by ELLIOTT BAZZANO for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on MAY 4, 2016:

Asma Afsaruddin
Asma Afsaruddin

Unknown-1As the title of the monograph suggests, Contemporary Issues in Islam (Edinburgh University Press, 2015) by Asma Afsaruddin, guides the reader through an organized and compelling narrative of reflections on hot-button topics in the modern world. The monograph offers a provocative balance of historical contextualization, close reading of texts, review of key scholars, and political analysis. Given its treatment of topics such as Islamic law, gender, international relations, and interfaith dialogue, the book should prove useful in a graduate or undergraduate context–either as a whole or as individual chapters–particularly as a conversation starter, given the depths to which each chapter points. Although the scope of the book may appear ambitious, Professor Afsaruddin is well-equipped to manage the breadth of her study into a concise, lucid, and well written text. Given her research background in jihad and violence as well as Quranic hermeneutics, moreover, Contemporary Issues in Islam is a mature work that reflects decades of careful research and intellectual synthesis with ample attention to both primary and secondary literature. The monograph will likely appeal not only to scholars and students in religious studies and Islamic studies, but also political science and history as well as journalists.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH AFSARUDDIN

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.

“We have to recognize that there are several shattered political visions that are still with us and there are several unhealed traumas or wounds – the Armenians, Kurds, Palestinians (for example)…we are still dealing with the long-term legacy of these unhealed wounds.” — Cemil Aydin, UNC-Chapel Hill

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary, on APRIL 20, 2016:

i-WD6Jb54-X3It’s been 100 years since the Sykes–Picot Agreement divided the Middle East into spheres of British and French influence that transformed the Middle East. In the aftermath of World War I, the religiously, linguistically and ethnically diverse Ottoman Empire was divided up into a collection of small states, each with its own ruling group under the control of European powers. “Ottomans” became Syrians, Iraqis, Jordanians, Palestinians, Israelis and Turks.

“New states created new refugees, new nationalities defined new minorities, and new codes of law demanded new rights,” said UNC-Chapel Hill history professor Sarah Shields, who organized this year’s Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies conference – a forum that sought to bring much-needed historical context to today’s struggles over belonging, identities and the map of the Middle East.

In introductory remarks at the public conference, UNC-Chapel Hill sociologist and co-director of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East & Muslim Civilizations Charles Kurzman reminded the audience that “those new nations, after generations may seem like they were always here but in fact World War I and its aftermath helped to create them.”

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Road leading from Meknes to Ifrane with Morocco's national motto (Allah "God," Al-Watan "Nation," and Al-Malik "King") painted on hillside at town of El Hajeb. Photo by Jonathan Wyrtzen (2011)
Road leading from Meknes to Ifrane with Morocco’s national motto (Allah “God,” Al-Watan “Nation,” and Al-Malik “King”) painted on hillside at town of El Hajeb. Photo by Jonathan Wyrtzen (2011)

Column » ‘By the Book’ with Joseph Preville

by JOSEPH RICHARD PREVILLE and JULIE POUCHER HARBIN  for ISLAMiCommentary on MARCH 12, 2016: 

Jonathan Wyrtzen
Jonathan Wyrtzen

The motto of the Kingdom of Morocco is “Allah, al-Watan, al-Malik” (God, the Nation, the King). This motto was the spark for Yale University professor Jonathan Wyrtzen’s new book, Making Morocco: Colonial Intervention and the Politics of Identity (Cornell University Press, 2015).

Enroute to begin his teaching job at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco in 2001, Wyrtzen noticed the motto painted on a hillside at the town of El Hajeb. He wondered how it came to be written on this hillside and what it said about Moroccan identity.

In Making Morocco, he offers an expansive way to look at Morocco’s colonial past (1912-1956); showing how “a constellation of Moroccan actors” interacted in the debates and struggles over national identity, including Jews, Berbers, and women.

This Moroccan mix of voices found expression in the Preamble to the 2011 Constitution: “The Kingdom of Morocco, a sovereign Muslim state attached to its national unity and territorial integrity, intends to preserve, in its plenitude and diversity, its one and indivisible national identity. Its unity, forged by the convergence of of its Arabo-Islamic, Amazigh [Berber], and Saharan-Hassanian components, is nourished by its African, Andalusian, Hebrew, and Mediterranean influences.” The constitution also recognized Tamazight (Berber) as an official language as “common patrimony of all Moroccans without exception” in addition to Arabic. Berber languages are spoken by 35-40% of Moroccans.

Today, Morocco is a country of nearly 34 million people; approximately 99% Muslim and 1% other (Christians, Jews, and Baha’i). There are between 4,000-8,000 Christians and 350-400 Bahais, according to the U.S. State Department’s Morocco 2014 International Freedom Report. While its Jewish population currently stands at about 5,000, before the establishment of Israel in 1948 some 250,000-300,000 Jews lived in Morocco — the largest in the Muslim world.

Wyrtzen is Associate Professor of Sociology, History, and International Affairs at Yale University. Educated at The University of Texas at Austin, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Georgetown University, his scholarly work has appeared in Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World, The Journal of Modern History, and the International Journal of Middle East Studies. He discusses the themes of his new book in this interview. Continue reading

by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on JANUARY 26, 2015: 

Anita Weiss
Anita Weiss

51XkJ6fCOML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Pakistan is often caricatured and stereotyped as a volatile nuclear country on the precipice of disaster. Such depictions are often especially acerbic when comes to the issue of Women’s rights in the country. In her important new book, Interpreting Islam, Modernity, and Women’s Rights in Pakistan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), Anita Weiss, Professor of International Studies at the University of Oregon, provides a much-needed corrective to such sensationalist stereotypes. By exploring how multiple state and non-state actors have engaged the question of gender and women’s rights over time and space, Weiss demonstrates ways in which a diversity of voices in Pakistan conduct what she calls “everyday Ijtihad,” thus offering a much more nuanced and informed perspective.

In our conversation, we talked about a range of issues such as the history of the Pakistani state’s approach towards defining and engaging women’s rights, the role of Progressive NGOs like the Aurat Foundation, Orthodox Islamist voices on this question, and the Tehrik-i Taliban in Swat. This lucidly written book contains a plethora of useful information and analysis for specialists and non-specialists alike.

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