by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on NOVEMBER 23, 2015 *updated on Nov. 25: 

ISLAMiCommentary attended the annual Middle East Studies Association meeting this year (Nov. 21-24) — where hundreds of scholars from all over the world have gathered. See @ISLAMiComment on Twitter and also follow #MESA2015Denver and #MESA2015 for insightful tweets by scholars and other participants in this conference on a multitude of Middle East-related topics.

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compiled by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on NOVEMBER 25, 2015: 

November 23, 2015 Statement by Middle East Studies Association

The Board of Directors of the Middle East Studies Association condemns the increasing frequency and intensity of violent acts against civilians taking place in countries around the world. We are also alarmed at the related rise in the stereotyping and vilification of people of Middle East or Muslim background.

We urge, therefore, those with responsibility for United States policy in the Middle East and the Islamic world to avail themselves of the insights of scholarship as they seek to understand the background of these violent acts and to frame responses to them.

We are deeply concerned that people who are or appear to be Muslim or of Middle Eastern background—citizens, residents and displaced persons seeking refuge—have been and continue to be the victims of discrimination in the US as well as other countries. This discrimination can occur in any area of public life, including employment, travel, access to accommodation and access to other goods, services and facilities. It can involve harassment, vilification and at times actual violence.

We deplore the reckless rhetoric of some public figures that is only increasing the likelihood of discrimination and the violation of the civil rights of people of Middle East and Muslim background. We commend the efforts of public officials to prevent acts of harassment and retaliation and encourage them to redouble their efforts in this direction.

Ignorance and misunderstanding of the Middle East and the Islamic world are rife in the US and other Western countries. This lack of accurate information must be addressed by the educational system at all levels. We call upon MESA members to actively share their expertise about the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamic world with the communities in which they live and work, and to make every effort as educators to communicate their invaluable knowledge and understanding to representatives of the media and policy makers.

We advocate tolerance, education, understanding, and thoughtfully planned measures to assure that these acts of violence are not followed by further senseless destruction or discrimination. Continue reading

compiled by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, TIRN via the Door of Mercy International Kenan Rifai Symposium (Session 3 streamed live) on May 30, 2015:

Director of the Duke Islamic Studies Center Omid Safi and UNC Chapel Hill professor Juliane Hammer spoke at a symposium over the weekend in Turkey: “Kenan Rifai: Bringing Mawlana Rumi to the 20th Century.”

Safi lectured on “how the teachings of the path of love have been adapted for the 20th and 21st centuries , with an eye towards deep models of spiritual fellowship and friendship.”

Hammer addressed the topic: “On Women’s Bodies: Gender, Islamophobia, and Resistance in America.”

A Turkish professor, Cangüzel Güner Zülfikar, gave a talk on “Kenan Rifai’s Teaching and Training Methods.”

The Door of Mercy International Kenan Rifai Symposium was hosted by Cemalnur Sargut, a Sufi teacher.


Details on the Symposium: 

Cemal Reşit Rey Konser Salonu / Cemal Resit Rey Concert Hall


Oturum Başkanı / Chairperson
Bruce Lawrence, Prof. Dr.

Omid Safi, Prof. Dr.
Kenan Rifâî: Hz. Mevlânâ’yı 20. Yüzyıla Taşımak
Kenan Rifai: Bringing Mawlana Rumi to the 20th Century

Cangüzel Güner Zülfikar, Yrd. Doç. Dr. / Asst. Prof.
Kenan er-Rifâî Hz.’nin Mürşitliği ve Mürebbiliği
Kenan Rifai’s Teaching and Training Methods

Juliane Hammer, Doç. Dr. / Assoc. Prof.
Kadın Bedeni: Toplumsal Cinsiyet, İslamofobi ve Amerika’daki Direnç
On Women’s Bodies: Gender, Islamophobia, and Resistance in America

compiled by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary/TIRN on MAY 6, 2015: 

Nora Fisher Onar is a Research Associate of the Centre for International Studies of the University of Oxford and a Transatlantic Fellow of the German Marshall Fund in Washington DC. Fisher Onar presented “The Cosmo-Politics of Nostalgia: Istanbul, Identity, and Difference” at the March 19, 2015 workshop “Turkish Reasonable Accommodations: From Multiculturalism to Secular Nationalism and Back.”

“Istanbul is I think a fascinating site of analysis. We’ve heard about how it’s been an imperial capitol for almost three millennia and so it’s brought together groups of different ethnic, sectarian, religious, civilizational orientations,” said Fisher Onar, beginning her presentation. “In Orhan Pamuk’s words Istanbul is just emerging perhaps from a century of being a backwater. It’s never been as provincial for the past 2,000 years as it has been for the past 100 or 85 or so (years).”

She then argued: “I think we can make the claim that although Istanbul became a backwater, although it became homogenized along with the general process of the homogenizing nation-building that took place from the 1920s onwards, there was still a persistence, there as a certain sort of post-imperial cosmopolitan persistence in Istanbul and that we can access in various traces left upon the city.” Continue reading

“One of the most important outcomes of these movements has been the return of politics to the public sphere and the return of the square as the place for it” — Nezar AlSayyad, professor of architecture, planning, urban design and urban history at the University of California at Berkeley 


Unknown-1In the postscript to his 2011 book Cairo: Histories of a City (reproduced by The New York Times as an op-ed), and in lectures and articles since, UC Berkeley architecture professor Nezar AlSayyad has argued that Tahrir (“Liberation”) Square, finally lived up to his name with the 2011 Egyptian uprising. Four years later, however, there are questions about whether Egypt really has been “liberated.”

While AlSayyad said it may be “too early to tell” if the 2011 Egyptian uprising can ultimately be deemed a failure, and though “many wish the Arab Spring had never come” — “Are we more comfortable with our dictators?” he wondered aloud —  he seems convinced that what happened in Tahrir Square and in other public squares in the Middle East did indeed have a positive impact.

“People of all classes are now more politically active and politically aware,” he said. Continue reading