by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN on JULY 20, 2015:

51HAWqC1GHL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_“One of the most visible public faces of the 2011 revolution in Egypt was Asmaʾ Mahfouz, a young woman who posted a video blog on Facebook calling for the January 25 protest in Tahrir Square “so that maybe we the country can become free, can become a country with justice, a country with dignity, a country in which a human can be truly human, not living like an animal.” 

She describes a stark imbalance of power: a lone girl standing against the security apparatus of the state. When she initially went out to demonstrate, only three other people came to join her. They were met with vans full of security forces, “tens of thugs” (balṭagiyyīn) that menaced the small band of protesters. Talking about her fear (ruʿb), she epitomizes the voice of righteous indignation against the Goliath of an abusive military regime.

“I am a girl,” she says, “and I went down.” The skinny, small, pale girl bundled up in her winter scarf and sweater speaks clearly and forcefully, despite a slight speech impediment, rallying a political community to action against tyrannical rule.

Mahfouz’s vlog is not necessarily famous for actually sparking the revolution, as some have claimed in the revolution’s aftermath. Rather, she visually embodies and vocally advocates what the Islamic activist Heba Raouf Ezzat calls “soft force,”al-­quwwa­ al-n­āʿima.” Raouf Ezzat uses the term to refer to nonviolent protest, or what she calls “women’s jihad,” wielded against “tyrannical government.” — beginning of the Introduction to “Soft Force: Women in Egypt’s Islamic Awakening” (Princeton University Press, May 2015)  by Ellen Anne McLarney

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In Soft Force: Women in Egypt’s Islamic Awakening Duke University professor Ellen McLarney argues against the misconception of Muslim women as “oppressed by Islam,” with her “in depth, nuanced, and careful” examination of the lives and activism of women who write about Islam as liberating them from sexual and political oppression, ignorance, exploitation, and dominance.

Focusing on writings spanning the last six decades in Egypt — and especially Egypt’s Islamic awakening — McLarney charts a genealogy of women’s writings on gender relationships in Islam. These popular religious texts have circulated widely in Egypt and reached audiences as far away as Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, and France through republication and translation.

These writers include scholars like Heba Raouf Ezzat and Bint al-Shati, preachers like Niʿmat Sidqi, television personalities like Kariman Hamza, actresses like Shams al-Barudi, activists like Zaynab al-Ghazali, cultural critics like Safinaz Kazim, and journalists like Iman Mustafa. Continue reading

 

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EDITOR’S NOTE: In a previous piece, Mustafa Tuna, Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Russian and Central Eurasian History and Culture at Duke, discussed his new book “Imperial Russia’s Muslims: Empire, Islam, and European Modernity 1788-1914″ (Cambridge University Press, June 2015) with ISLAMiCommentary — carrying his insights about the opportunity costs of Islamophobia for imperial Russia to a broader and contemporary context. Below, Tuna shares an adaptation of a talk he gave in November 2013; based primarily on the themes of the last two chapters of his book. His presentation was part of a  workshop called “Life on the Peripheries: Muslims and Jews in Poland, Imperial Russia, and the Soviet Union.” The 2013 workshop was part of Duke University’s Center for European Studies’ initiative on “Jews & Muslims: Histories, Diasporas, and the Meaning of the European.” (Supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Duke University Office of the Provost, the workshop was sponsored by the Center for European Studies, the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Duke Center for Jewish Studies, and the Duke Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies.)

The version below has been updated to include additional passages from the book, with permission from the publisher. Re-prints of this particular article are not allowed without permission of the publisher, Cambridge University Press.

 

by MUSTAFA TUNA for ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN on JUNE 26, 2015:

Mustafa Tuna
Mustafa Tuna

In his seminal work on empires, Dominic Lieven suggests that the great empires of the second half of the long nineteenth century (1789-1914) found themselves facing a dilemma. The emerging nation-states, or the empires that could function as nation-states at least at the metropole level, mobilized their material and human resources more efficiently than the conventional empires that governed their subjects through a variety of categories, such as estates, confessions, and increasingly, ethnicities.

Efficiency called for uniformity or at least it seemed so to the imperial statesmen of the late-nineteenth century. And uniformity called for merging long-established categories into some form of a homogenous whole. However, not only was the nature of that homogenous whole unclear, but also attempting such mergers carried the strong potential of agitating the empires’ subjects. Moreover, agitated subjects could in turn agitate imperial agents, therefore leading to a state of mutual hostility.

This situation has been documented quite well in the context of the late-Russian empire and especially with regard to its Muslim subjects in the Volga-Ural region. The works of Ayşe Azade-Rorlich, Robert Geraci, Paul Werth, and Elena Campbell, for instance, stand out in this regard. One can add several Russian and Tatar-language sources to the list too. Although these scholars approach the matter with many different and sometimes contradicting agendas, the overall consensus seems to be that the assimilationist policies of the tsarist state in late-imperial Russia lay at the foundation of the bitterness that characterized the tsarist central state establishment’s relations with the Volga-Ural Muslims and especially with their elites.

