by MATTHEW LONG for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on JULY 17, 2015: 

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Emran el-Badawi
Emran el-Badawi

The Qur’an and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions (Routledge, 2013) written by Emran El-Badawi, professor and director of the Arab Studies program at the University of Houston, is a recent addition to the field of research on the Qur’an and Aramaic and Syriac biblical texts. Professor El-Badawi asserts that the Qur’an is a product of an environment steeped in the Aramaic gospel traditions. Not a “borrowing” from the Aramaic gospel tradition, but rather the Qur’an contains a “dogmatic re-articulation” of elements from that tradition for an Arab audience.

He introduces and examines this context in the second chapter, and then proceeds to compare passages of the Qur’an and passages of the Aramaic gospel in the subsequent four chapters. These comparisons are organized according to four primary themes: prophets, clergy, the divine, and the apocalypse. Each chapter contains numerous images constituting the larger theme at work. For example in the chapter “Divine Judgment and the Apocalypse,” images of paradise and hell taken from gospel traditions are compared to the Qur’anic casting of these images. Moreover, Professor El-Badawi includes three indices following his concluding chapter that provide a great deal of raw data and textual parallels between the Qur’an and the wide range of sources he has employed.

The value of his work is evidenced by the fact it was nominated for the 2014 British-Kuwait Friendship Society’s Book Prize in Middle Eastern Studies.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH EL-BADAWI

In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN and ISLAMiCommentary is a part), announced its official institutional affiliation with New Books in Islamic Studies — a bi-weekly audio podcast featuring hour long conversations with authors of exciting new research. For an archive see HERE.

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN on JULY 20, 2015:

51HAWqC1GHL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_“One of the most visible public faces of the 2011 revolution in Egypt was Asmaʾ Mahfouz, a young woman who posted a video blog on Facebook calling for the January 25 protest in Tahrir Square “so that maybe we the country can become free, can become a country with justice, a country with dignity, a country in which a human can be truly human, not living like an animal.” 

She describes a stark imbalance of power: a lone girl standing against the security apparatus of the state. When she initially went out to demonstrate, only three other people came to join her. They were met with vans full of security forces, “tens of thugs” (balṭagiyyīn) that menaced the small band of protesters. Talking about her fear (ruʿb), she epitomizes the voice of righteous indignation against the Goliath of an abusive military regime.

“I am a girl,” she says, “and I went down.” The skinny, small, pale girl bundled up in her winter scarf and sweater speaks clearly and forcefully, despite a slight speech impediment, rallying a political community to action against tyrannical rule.

Mahfouz’s vlog is not necessarily famous for actually sparking the revolution, as some have claimed in the revolution’s aftermath. Rather, she visually embodies and vocally advocates what the Islamic activist Heba Raouf Ezzat calls “soft force,”al-­quwwa­ al-n­āʿima.” Raouf Ezzat uses the term to refer to nonviolent protest, or what she calls “women’s jihad,” wielded against “tyrannical government.” — beginning of the Introduction to “Soft Force: Women in Egypt’s Islamic Awakening” (Princeton University Press, May 2015)  by Ellen Anne McLarney

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In Soft Force: Women in Egypt’s Islamic Awakening Duke University professor Ellen McLarney argues against the misconception of Muslim women as “oppressed by Islam,” with her “in depth, nuanced, and careful” examination of the lives and activism of women who write about Islam as liberating them from sexual and political oppression, ignorance, exploitation, and dominance.

Focusing on writings spanning the last six decades in Egypt — and especially Egypt’s Islamic awakening — McLarney charts a genealogy of women’s writings on gender relationships in Islam. These popular religious texts have circulated widely in Egypt and reached audiences as far away as Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, and France through republication and translation.

These writers include scholars like Heba Raouf Ezzat and Bint al-Shati, preachers like Niʿmat Sidqi, television personalities like Kariman Hamza, actresses like Shams al-Barudi, activists like Zaynab al-Ghazali, cultural critics like Safinaz Kazim, and journalists like Iman Mustafa. Continue reading

One scholar’s response to Reza Aslan and Hasan Minhaj’s “Open Letter to American Muslims on Same Sex Marriage” 

by ALI A. OLOMI for ISLAMiCommentary on JULY 17, 2015:

"Aqa Mirak" - 16th Safavid watercolor by Aqa Mirak depicting two young princes and lovers. (currently located in the Smithsonian)
“Aqa Mirak” – 16th Safavid watercolor by Aqa Mirak depicting two young princes and lovers. (currently located in the Smithsonian)

Since the legalization of same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26th 2015, various religious groups have responded to the ruling. Muslim Americans, who themselves are a minority group in the United States, have struggled to find consensus.

