bookcover-1“Many Palestinians see the Israelis as aggressive colonizers of Palestinian land and resources or as jailers; many Israelis see the Palestinians as irrational, violent and a ticking demographic time bomb that endangers a Jewish-majority state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. One thing is sure: Palestinian and Israeli youth are the hope for a resolution of the differences; their elders seem unable to get that job done.” — University of Michigan History professor Juan Cole

Column » ‘By the Book’ with Joseph Preville

by *JOSEPH RICHARD PREVILLE and JULIE POUCHER HARBIN for ISLAMiCommentary on August 4, 2014:

Juan Cole is one of the most astute and knowledgeable observers of the Middle East. His keen understanding of the Middle East was shaped by graduate study at the American University in Cairo and decades of research and travel in the region. Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He is the author of many books, including Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), and Sacred Space and Holy War: The Politics, Culture and History of Shi’ite Islam (I.B. Tauris, 2002).

In The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East (Simon and Schuster, 2014), Cole takes a detailed look inside the recent revolutions by Arab youth in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Cole salutes their courage and states that “this generation of New Arabs has shaken a complacent, stagnant, and corrupt status quo and forever changed the world.”

In this interview Juan Cole discusses his new book, the challenges Middle Eastern youth face in this time of “violent experimentation,” “wrenching transformations,” and “new forms of politics,” and his hopefulness for their future.



9780199372003Column » ‘By the Book’ with Joseph Preville

by *JOSEPH RICHARD PREVILLE and JULIE POUCHER HARBIN for ISLAMiCommentary on August 4, 2014:

Muslims have a long and rich history in Greater Detroit, Michigan, but it has not been thoroughly documented – until now. Sally Howell brings this history to life in her new book out next month — Old Islam in Detroit: Rediscovering the Muslim American Past (Oxford University Press, 2014). In her book she intends to “lay groundwork for a new interpretation of the Muslim American past that makes sense of the tactical amnesias, persistent discontinuities, and narrative breaks that have kept crucial aspects of the history of Islam in America from being remembered and effectively understood.”

Sally Howell is Assistant Professor of History and Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Howell is an editor of Arab Detroit 9/11: Life in the Terror Decade (Wayne State University Press, 2011) and Citizenship and Crisis: Arab Detroit after 9/11 (Russell Sage Foundation Press, 2009). She is also a contributor to The Cambridge Companion to American Islam (Cambridge University Press, 2013), edited by Omid Safi and Juliane Hammer. Sally Howell discusses her new book in the exclusive interview.



Muhammed Haron (left) and Gil Merkx
Muhammed Haron (left) and Gil Merkx

Many Muslim institutions of higher learning have emerged on the African continent over the past few decades. These institutions have in one way or another made their contributions towards the societies and environments where they are situated. Despite the noble objectives of some that were set up, the objectives often have been unrealized as a result of a lack of financial and other resources. There have, however, been other institutions that have flourished and made invaluable inputs to their respective communities.

It is hard to find a text that adequately covers these institutions, even in places where one might expect it, including in Paul Scrijver’s authoritative Bibliography of Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa (Leiden: E.J. Brill 2009),

So when Duke University’s Duke Islamic Studies Center (DISC) announced a workshop to discuss and engage scholars on “Islamic Institutions of Higher Learning in Africa: Their History, Mission and Role in Regional Development,” there were eager responses to participate in what may be regarded as an oft-neglected area of Islamic studies research. The Duke Islamic Studies Center and its Carnegie Corporation of New York-supported Transcultural Islam Project (to be explained in-depth later in this paper) offered an interesting platform for this exploratory workshop.

AfricaIslamGraphicThe workshop organizers, under the co-directorship of Duke professors Mbaye Lo and Bruce Hall, hosted a group of scholars who came from different parts of the continent (and elsewhere from the US and Europe) — scholars who have been evaluating these types of institutions’ status in the transnational Muslim arena.

The organizers were interested to know, inter alia, to what extent these institutions were involved in pursuing research, perpetuating traditional Muslim scholarship, and creatively contributing towards the society’s economic development.

With these noble aims and objectives in mind, let us offer an overview in this report of our two-day workshop at Duke University. (Other sponsors included the International Institute of Islamic Thought  (headquartered in Virginia); The Africa Initiative (Duke); Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (Duke); African & Afro-American Studies (Duke); Duke History Department; Duke Religion Department; Center for Muslim Life (Duke); Franklin Humanities Institute (Duke), Duke Center for International Development; The Kenan Institute for Ethics; Duke Divinity School; and Duke University Center for International Studies.)

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(Excerpt) Events over the summer of 2012 have reinforced that violent extremism, hate crimes, and mass shootings by Americans continue to plague the United States. Since 9/11, individuals who have adopted a variety of ideologies, ranging from violent right-wing anti-government extremism to left-wing anarchism, have perpetrated violent crimes in the U.S.  However, according to the government, extremism inspired by al-Qa’ida and its adherents and affiliates “represent the preeminent terrorist threat to our country.” Efforts to address this specific threat have therefore been the predominant focus for domestic security officials over the past decade.

Although this threat’s true magnitude tends to be overstated (as discussed below), there have been a significant number of serious incidents in the recent past where individuals linked to or inspired by al-Qa’ida’s ideology have attempted to cause large-scale violence inside the United States. Thus, whichever presidential candidate takes office next year, his administration will have to continue to focus on this threat by  developing and implementing policies to address al-Qa’ida inspired violent extremism in the United States. This report identifies the key issues that the next administration will face in this area and recommends steps to develop an effective policy for combating violent extremism (“CVE”). Continue reading

by FAWAZ GERGES for The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), The Duke Islamic Studies Center, and ISLAMiCommentary on OCTOBER 16, 2012:

(Opening Paragraphs of the Policy Brief)

Presidential doctrines have been used to articulate America’s foreign policy and worldview since the presidency of James Monroe. However, only a few doctrines have succeeded at outlining a strategic vision of the United States’ role in international affairs. The Truman Doctrine (1947) and Eisenhower Doctrine (1957) centered on curtailing the spread of Communism and expanding America’s global influence during the Cold War. In the post–Cold War era, presidential doctrines encapsulated new strategies to meet the challenges of an unfamiliar, unipolar world and have increasingly dealt with the greater Middle East as a strategic space.  Continue reading