In this presentation I would like to look at the same phenomenon using the microeconomic concept of “opportunity cost” and suggest that yes, hasty attempts to forge a nation-state out of a multiconfessional, multilingual, and multiethnic empire cost Russia its existing and functional imperial model. This model was founded by Catherine the Great in the late-eighteenth century, it seems to have worked well at least until the 1860s or so, and the late-nineteenth-century attempts for achieving uniformity destroyed it. But, what was also lost in the process were opportunities for actually improving that model further without attempting the impossible task of homogenizing the empire. Continue reading

by KRISTIAN PETERSEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on JUNE 2, 2015: 

Marion Homes Katz
Marion Homes Katz

Recently, there have been various debates within the Muslim community over women’s mosque attendance. While contemporary questions of modern society structure current conversations, this question, ‘may a Muslim woman go to the mosque,’ is not a new one. In Women in the Mosque: A History of Legal Thought and Social Practice (Columbia University Press, 2014), Marion Holmes Katz, Professor of Islamic Studies at New York University, traces the juristic debates around women’s mosque attendance.

Unknown-1Katz outlines the various arguments, caveats, and positions of legal scholars in the major schools of law and demonstrates that despite some differing opinions there was generally a downward progression towards gendered exclusion in mosques. were engaged in at the mosque, the time of day, the permission of their husbands or guardians, attire, and the multitude of conditions that needed to be met. Later interpreters feared women’s presence in the mosque because they argued it stirred sexual temptation.

Katz pairs these legal discourses with evidence of women’s social practice in the Middle East and North Africa from the earliest historical accounts through the Ottoman period. In our conversation we discuss types of mosque activities, Mamluk Cairo, women’s educational participation, the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the transmission of knowledge, European travelers accounts of Muslim women, night prayers, mosque construction, debates about the mosque in Mecca, and modern developments in legal discussions during the 20th century.

LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH HOLMES KATZ 

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.

“The overall consensus seems to be that the assimilationist policies of the tsarist state in late imperial Russia lay at the foundation of the bitterness that characterized the tsarist central state establishment’s relations with the Volga-Ural Muslims, and especially their elites… Hasty attempts to forge a nation-state out of a multiconfessional, multilingual, and multiethnic empire cost Russia its existing and functional imperial model.” – Mustafa Tuna, speaking on the theme of his manuscript “Imperial Russia’s Muslims: Islam, Empire and European Modernity, 1788-1914” (Cambridge University Press, June 2015) at a Mellon-grant supported workshop on Muslim and Jewish diasporas, held at Duke University.

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary and TIRN with MUSTAFA TUNA on JUNE 16, 2015:

UnknownWith the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I last year and the 100th anniversary of the hashing out and signing of the Sykes-Picot agreement beginning this Fall, historians have been getting a lot of attention. They are being asked to explain, for example, how the conditions of that period — including the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the re-drawing of borders, and the displacement of people — shaped the modern Middle East with all its current challenges and conflicts.

The treatment and “management” of minorities during that period is instructive and essential to understanding the geopolitics of a very wide region today.

In his new book “Imperial Russia’s Muslims: Empire, Islam, and European Modernity 1788-1914” (Cambridge University Press, June 2015), Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Russian and Central Eurasian History and Culture at Duke Mustafa Tuna explores how another empire, tsarist Russia, sought to “manage” its minorities — specifically the Muslim communities of the Volga-Ural region. Looking at the period from the late 18th century through to the outbreak of World War I — a slightly earlier period — he “reveals how the Russian state sought to manage Muslim communities, the ways in which the state and Muslim society were transformed by European modernity, and the extent to which the long nineteenth century either fused Russia’s Muslims and the tsarist state or drew them apart.”

His book “ raises questions about imperial governance, diversity, minorities, and Islamic reform and in doing so proposes a new theoretical model for the study of imperial situations.”

In this interview, Tuna carries his insights about the opportunity costs of Islamophobia for imperial Russia to a broader and contemporary context. Continue reading

via FREEDOM FROM THE FORBIDDEN (BLOG): 

Below is a list of books that I highly recommend to anyone interested in understanding re-interpretations of Islam, alternative readings to the traditionalist ones that are largely patriarchal in nature, or otherwise scholarship that complicate simplified ideas of Islam, women, gender, and sexuality. These books may be a response to western, orientalist images of gender issues in Islam and Muslim societies, or they may be a response to traditionalist, patriarchal Islam’s problematic assumptions and teachings of women, gender, and sexuality — or both, as is often the case.  Either way, the following are breaths of fresh air, I promise.

Needless to say, the list is not comprehensive and not intended to be such.  I invite – and will appreciate – any and all additions.

In addition to the following scholarship, another great resource is the Religion and Feminism blog where Kecia Ali, Laury Silvers, Amina Wadud, and other Muslims write frequently on Islamic feminism and related themes. Please click these links to reach the writings of the respective authors: Kecia Ali | Laury Silvers | Amina Wadud | Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente | Jameelah X. Medina | And let me do some shameless self-promotion or whatevz and link y’all to my article over at the same blog titled Why I am an Islamic Feminist.

Islamic Feminism, Feminist/Progressive/Gender-Egalitarian Interpretations of Islam

Listed in order of author’s last name. KEEP READING FOR THE LIST

Continue reading