McCallum, “Christian Communities in the Middle East”

In December, Routledge Publishing will release Christian Communities in the Middle East: Faith, Identity, and Integration by Fiona McCallum (University of St. Andrews). The publisher’s description follows:

routledge-logoThe Christian communities in the Middle East exist in an environment where religion has retained strong social significance but society is dominated by a different faith. This work explores the different historical processes of state building to examine regime policies towards the Christian presence in Syria and Jordan, identifying the methods used to accommodate groups with a distinct identity and integrate them into the nation state. This volume aims to give an overview of the under-studied Christian groups in this area, providing much-needed information on these minorities, assessing the implications of these policies on the two countries with reference to the question of regime legitimacy and determining if they can prove insightful for other regional governments in their efforts to integrate Middle Eastern Christian communities.

By examining different approaches such as secular nationalism, cultural pluralism, protected minority (dhimmi) and coercion, it would appear that there is a constant dilemma between attaining regime stability by promoting a national identity and allowing minority groups to retain their own identity. As indigenous communities, the case studies of the Christians of Syria and Jordan demonstrate to what extent the two regimes have successfully addressed this dilemma. The two countries offer interesting comparisons, and McCallum is able to highlight both the contrasting regimes and the similarities in the ongoing crises facing the region – economic problems, cultural change, the growth of political Islam and challenges posed by regional conflict. This new research will demonstrate that their role as interlocutors continues today and that their experience of living in this region has provided them with a rich knowledge and understanding of their coreligionist that is crucial to our understanding of Middle Eastern society.

Tackling issues central to the relationship between religion and politics including secularization, religious revival and the legal status of religions and their adherents, this work will be of great interest to all scholars of Religion, Comparative Politics and the Middle East.

Abdo, “The New Sectarianism”

In December, Oxford University Press will release The New Sectarianism: The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shi’a-Sunni Divide by Geneive Abdo (Atlantic Council). The publisher’s description follows:

the-new-sectarianismThe Shi’a-Sunni conflict is one of the most significant outcomes arising from the Arab rebellions. Yet, there is little understanding of who is driving this tension and the underlying causes. By delving deeply into the historical factors leading up to the present-day conflict, The New Sectarianism sheds new light on how Shi’a and Sunni perceive one another after the Arab uprisings, how these perceptions have affected the Arab world, and why the dream of a pan-Islamic awakening was misplaced.

Geneive Abdo describes a historical backdrop that serves as a counterpoint to Western media coverage of the so-called Arab Spring. Already by the 1970s, she says, Shi’a and Sunni communities had begun to associate their religious beliefs and practices with personal identity, replacing their fragile loyalty to the nation state. By the time the Arab risings erupted into their full fury in early 2011, there was fertile ground for instability. The ensuing clash-between Islamism and Nationalism, Shi’a and Sunni, and other factions within these communities-has resulted in unprecedented violence. So, Abdo asks, what does religion have to do with it? This sectarian conflict is often presented by the West as rivalry over land use, political power, or access to education. However, Abdo persuasively argues that it must be understood as flowing directly from religious difference and the associated identities that this difference has conferred on both Shi’a and Sunni.

The New Sectarianism considers the causes for this conflict in key countries such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Bahrain and the development of regional trends. Abdo argues that in these regions religion matters, not only in how it is utilized by extremists, moderate Islamists, and dictators alike for political purposes, but how it perpetually evolves and is perceived and practiced among the vast majority of Muslims. Shi’a and Sunni today are not battling over territory alone; they are fighting for their claim to a true Islamic identity.

