This month, I.B.Tauris releases “Holy War, Just War: Early Modern Christianity, Religious Ethics and the Rhetoric of Empire” by Patrick Provost-Smith (Harvard University). The publisher’s description follows:
The catastrophe of Iraq has forced us to revisit the validity of what constitutes a supposedly ‘just war’. In such critical circumstances, a sustained re-examination of the basis for contemporary just war theory is desperately urgent and required. This is what precisely Patrick Provost-Smith offers in this powerful and original re-evaluation of the topic. The author recognises that a coherent account of the ethics of modern warfare can only begin with history. He therefore explores the great sixteenth century debates about the nature of conflict, focusing on the Spanish conquistadors and their evangelisation of Mexico and Peru.He then shows how these debates were later appropriated by Spanish missionaries in the Philippines with a view to the conquest of China. In assessing previous discussions over ‘just wars’, and the shifting sands of the various logics that were applied to such conflicts, Provost-Smith puts a wholly new complexion on how current moral theory about war might be understood.
This is history in the best sense: the book makes a decisive contribution to current affairs through a profound grasp of how past ideas and rhetorics about conquest have shaped ongoing notions of western Christian superiority. It will be essential reading for all serious students of religious ethics, the history of ideas, and the history of politics and empire.
In December, the Columbia University Press will release “The Making of Salafism: Islamic Reform in the Twentieth Century,” by Henri Lauzière (Northwestern University). The publisher’s description follows:
Some Islamic scholars hold that Salafism is an innovative and rationalist effort at Islamic reform that emerged in the late nineteenth century but disappeared in the mid twentieth. Others argue Salafism is an anti-innovative and antirationalist movement of Islamic purism that dates back to the medieval period yet persists today. Though they contradict each other, both narratives are considered authoritative, making it hard for outsiders to grasp the history of the ideology and its core beliefs.
Introducing a third, empirically based genealogy, The Making of Salafism understands the movement as a recent conception of Islam projected back onto the past, and it sees its purist evolution as a direct result of decolonization. Henri Lauzière builds his history on the transnational networks of Taqi al-Din al-Hilali (1894-1987), a Moroccan Salafi who, with his associates, oversaw Salafism’s modern development. Traveling from Rabat to Mecca, from Calcutta to Berlin, al-Hilali interacted with high-profile Salafi scholars and activists who eventually abandoned Islamic modernism in favor of a more purist approach to Islam. Today, Salafis claim a monopoly on religious truth and freely confront other Muslims on theological and legal issues. Lauzière’s pathbreaking history recognizes the social forces behind this purist turn, uncovering the popular origins of what has become a global phenomenon.
In November, Palgrave-MacMillan will release “Christians in Egypt: Strategies and Survival,” by Andrea B. Rugh (Middle East Institute, Washington, D.C.). The publisher’s description follows:
Christians in the Middle East have come under increasing pressure in recent years with the rise of radical Islam. Nowhere is this truer than in Egypt, where the large Coptic Christian community has traditionally played an important role in the country’s history and politics. This book examines Christian responses to sectarian pressures in two contexts: nationally as Church leaders deal with Egyptian presidents and locally as a community of poor Christians cope in a mostly-Muslim quarter of Cairo. This intensive study, based on the author’s five years of research in Bulaq, looks at existential questions surrounding the role of religion in poor communities. The book concludes with a review of strategies Egyptian Christians have used to improve their minority status, showing that although expressed differently, both Church leaders and members of the Bulaq community ultimately have worked toward similar goals. The study suggests that under the al-Sisi Government, Christians may be emerging into a more active period after a relative quiescence before the events of the 2011 Uprising.
