Around the Web this Week

Here are some interesting law and religion news stories from around the web this week:


Event at Georgetown University: “Threats to Religious and Ethnic Minorities under the Islamic State” (July 28)

On July 28, Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project is hosting a conference entitled “Threats to Religious and Ethnic Minorities under the Islamic State.” Panelists at the conference include Knox Thames (State Department Office of International Religious Freedom), Breen Tahseen (Iraqi Diplomat), David Saperstein (U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom), and Saad Salloum (Masarat Religious Freedom Organization). The Religious Freedom Project’s description of the event follows:

In March 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives and Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the Islamic State (ISIS) is committing genocide against Christians, Yazidis, Shi’a Muslims, and other religious and ethnic minority groups in Syria and Iraq. In addition to these and other crimes against humanity, ISIS is also engaging in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Kurds and even Sunni Muslims. Unfortunately, months later, ISIS and other violent extremist groups continue to target and terrorize their victims through rape, enslavement, and murder, while religious and cultural sites are systematically looted and destroyed.

To inform policymakers about the continuing travail of religious and ethnic minorities threatened by ISIS, and to galvanize long-term thinking about addressing this crisis, the Religious Freedom Project is hosting a daylong conference at Georgetown University.

During the conference, representatives of the targeted communities will share their personal experiences of religious persecution and their recommendations for policymakers. Among the questions they will engage are: What are the immediate security challenges posed by ISIS? What can we do now to ensure the viability of vulnerable religious and ethnic communities in Iraq and Syria? What steps need to be taken to ensure religious freedom, and how is religious freedom a possible antidote to future violence? Community representatives will be joined by distinguished policymakers, activists, and scholars.

Sharma, “Nation, Ethnicity and the Conflict in Afghanistan”

This month, Routledge releases “Nation, Ethnicity and the Conflict in Afghanistan: Political Islam and the rise of ethno-politics 1992–1996,” by Raghav Sharma (O.P. Jindal Global University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Ethnic and tribal loyalties in Afghanistan provided the lethal cocktail for the violent conflict that engulfed the country following the collapse of the Soviet9781472471475 backed government in 1992. The ensuing fighting between mujahideen groups paved the way for the tectonic social and political shifts, which continue to shape events today. What accounts for the emergence of ethnicity, as the main cause of conflict in Afghanistan? What moved people to respond with such fervour and intensity to calls for ethnic solidarity? This book attempts to make sense of ethnicity’s decisive role in Afghanistan through a comprehensive exploration of its nature and perception. Based on new data, generated through interviews, field notes and participant observations, Sharma maps the increased role of ethnicity in Afghan national politics. Key social, political and historical processes that facilitated its emergence as the pre-dominant fault-line of conflict are explored, moving away from grand political and military narrative to instead engage with zones of conflict as social spaces. This book will be of interest to students and scholars working in politics, ethnic studies and security studies.

Hanaoka, “Authority and Identity in Medieval Islamic Historiography”

In August, Cambridge University Press will release Authority and Identity in Medieval Islamic Historiography: Persian Histories from the Peripheries by Mimi Hanaoka (University of Richmond). The publisher’s description follows:

Authority and Stuff in the Medieval IslamicIntriguing dreams, improbable myths, fanciful genealogies, and suspect etymologies. These were all key elements of the historical texts composed by scholars and bureaucrats on the peripheries of Islamic empires between the tenth and fifteenth centuries. But how are historians to interpret such narratives? And what can these more literary histories tell us about the people who wrote them and the times in which they lived? In this book, Mimi Hanaoka offers an innovative, interdisciplinary method of approaching these sorts of local histories from the Persianate world. By paying attention to the purpose and intention behind a text’s creation, her book highlights the preoccupation with authority to rule and legitimacy within disparate regional, provincial, ethnic, sectarian, ideological and professional communities. By reading these texts in such a way, Hanaoka transforms the literary patterns of these fantastic histories into rich sources of information about identity, rhetoric, authority, legitimacy, and centre-periphery relations.

Mahallati, “Ethics of War and Peace in Iran and Shi’i Islam”

In September, the University of Toronto Press will release Ethics of War and Peace in Iran and Shi’i Islam by Mohammad Jafar Amir Mahallati (Oberlin College). The publisher’s description follows:

War and Peace in IslamNearly four decades after a revolution, experiencing one of the longest wars in contemporary history, facing political and ideological threats by regional radicals such as ISIS and the Taliban, and having succeeded in negotiations with six world powers over her nuclear program, Iran appears as an experienced Muslim country seeking to build bridges with its Sunni neighbours as well as with the West.

Ethics of War and Peace in Iran and Shi’i Islam explores the wide spectrum of theoretical approaches and practical attitudes concerning the justifications, causes and conduct of war in Iranian-Shi‘i culture. By examining primary and secondary sources, and investigating longer lasting factors and questions over circumstantial ones, Mohammed Jafar Amir Mahallati seeks to understand modern Iranian responses to war and peace. His work is the first in its field to look into the ethics of war and peace in Iran and Shi’i Islam. It provides a prism through which the binary source of the Iranian national and religious identity informs Iranian response to modernity. By doing so, the author reveals that a syncretic and civilization-conscious soul in modern Iran is re-emerging.

