From October 22-23, Columbia University Arab Studies professor Rashid Khalidi gave a public lecture on “The Hundred Year War in Palestine” and convened a public forum with Duke faculty on the same topic. This two-day “Borders of the Middle East” symposium was co-sponsored by the Duke Middle East Studies Center, the Franklin Humanities Institute, Forum for Scholars and Publics, Duke University Department of History, Duke Department of Political Science, UNC-Chapel Hill history department, and the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies.

The period since the Balfour Declaration of 1917 has witnessed what amounts to a hundred years of war against the Palestinian people,” said Khalidi, previewing the theme of his talk. “This war had a unique nature: formally sanctioned and authorized by the great powers, but largely waged by others. Against these heavy odds, the Palestinians have resisted what amounts to one of the last ongoing attempts at colonial subjugation in the modern world.”

He began his talk with this observation: “It’s an understatement to say that most portrayals of Palestinians do not feature the perspectives of Palestinians.. They’ve been elided from the historical narrative.” In fact he said that “it’s an article of faith from many of their opponents that Palestinians do not exist.” Continue reading

WATCH ABOVE: A poetry reading and contextualization of the Islamic Mystic Ibn Al-Arabi by Professor Michael Sells, John Henry Barrows Professor of Islamic History and Literature, University of Chicago Divinity School. (Introduction to Sells by Ellen McLarney, Assistant Professor of Arabic Literature and Culture)


An Interview with University of Chicago Islamic History & Literature Professor Michael Sells

by ABDUL LATIF for ISLAMiCommentary on NOVEMBER 3, 2015:

Michael Sells holds a workshop at Duke University on the Qu'ran and it's listeners.
Michael Sells holds a workshop at Duke University on the Qu’ran and it’s listeners.

In early October the University of Chicago’s John Henry Barrows Professor of Islamic History and Literature Michael Sells visited Duke University for two talks; “Translator of Desires” — a poetry reading of the Islamic mystic Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi; and a workshop on the Qur’an and its listeners.

Sells studies and teaches in the areas of Qur’anic studies, Sufism, Arabic and Islamic love poetry, mystical literature (Greek, Islamic, Christian, and Jewish), and religion and violence.

I had the opportunity to sit down with him on October 2 to talk about his research.

The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

QUESTION: What brought you to the study of Islam and Arabic poetry?

SELLS: In college, I was a student abroad in Italy and we had vacations. In one vacation I went to Tunis. I walked from the French part of the city into the old city and saw the different textures and intricacies of life, and I thought, “This is a culture and a world I want to be involved in.” I subsequently went back to Tunis, and later went to Cairo for a year. There I became fascinated with the pervasiveness of the Qur’an recitation. And Cairo of course was the center of the explosion of the use of radio and cassettes. The great Egyptian reciters played on television, radio. People were reciting in the streets on different occasions, and I became convinced that this was a central aspect of the Qur’an. 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 and TIRN on MAY 25, 2015: 

Dawn Chatty, director of the Oxford Refugee Studies Center, spoke last month at Duke University on “Dispossession and Forced migration in the Arab Middle East.” Her presentation took place as part of Duke University’s Middle East Refugees Awareness Week, April 8-17, 2015 and was based on a book she published in 2010 of the same title, the research of which grew out of “trying to understand the multiplicity of minority groups in the Middle East… specifically in the Levant or the former Ottoman Empire in the 19th century.”

Citing modern-day statistics — 16 million refugees, including Palestinian refugees, recognized by the UN system —she also sought to show “how forced migration has become the defining feature of the 21st Century.” Continue reading

compiled by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN on MAY 15, 2015: 

Cemil Aydin is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Aydin presented on the “Impossibility of the Millet System in the Age of Active Publics: Ottoman Tanzimat, Imperial Citizenship, and Cosmopolitan Pluralism, 1839-1915” at the March 19, 2015 workshop “Turkish Reasonable Accommodations: From Multiculturalism to Secular Nationalism and Back.”

Aydin explored in his talk, how the Ottoman millet system “was not very unique but in many ways was a peculiar way of managing diversity in one of the most diverse empires in world history for about 600 years,” and why it ultimately failed. Continue reading