This month, Princeton University Press releases “The Sunni Tragedy in the Middle East: Northern Lebanon from al-Qaeda to ISIS” by Bernard Rougier (Sorbonne Paris III University). The publisher’s description follows:
Northern Lebanon is a land in turmoil. Long under the sway of the Assad regime in Syria, it is now a magnet for Sunni Muslim jihadists inspired by anti-Western and anti-Shi‘a worldviews. The Sunni Tragedy in the Middle East describes in harrowing detail the struggle led by an active minority of jihadist militants, some claiming allegiance to ISIS, to seize control of Islam and impose its rule over the region’s Sunni Arab population.
Bernard Rougier introduces us to men with links to the mujahidin in Afghanistan, the Sunni resistance in Iraq, al-Qaeda, and ISIS. He describes how they aspire to replace North Lebanon’s Sunni elites, who have been attacked and discredited by neighboring powers and jihadists alike, and explains how they have successfully positioned themselves as the local Sunni population’s most credible defender against powerful external enemies—such as Iran and the Shi‘a militia group Hezbollah. He sheds new light on the methods and actions of the jihadists, their internal debates, and their evolving political agenda over the past decade.
This riveting book is based on more than a decade of research, more than one hundred in-depth interviews with players at all levels, and Rougier’s extraordinary access to original source material. Written by one of the world’s leading experts on jihadism, The Sunni Tragedy in the Middle East provides timely insight into the social, political, and religious life of this dangerous and strategically critical region of the Middle East.
In July, Bloomsbury released “Is God Back? Reconsidering the New Visibility of Religion” edited by Titus Hjelm (University College London). The publisher’s description follows:
Is God Back? Reconsidering the New Visibility of Religion examines the shifting boundary between religion and the public sphere in Europe and the Middle East. Asking what the ‘new visibility of religion’ means and challenging simplistic notions of living in a ‘post-secular’ age, the chapters explore how religion is contested and renegotiated in the public sphere – or rather, in different publics – and the effects of these struggles on society, state and religion itself.
Whereas religion arguably never went away in the USA, the re-emergence of public religion is a European phenomenon. Is God Back? provides timely case studies from Europe, as well as extending to the Middle East, where fledgling democracies are struggling to create models of governance that stem from the European secular model, but which need to be able to accommodate a much more public form of religiosity. Discussions include the new visibility of neo-Pagan and Native Faith groups in Europe, Evangelical Christians and Church teaching on sexuality in the UK, and Islamic social Movements in the Arab world.
Drawing from empirical and theoretical research on religion and national identity, religion and media, church-state relationships, and religion and welfare, Is God Back? is a rich source for students and scholars interested in the changing face of public religion in the modern world, including those studying the sociology of religion, social policy, and theology.
For those who are interested, I see that Oxford University Press has added my lecture on Mideast Christians, which I delivered last year at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, to its online legal research library. The Oxford link is here. Thanks!
In November, the Oxford University Press will release “Islam and Democracy after the Arab Spring,” by John L. Esposito (Georgetown University), Tamara Sonn (Georgetown University), and John O. Voll (Georgetown University). The publisher’s description follows:
The landscape of the Middle East has changed dramatically since 2011, as have the political arena and the discourse around democracy. In Islam and Democracy after the Arab Spring, John L. Esposito, John Voll, and Tamara Sonn examine the state of democracy in Muslim-majority societies today. Applying a twenty-first century perspective to the question of whether Islam is “compatible” with democracy, they redirect the conversation toward a new politics of democracy that transcends both secular authoritarianism and Political Islam.
While the opposition movements of the Arab Spring vary from country to country, each has raised questions regarding equality, economic justice, democratic participation, and the relationship between Islam and democracy in their respective countries. Does democracy require a secular political regime? Are religious movements the most effective opponents of authoritarian secularist regimes? Esposito, Voll, and Sonn examine these questions and shed light on how these opposition movements reflect the new global realities of media communication and sources of influence and power. Positioned for a broad readership of scholars and students, policy-makers, and media experts, Islam and Democracy after the Arab Spring will quickly become a go-to for all who watch the Middle East, inside and outside of academia.
