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

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by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary with NAZEEH ABDUL-HAKEEM on NOVEMBER 16, 2015: 

Nazeeh Zul-Kifl Abdul-Hakeem
Nazeeh Zul-Kifl Abdul-Hakeem

In 1981, a Durham city planner, Nazeeh Zul-Kifl Abdul-Hakeem, helped found the Durham, North Carolina-based Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman Inc. (an Islamic center). He served as its president from 1983 until 1994 and continues to be actively involved through the present day.

This summer he self-published a book — “The Athaan in the Bull City: Building Durham’s Islamic Community” — which Duke Asian & Middle Eastern studies professor Mbaye Bashir Lo has called “a welcome entry into the local stories of Islam in America.”

“Nazeeh Abdul-Hakeem’s personal stories of transformation and ongoing struggle to establish a Muslim community in the Bull City are a must read for anyone who is interested in the local discourse on Americanizing Islam and/or Islamizing America,” wrote Lo in a review.

Nazeeh estimates that about one-quarter to one-third of the more than 5,000 Muslims living in Durham County today are black. (A documentary produced by local WRAL-TV in 2012 estimated that there were around 26,000 total Muslims in North Carolina, or less than 1% of the state’s population.)

From the 1880s to the 1940s Durham was known as the “Black Capital of the South,” and blacks in Durham have been politically active since the Civil Rights Movement. Against this backdrop, Nazeeh writes, the Nation of Islam developed “a very strong presence” in Durham. This was during the time of Elijah Muhammad (the founder of NOI) and of Malcolm X, who came to Durham in 1963 to debate “the future of the Negro” with Floyd B. McKissick Sr. For a long time the Nation of Islam was the very face of Islam in America.

One of the major objectives of the Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman community, however, was to provide Islamic education for black Muslims in Durham that Nazeeh and others felt was lacking.

“Having escaped the woefully lacking Islamic understanding of the Nation of Islam and the World Community of Islam in the West, black American Muslims were faced with the onslaught of propagators of foreign Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat Islami, Jamaat Tabligh, and Sufism, along with Shee’ah Islam, which had a false standing among some black American Muslims as a result of the Iranian Revolution,” Nazeeh writes in his book. “Many of us found ourselves longing for the time when American Muslims would have their own scholars to help us follow the right way and focus on specific issues that Muslims faced in our country.” Continue reading

by ELLIOTT BAZZANO for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on NOVEMBER 12, 2015: 

Karen Bauer
Karen Bauer

414lwY7iWSL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_In Gender Hierarchy in the Qur’an: Medieval Interpretations, Modern Responses (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Dr. Karen Bauer tackles one of the foremost hot-button questions of the day: What is the role of gender in the Qur’an?

Dr. Bauer’s adroit study will leave the reader informed but perhaps also disrupted, given the vast spectrum of competing, sometimes contradictory, interpretive paradigms that she explores. A key strength of the text, moreover, is that in addition to its meticulous investigation of primary texts from medieval and modern traditions of Qur’anic exegesis, Dr. Bauer also conducts numerous in-person interviews with prominent scholars across the Muslim world, including Iran and Syria. Thus, from a literary perspective, the text presents the reader with a compelling style seldom found in Qur’anic studies publications, seamlessly weaving together close textual analysis and ethnographic fieldwork. Notably, Bauer also gives attention to Sunni as well as Shi’i perspectives on her study, thus offering provocative comparison and breadth of analysis. Continue reading

by JOHN MCMAHON for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on OCTOBER 27, 2015:

Azizah Al-Hibri
Azizah Al-Hibri

51p5JR5kPSL._SL160_How can a perspective on Islamic law and jurisprudence be constructed responding to the lives and practices of diasporic Muslims while remaining deeply grounded in the foundational texts of the religion? In The Islamic Worldview: Islamic Jurisprudence–An American Muslim Perspective, Volume One (American Bar Association, 2015) feminist philosopher and legal scholar Azizah al-Hibri (Univ. of Richmond Law School) engages in precisely this task. Providing an overview of the central sources and methods of law and jurisprudence in the Islamic tradition, al-Hibri elaborates what she calls the “Islamic worldview,” based in principles of harmony, equality, and justice. This guides her work to engage in sustained textual analysis of passages from the Qu’ran and hadith and to think through questions of gender, the family, and politics in Islam.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH AL-HIBRI

In September 2014 the Duke Islamic Studies Center (which manages the Transcultural Islam Project of which TIRN 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.