Brown, “Arguing Islam after the Revival of Arab Politics”

In November, Oxford University Press will release Arguing Islam after the Revival of Arab Politics by Nathan J. Brown (George Washington University). The publisher’s description follows:

arguing-islamFor much of its modern history, a combination of deep nervousness and profound lack of interest seemed to inhibit or even prevent regular political conversations in the Arab World. Public spaces were devoid of political discussions: public squares in major cities showed no signs of assemblies for political purposes. If one picked up a newspaper, one was more likely to read about the comings and goings of officials rather than any sort of comprehensive political coverage.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, newer media and older forms (such as the daily newspaper) have gradually made it easier for Middle East countries to participate in public debates from a variety of ideological perspectives. The state retreat from social welfare commitments have opened opportunities for a host of new informal groups and organizations to operate in areas previously dominated by officially-controlled bodies. These trends have obviously been noticed by social scientists, but scholars who focus on the large-scale political changes tend to edge into a celebratory tone: the changes are seen as potentially democratizing.

Arguing Islam after the Revival of Arab Politics presents an understanding the “revived” forms of Arab politics as they really are, and does not speculate about the democratic future these changes could signal. In particular, this book examines various sites of Arab public life to explore how politics operates. Four kinds of public spheres are brought into focus: small group discussions that straddle the public/private divide (such as diwaniyyas in Kuwait or piety groups in Egypt), public spaces of assembly (such as public squares and mosques), media (both new and old), and parliaments (an institution etymologically founded in philosophizing and pontificating rather than legislating). Further, the author gives due attention to the ways in which these spheres interact to explore how these gradations, affirmations, and subversions of hierarchy, status, and power make up the current political landscape of the Middle East.

The resulting work is one that is able to bridge disciplinary boundaries, offering understandings of the new political sphere. Designed to speak beyond a scholarly audience, this volume will contribute to broader public understandings of Islam in practice and of Arab politics as those who participate in it experience it.

Around the Web this Week

Some law and religion news from around the web this week:

Around the Web

Here is a look at some law and religion news stories from around the web:

Trexler, “Evangelizing Lebanon”

In September, Baylor University Press will release “Evangelizing Lebanon: Baptists, Missions, and the Question of Cultures,” by Melanie E. Trexler (Valparaiso University). The publisher’s description follows:

Evangelizing LebanonIn 1893, Said Jureidini, an Arabic-speaking Christian from the Ottoman Empire, experienced an evangelical conversion while attending the Chicago World’s Fair. Two years later he founded the first Baptist church in modern-day Lebanon. For financial support, he aligned his fledgling church with American Landmark Baptists and, later, Southern Baptists. By doing so, Jureidini linked the fate of Baptists in Lebanon with those in the United States.

In Evangelizing Lebanon, Melanie E. Trexler explores the complex, reflexive relationship between Baptist missionaries from the States and Baptists in Lebanon. Trexler pays close attention to the contexts surrounding the relationships, the consequences, and the theologies inherent to missionary praxis, carefully profiling the perspectives of both the missionaries and the Lebanese Baptists.

Trexler thus discovers a fraught mutuality at work. U.S. missionaries presented new models of church planting, evangelism, and educational opportunities that Continue reading

Afaf, “Gendered Politics and Law in Jordan”

In August, Springer will release “Gendered Politics and Law in Jordan: Guardianship over Women,” by Afaf Jabiri (University of London).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book analyzes how the state constructs and reproduces gender identities in the context and geopolitics of Jordan. Guardianship over women is examined as not only 9783319326429the basis of women’s legal and social subordination, but also a key factor in the construction and reproduction of a gender hierarchy system. Afaf Jabiri probes how a masculine state gives power and legitimacy through guardianship to institutions—including family, religion, and tribe—in managing, producing, and constructing gender identity. Does the masculine institution succeed in imposing a dominant form of femininity? Or are there ways by which women escape and resist the social and legal construction of femininity? Based on over 60 case studies of contemporary women in Jordan, the book additionally examines how the resultant strategies and tactics developed by women in Jordan are influenced by and affect their status within the guardianship system.

“Religions and Constitutional Transitions in the Muslim Mediterranean” (Ferrari & Toronto, eds.)

