in Iran, by Ali Mozaffari (University of Western Australia). The publisher’s description follows:

Modern Iran is a country with two significant but competing discourses of national identity, one stemming from ancient pre-Islamic customs and mythology, the other from Islamic Shiite practices and beliefs. This has left an often confused notion of identity in Iran. Ali Mozaffari explores the complex processes involved in the formation of Iranian national identity, laying particular stress upon the importance of place to ideas of homeland and the creation of a collective national identity. He illustrates his arguments through an analysis of the ancient Achaemenid capital of Persepolis and the Shiite rituals of Moharram. In a concluding part, he extends his analysis to the Ancient Iran Museum and the Islamic Period Museum, housed in the National Museum of Iran. An important work that offers powerful insights into the forces shaping national identity in Iran.

Elsasser, “The Coptic Question in the Mubarak Era”

This week, Oxford University Press releases The Coptic Question in the Mubarak Era, by Sebastian Elsässer (Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel, Germany). The publisher’s description follows:

Egypt’s Christians, the Copts, are the largest Christian community in the Middle East. While they have always been considered an integral component of the Egyptian nation, their precise status within Egyptian politics and society has been subject to ongoing debates from the twentieth century to present day. Part of the legacy of the Mubarak era in Egypt is the unsettled state of Muslim-Christian relations and the increasing volatility of sectarian tensions, which have continued in the post-Mubarak period.

The Coptic Question in the Mubarak Era delves into the discourses that dominated public debates and the political agenda-setting during the Mubarak era, explaining why politicians and the public in Egypt have had such enormous difficulties in recognizing the real roots of sectarian strife. This “Coptic question” is a complex set of issues, ranging from the petty struggles of daily Egyptian life in a bi-religious society to intricate legal and constitutional questions (family law, conversion, and church-building), to the issue of the political participation of the Coptic minority. Through these subjects, the book explores a larger debate around Egyptian national identity.

Paying special attention to the neglected diversity of voices within the Coptic community, Sebastian Elsässer peels back the historical layers to provide a comprehensive analysis of the historic, political, and social dynamics of Egypt’s Coptic Christians during Hosni Mubarak’s rule.