Some have openly condemned the ruling. Others have urged a more hesitant acceptance of the court’s decision. Cognizant of the precarious position of minorities in the United States, Imam Suhaib Webb posted an online message where he encouraged a nuanced perspective that respected the ruling and supported it politically, while acknowledging the theological and ethical dilemmas for conservative Muslims. A group of Afghan American thinkers and activists on The Samovar Network took a more accepting stance when they held an online panel (via a Google hangout) and showed support for the ruling and the LGBTQ community as a whole.

Author, Reza Aslan and comedian, Hasan Minhaj wrote an open letter, published in Religion Dispatches, to Muslim Americans encouraging acceptance and tolerance, reminding Muslims that they too are a minority in the United States and should stand for the rights of their fellow minorities.

People were surprised by the letter and some have attributed the position of the authors to Western influence. Popular representations in America and Europe, tend to depict Muslims as staunchly against same-sex marriage. But I would point out that positions like Reza’s and others like him actually highlight a forgotten part of Islamic history. Continue reading

The following is a working paper by professor Kubilay Yado Arin. Comments and feedback are solicited and welcome. 

by KUBILAY YADO ARIN for TIRN on JULY 13, 2015: 

Historically, Turkish nationalists and the opponents of EU membership always invoke the spirit of Sèvres. This peace treaty from 1920 was dictated by the victorious powers of World War I, and spelled the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, leaving for the Turks small, rump state. In eastern Anatolia, it was envisaged that independent Armenian and Kurdish states would emerge; in the west, Turkey would lose territory to Greece. After heavy loss of life in the ensuing war of independence, the Treaty of Lausanne recognized Turkey in 1923 without mentioning an Armenian or Kurdish state.[1] Since that time, Turkey’s official position has been for decades to face westwards rather than towards the Middle East – EU accession being, for the Kemalist establishment, the final step in this process.

Fear of Kurdish secession has long been the canker in Turkish democracy, the justification for a raft of laws that restrict human rights and the freedom of expression. Instead of declaring that there is no Kurdish problem, as it did two decades ago, the Turkish government now appears to be saying there is no Kurdish solution. And as long as Turkey blurs the line between terrorism and legitimate protest, it will continue to alienate its Kurdish population while legitimating the men of violence. [2]

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Chris Bail, assistant professor of sociology at Duke University shared the abstract to his latest article: “The Public Life of Secrets: Deception, Disclosure and Discursive Framing in the Policy Process.” See below for link to the full article. 

by CHRIS BAIL for SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY (June 2015 vol. 33no. 2 97-124): 

Chris Bail
Chris Bail

ARTICLE ABSTRACT: While secrecy enables policy makers to escape public scrutiny, leaks of classified information reveal the social construction of reality by the state. I develop a theory that explains how leaks shape the discursive frames states create to communicate the causes of social problems to the public and corresponding solutions to redress them. Synthesizing cultural sociology, symbolic interactionism, and ethnomethodology, I argue that leaks enable non–state actors to amplify contradictions between the public and secret behavior of the state. States respond by “ad hoc–ing” new frames that normalize their secret transgressions as logical extensions of other policy agendas. While these syncretic responses resolve contradictions exposed by leaks, they gradually detach discursive frames from reality and therefore increase states’ need for secrecy—as well as the probability of future leaks—in turn. I illustrate this downward spiral of deception and disclosure via a case study of the British government’s discourse about terrorism between 2000 and 2008.

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Christopher A. Bail is assistant professor of sociology at Duke University. By developing new methods for the analysis of large text-based datasets, he examines how political actors and non-profit organizations create cultural change. He is the author of “Terrified: How Anti-Muslim Fringe Organizations Became Mainstream” (2015) as well as articles in American Sociological Review, Theory and Society, and Sociological Methods and Research.

 

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