In September, Routledge will release “Religions and Constitutional Transitions in the Muslim Mediterranean: The Pluralistic Moment,” edited by Alessandro Ferrari (University of Insubria) and James Toronto (Brigham Young University).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book investigates the role of Islam and religious freedom in the constitutional transitions of six North African and Middle Eastern countries, namely Morocco, logo-rt-cAlgeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, and Palestine. In particular, the book, with an interdisciplinary approach, investigates the role of Islam as a political, institutional and societal force. Issues covered include: the role played by Islam as a constitutional reference – a “static force” able to strengthen and legitimize the entire constitutional order; Islam as a political reference used by some political parties in their struggle to acquire political power; and Islam as a specific religion that, like other religions in the area, embodies diverse perspectives on the nature and role of religious freedom in society. The volume provides insight about the political dimension of Islam, as used by political forces, as well as the religious dimension of Islam. This provides a new and wider perspective able to take into account the increasing social pluralism of the South-Mediterranean region. By analyzing three different topics – Islam and constitutionalism, religious political parties, and religious freedom – the book offers a dynamic picture of the role played by Islam and religious freedom in the process of state-building in a globalized age in which human rights and pluralism are crucial dimensions.

al-Anani, “Inside the Muslim Brotherhood”

al-Anani, “Inside the Muslim Brotherhood”

In October, Oxford University Press will release Inside the Muslim Brotherhood: Religion, Identity, and Politics by Khalil al-Anani (Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Qatar). The publisher’s description follows:Inside the Muslim Brotherhood.png

Over the past three decades, through rises and falls in power, regime repression and exclusion, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has endured, proving more resilient than any other Islamist movement in the world. In this book Khalil al-Anani explores the factors that have enabled the Brotherhood to survive so long within an ever-changing political landscape.

Inside the Muslim Brotherhood unpacks the principal factors that shape the movement’s identity, organization, and activism. Investigating the processes of socialization, indoctrination, recruitment, identification, networking, and mobilization that characterize the movement, al-Anani argues that the Brotherhood is not merely a political actor seeking power but an identity-maker that aims to change societal values, norms, and morals to line up with its ideology and worldview. The Brotherhood is involved in an intensive process of meaning construction and symbolic production that shapes individuals’ identity and gives sense to their lives. The result is a distinctive code of identity that binds members together, maintains their activism, and guides their behavior in everyday life. Al-Anani attributes the Brotherhood’s longevity to its tight-knit structure coupled with a complex membership system that has helped them resist regime penetration. The book also explores the divisions and differences within the movement and how these affect its strategy and decisions.

The culmination of over a decade of research and interviews with leaders and members of the movement, this book challenges the dominant narratives about Islamists and Islamism as a whole.


“Contemporary Israel” (Greenspahn, ed.)

“Contemporary Israel” (Greenspahn, ed.)

In August, New York University Press will release Contemporary Israel: New Insights and Scholarship edited by Frederick E. Greenspahn (Florida Atlantic University). The publisher’s description follows:Contemporary Israel

For a country smaller than Vermont, with roughly the same population as Honduras, modern Israel receives a remarkable amount of attention. For supporters, it is a unique bastion of democracy in the Middle East, while detractors view it as a racist outpost of Western colonialism. The romanticization of Israel became particularly prominent in 1967, when its military prowess shocked a Jewish world still reeling from the sense of powerlessness dramatized by the Holocaust. That imagery has grown ever more visible, with Israel’s supporters idealizing its technological achievements and its opponents attributing almost every problem in the region, if not beyond, to its imperialistic aspirations.
The contradictions and competing views of modern Israel are the subject of this book.  There is much to consider about modern Israel besides the Middle East conflict. Over the past generation, a substantial body of scholarship has explored numerous aspects of the country, including its approaches to citizenship and immigration, the arts, the women’s movement, religious fundamentalism, and language; but much of that work has to date been confined within the walls of the academy. This book does not seek not to resolve either the country’s internal debates or its struggle with the Arab world, but to present a sample of contemporary scholars’ discoveries and discussions about modern Israel in an accessible way. In each of the areas discussed, competing narratives grapple for prominence, and it is these which are highlighted in this volume.
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