In his semi-fictional account of Barbary Coast Pirate Utopias, Peter Lamborn Wilson traces the unwritten dissident history of a communion of outsiders — heterodox Muslims and Christian renegades. Unanchored from the conformist dictates of law and organized religion, “temporary autonomous zones” like the Coast flourished for a time between the 16th and 18th centuries, and they were the embodiment of a mode of engagement between Islam and the West detached from interreligious conflict or any dialogue patronized by power. Wilson aims to show how radical forms of religious liberty can be the harbingers of progress and understanding between civilizations, creating the space to experiment with novel forms of cross-cultural exchange. “[O]nly later,” he laments, “do the Orthodox Authorities arrive to straighten everyone out and make them toe the line.” The practice of stamping out the dual sins of radicalism and heterodoxy has continued to color the character of religious practices. Today, it is most evident in the largely state-sponsored strategies of moderate or liberal Muslims in an age of resurgent militancy and sectarianism in the Muslim world.


by JOSEPH RICHARD PREVILLE for ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN on JANUARY 28, 2014: 

bookcover.Jews and Muslims have been intertwined for fourteen centuries.  Their long relationship is the subject of A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations: From the Origins to the Present Day (Princeton University Press, 2013). This elegant and learned new book is edited by Abdelwahab Meddeb, a professor of comparative literature at the University of Paris-X (Nanterre), and Benjamin Stora, University Professor at the University of Paris-XIII (Villetaneuse).

A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations features articles by a distinguished team of scholars of Islamic and Jewish history.  Among these scholars is Mark R. Cohen, who is both Emeritus Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East, Emeritus at Princeton University.  Cohen was educated at Brandeis University, Columbia University, and the Jewish Theological Seminary.  He is the author of Poverty and Charity in the Jewish Community of Medieval Egypt (Princeton University Press, 2005), The Voice of the Poor in the Middle Ages: An Anthology of Documents from the Cairo Geniza (Princeton University Press, 2005), and Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages (Princeton University Press, 1994; revised edition, 2008).

This book has been translated into many languages, including Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, French, German, Romanian, Czech, Russian, and soon in Spanish. In 2010, Cohen was awarded the first Goldziher Prize for scholarship promoting a better understanding between Jews and Muslims.

Mark R. Cohen discusses A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations in this exclusive interview.

How is this new book “a reunion” and “a restoration” of the historical bonds between Jews and Muslims?

Jews and Muslims lived together for centuries in close proximity. Judaism contributed ideas and concepts to Islam. Islam, in turn, contributed much to Judaism. The book aims, among other things, to inform readers of these and other aspects of Jewish-Muslim coexistence, which, in the present state of things in the world, have been forgotten behind the smoke of conflict. Continue reading

by EMILIE ANNE-YVONNE LUSE for ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN on JANUARY 8, 2014: 

A 2009 poster combining the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah with the "Biggest Sushi Party in the City." Sao Paolo, Brazil
A 2009 poster combining the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah with the “Biggest Sushi Party in the City.” Sao Paolo, Brazil

The study of ethnic identity is a daunting endeavor, which, if treated too simply, fails to account for the richness and complexity of human existence.

In diasporic studies especially, the researcher faces heterogeneity and hybridity that escape tidy categorization and require constant re-assessment of the object of study itself. This was the consensus of a vivid and productive workshop “The Jewish & Muslim Diasporas in Latin America: New Comparative Perspectives,” held in early October 2013 at the John Hope Franklin Center at Duke University, with the goal of providing “new approaches to the comparative study of the Jewish and Muslim communities in Argentina and Brazil.”

The workshop was part of a project on “Jews & Muslims: Histories, Diasporas, and the Meaning of the European,” launched by the Duke Center for European Studies in the spring of 2013 and supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Duke University Office of the Provost.

New Approaches to the Study of Jews and Muslims in the Americas

The workshop began with a methodological presentation, “New Approaches to the Study of Jews and Muslims in the Americas,” given jointly by Jeffrey Lesser, Professor and Chair of History at Emory University, and Raanan Rein, Professor of Latin American and Spanish History and Rector of Tel Aviv University. Building on a theoretical paper the two published together in Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, the two drew on years of experience researching Jews in Brazil and Argentina respectively to argue for a change in the way ethnic diasporas are studied.

Too often, they argued, scholars rely on sources and archives (community groups, religious organizations and umbrella groups) which privilege the ethnic or religious identity of the group without accounting for the variety of experiences, especially national experiences, within such groups. Alternately, study of the diaspora often focuses on how negative experiences, i.e. discrimination in the host country, shaped identity, and fails to account for the lived reality of diasporic subjects, who are just as likely to identify as nationals as they are to see themselves as part of their ethnic group.  Indeed, they might decide to stress certain parts of themselves in different contexts.”

Continue reading

Via SOCIOLOGY OF ISLAM LISTSERV on December 10, 2013: 

In light of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination, Prof. Dustin Byrd (Olivet College, USA) and Seyed Javad Miri (Institute of Humanities & Cultural Sciences, Tehran, Iran), would like to invite you to contribute to a timely volume dedicated to the exploration of Malcolm X’s thoughts on religion and all its facets. Continue reading


The fall issue ( 22:2) of the Digest of the Middle East Studies (DOMES) has just been released by Wiley Publishing Co. Continue reading