In November, Princeton University Press will release “Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report” by Saba Mahmood (University of California, Berkeley). The publisher’s description follows:
The plight of religious minorities in the Middle East is often attributed to the failure of secularism to take root in the region. Religious Difference in a Secular Age challenges this assessment by examining four cornerstones of secularism—political and civil equality, minority rights, religious freedom, and the legal separation of private and public domains.
Drawing on her extensive fieldwork in Egypt with Coptic Orthodox Christians and Bahais—religious minorities in a predominantly Muslim country—Saba Mahmood shows how modern secular governance has exacerbated religious tensions and inequalities rather than reduced them. Tracing the historical career of secular legal concepts in the colonial and postcolonial Middle East, she explores how contradictions at the very heart of political secularism have aggravated and amplified existing forms of Islamic hierarchy, bringing minority relations in Egypt to a new historical impasse. Through a close examination of Egyptian court cases and constitutional debates about minority rights, conflicts around family law, and controversies over freedom of expression, Mahmood invites us to reflect on the entwined histories of secularism in the Middle East and Europe.
A provocative work of scholarship, Religious Difference in a Secular Age challenges us to rethink the promise and limits of the secular ideal of religious equality.
In November, the Syracuse University Press releases “The Mizrahi Era of Rebellion: Israel’s Forgotten Civil Rights Struggle, 1948–1966,” by Bryan K. Roby (New York University). The publisher’s description follows:
During the postwar period of 1948–56, over 400,000 Jews from the Middle East and Asia immigrated to the newly established state ofIsrael. By the end of the 1950s, Mizrahim, also known as Oriental Jewry, represented the ethnic majority of the Israeli Jewish population. Despite their large numbers, Mizrahim were considered outsiders because of their non-European origins. Viewed as foreigners who came from culturally backward and distant lands, they suffered decades of socioeconomic, political, and educational injustices.
In this pioneering work, Roby traces the Mizrahi population’s struggle for equality and civil rights in Israel. Although the daily “bread and work” demonstrations are considered the first political expression of the Mizrahim, Roby demonstrates the myriad ways in which they agitated for change. Drawing upon a wealth of archival sources, many only recently declassified, Roby details the activities of the highly ideological and politicized young Israel. Police reports, court transcripts, and protester accounts document a diverse range of resistance tactics, including sit-ins, tent protests, and hunger strikes. Roby shows how the Mizrahi intellectuals and activists in the 1960s began to take note of the American civil rights movement, gaining inspiration from its development and drawing parallels between their experience and that of other marginalized ethnic groups. The Mizrahi Era of Rebellion shines a light on a largely forgotten part of Israeli social history, one that profoundly shaped the way Jews from African and Asian countries engaged with the newly founded state of Israel.
In September, the University of California Press will release “Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate,” by Abdel Bari Atwan (editor of the Rai al-Youm news website). The publisher’s description follows:
Islamic State stunned the world when it overran an area the size of Great Britain on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border in a matter of weeks and proclaimed the birth of a new Caliphate. In this timely and important book, Abdel Bari Atwan draws on his unrivaled knowledge of the global jihadi movement and Middle Eastern geopolitics to reveal the origins and modus operandi of Islamic State.
Based on extensive field research and exclusive interviews with IS insiders, Islamic State outlines the group’s leadership structure, as well as its strategies, tactics, and diverse methods of recruitment. Atwan traces the Salafi-jihadi lineage of IS, its ideological differences with al Qaeda and the deadly rivalry that has emerged between their leaders. He also shows how the group’s rapid growth has been facilitated by its masterful command of social media platforms, the “dark web,” Hollywood blockbuster-style videos, and even jihadi computer games, producing a powerful paradox where the ambitions of the Middle Ages have reemerged in cyberspace.
As Islamic State continues to dominate the world’s media headlines with horrific acts of ruthless violence, Atwan considers the movement’s chances of survival and expansion and offers indispensable insights on potential government responses to contain the IS threat.