“Reclaiming Islamic Tradition” (Kendall & Khan, eds.)

Next month, Edinburgh University Press releases Reclaiming Islamic Tradition: Modern Interpretations of the Classical Heritage, edited by Elisabeth Kendall (Oxford) and Ahmad Khan (Oxford). The publisher’s description follows:

Recent events in the Islamic world have demonstrated the endurance, negReclaiming Islamic Traditionlect and careful reshaping of the classical Islamic heritage. A range of modern Islamic movements and intellectuals has sought to reclaim certain concepts, ideas, persons and trends from the Islamic tradition. This book profiles some of the fundamental debates that have defined the conversation between the past and the present in the Islamic world. Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic law, gender, violence and eschatology are just some of the key themes in this study of the Islamic tradition’s vitality in the modern Islamic world. This book will allow readers to situate modern developments in the Islamic world within the longue durée of Islamic history and thought.

Hamid, “Islamic Exceptionalism”

This month, St. Martin’s Press releases “Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World,” by Shadi Hamid (Brookings Institution).  The publisher’s description follows: 

In Islamic Exceptionalism, Brookings Institution scholar and acclaimed author Shadi Hamid offers a novel and provocative argument on how Islam is, in fact, “exceptional”9781466866720 in how it relates to politics, with profound implications for how we understand the future of the Middle East. Divides among citizens aren’t just about power but are products of fundamental disagreements over the very nature and purpose of the modern nation state—and the vexing problem of religion’s role in public life. Hamid argues for a new understanding of how Islam and Islamism shape politics by examining different models of reckoning with the problem of religion and state, including the terrifying—and alarmingly successful—example of ISIS.

With unprecedented access to Islamist activists and leaders across the region, Hamid offers a panoramic and ambitious interpretation of the region’s descent into violence. Islamic Exceptionalism is a vital contribution to our understanding of Islam’s past and present, and its outsized role in modern politics. We don’t have to like it, but we have to understand it—because Islam, as a religion and as an idea, will continue to be a force that shapes not just the region, but the West as well in the decades to come.

Fromherz, “Qatar”

In July, the Georgetown University Press will release “Qatar: A Modern History,” by Allen J. Fromherz (Georgia State University).  The publisher’s description follows:

What role does Qatar play in the Middle East and how does it differ from the other Gulf states? How has the ruling Al-Thani family shaped Qatar from a traditional tribal 9781589019102society and British protectorate to a modern state? How has Qatar become an economic superpower with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world? What are the social, political, and economic consequences of Qatar’s extremely rapid development?

In this groundbreaking history of modern Qatar, Allen J. Fromherz presents a full portrait that analyzes Qatar’s crucial role in the Middle East and its growing regional influence within a broader historical context. Drawing on original sources in Arabic, English, and French as well as his own fieldwork in the Middle East, the author deftly traces the influence of the Ottoman and British empires and Qatar’s Gulf neighbors on the country prior to Qatar’s meteoric rise in the post-independence era.

Fromherz gives particular weight to the nation’s economic and social history, from its modest origins in the pearling and fishing industries to the considerable economic clout it exerts today, a clout that comes with having the second-highest natural gas Continue reading

Dispatches from Kabul: French Words and Fighter Jets

Former CLR Fellow Jessica Wright ’14 is currently working as an attorney in Kabul, Afghanistan. This post is part of a series of reflections on her experiences there.

There’s an art gallery just off Armenia street in the Mar Mikhail district of Beirut that sells a variety of novelty goods – soap from Aleppo, hand-stamped Iranian linens, black and white photographs from the Lebanese Civil War, books on art. As I was perusing the shelves I came across a notebook with text clippings and war motifs pasted to its cover, a dècoupage of French words and fighter jets. Along the bottom of the front cover there was a phrase: Parce que l’incohérence est preferable à l’ordre qui deforme. It’s a quote from the French philosopher, Roland Barthes, which translates directly to: incoherence is preferable to an order that deforms. I haven’t read Barthes, nor do I claim expertise in French post-structuralism or constructivism or semiotics, but taken on its face, and in light of the unstable political systems in which I live and work, it gave me pause. Dans quelle mesure cette déclaration est-elle correcte? To what extent is that statement true? Precariousness becomes a form of identity in places where nothing sticks – not ideologies, not empires, not armies – but surely chaos and disorder is the regrettable result of circumstance, not rational belief. The fight for successive orders is the history of war, and I imagined Barthes’ words in the mouths of radicals from Raqqa to Kandahar.

In the late afternoon, the church bells at St. George’s ring out loud and clear across the Martyr’s Square in Beirut, and it feels, for a moment, as if you’re standing in front of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, the Marian church that inspired the cathedral’s neoclassical design. Soon after, the call to prayer begins, projected from the 72-meter- Continue reading

Fordham Lecture Addresses Struggles of Religious Minorities in the Middle East

Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture will hold its Russo Family Lecture on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 at 6:00 p.m.    The speakers will address the topic “Endangered:  Religious Minorities in the Middle East and Their Struggle for Survival,” with a spotlight on these groups’ prospects in the midst of ongoing conflict in the region and the rise of ISIS.

Additional information, including speaker biographies, can be found here.

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