by ABDESLAM MAGHRAOUI for ISLAMiCommentary on OCTOBER 9, 2013: 

When I entered Taounate (TAW-NAAT) on a very hot day in July, nothing seemed edgy about the small town at the foot of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.

But behind Taounate’s bucolic stillness lingers a human tragedy with global ramifications: suicide and jihad. Continue reading


Nancy Khalek
Nancy Khalek

A top five finalist for the Best First Book in the History of Religion Award, Damascus after the Muslim Conquest (Oxford University Press, 2011) by Nancy Khalek, professor of Religious Studies at Brown University, is a study of the city of Damascus, the seat of power for the Umayyad dynasty.

More specifically, this book explores the interaction between the recently arrived Muslim Arab rulers and the Byzantine-Christian peoples who made up the majority of the population in Syria. Khalek employs both traditional historical texts, such as Ibn ‘Asākir’s Tārīkh Dimashq, along with art and architecture from the region. Continue reading

“A scant review of recent events in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Bahrain, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and so and so forth are evident of how the people of these states have no voice, their states have no power, their societies are hopelessly fragmented, and their mainstream scholars continue to live on borrowed knowledge produced by imperial states.” — Majid Sharifi introduces his new book, Imagining Iran: The Tragedy of Subaltern Nationalism (Lexington Books, 2013), below. 


Majid Sharifi
Majid Sharifi

This book is a case study of how different ruling regimes in Iran came to power and ruled based on a particular narrative of being Iranian and Islamic, but they all failed to nationalize their official identities, resulting in weak regimes with very little productive power to create a sense of we-ness in the population. I show that since the constitutional revolution of the 1905-06, there have been five regime changes in Iran, each wanting to officialize a particular narrative of Iranian nationalism, but they all have failed.

I contend that these failure are not particular to Iran or being Iranian, and every regime in the region is being contested from within and without its borders. In contrast, for example, the official nationalisms of the United States, Britain, Germany, and France (or imperial states) are not at all contested, and when they are, they are contested through officially approved rules of the game. This is not the case for subaltern nation-states, whose official nationalisms are contested from within, and can at any moment become the subject of imperial contestation from without. Continue reading


CIHRS-h2-1 copy(TIRN Editor’s Note: This annual report by CIHRS, which came out on May 16, 2013, recently came to my attention. Especially interesting to note is the report’s observations about human rights in Egypt. Written before the events of last week, the report notes the “repressive practices” of the regime, and that Egyptians “are paying a heavy price for their revolution as the chances for building national consensus around the transitional period dissipate.” Below is the press release for the report in English, which also covers Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Algeria, and the Palestinian Territories. Also, the introduction (in English) has been shared with TIRN, and permission given for publication on this site. The full report has only been released in Arabic. Find it here.) 

(Press Release)  Two years after the “Arab Spring” swept the Arab region and led within months to the ouster of the autocratic rulers in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen, the state of human rights in these countries remains dire and the chances for democratic transition face major challenges. The Arab countries which were less affected by the “Arab Spring” also continue to witness serious human rights violations which vary from one country to the next. Meanwhile, brutal crimes continue to be committed by the Syrian regime, even as the opposition has also been responsible for severe violations. These are some of the rights-related issues dealt with in the fifth annual report published by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies under the title of “Delivering Democracy: Repercussions of the ‘Arab Spring’ on Human Rights.” Continue reading

by miriam cooke for TIRN on JULY 2, 2013:

miriam cooke in Mardin, Turkey near the Syrian border (2012)
miriam cooke in Mardin, Turkey near the Syrian border (2012)

(Introduction): Twenty-five participants from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, Ghana, Turkey, Italy, Holland, Canada and the U.S. gathered in Fez June 21-23 to share their research on developments in the southern Mediterranean in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings. The two major concerns were the backlash against women revolutionaries, and the political Islamization of the MENA region.

Scholars, activists, university administrators, diplomats and physicians exchanged views on the meaning of the events that have shaken the Middle East and North Africa during the past two years. Women and several men reported on developments in individual countries, many focused on women’s roles during the protests and the negative consequences of such participation. Subjects ranged from Libyan women’s courageous stance against the government, to the status of women’s rights in the new constitutions of Tunisia and Egypt to sustainable economic empowerment for rural Moroccan women.

My paper (below, as delivered) dealt with the revolutionary memoirs of two influential feminist writers, Egyptian Nawal El Saadawi and Syrian Samar Yazbek, who participated in their countries’ uprisings and then wrote about their hopes and disappointments.

The conference organizer Fatima Sadiqi, founder of the Isis Center for Women and Development and President of the National Union of Women’s Associations, concluded the meeting with some recommendations. She challenged participants and the consistently large audience to work toward ensuring that the achievements of the uprisings are maintained and that the current pessimism not dampen such efforts. Above all, the dialogue among countries must continue with attention to specificities. Continue reading