The politics of presence

By: Asef Bayat
2015-Muslim Youth and Its Politics” with Prof. Asef Bayat

Congruence between Islam and democracy is not simply a philosophical issue, but a political one. It is a matter of struggle. The pertinent question is not whether Islam and democracy are compatible, but rather how and under what conditions Muslims can make their religion compatible with desired notions of democracy; how they can legitimize and popularize and inclusive reading of their doctrine in the same way democrats have been struggling to broaden narrow (white, male, propertied, and merely liberal) notions of democracy. Drawing on the experience in Iran and Egypt, one can see in detail how...

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The destructive legacy of Arab liberals, By Joseph Massad The Electronic Intifada

By: Joseph Massad
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It has become commonplace to present Arab Islamists of all political stripes (liberals, conservatives, radicals, neoliberals, moderates, extremists, nonviolent, violent, etc.) as a most, if not the most, dangerous political force in the Arab world since the 1967 War. In fact, and as the following will show, it has been a new brand of Arab liberals — secularists and Islamists (though the former have been far more dangerous) — who have been and continue to be a most dangerous and destructive political force in the post-1967 Arab world. The Western, Israeli and Saudi war against Egyptian Pres...

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Book: Muslims in the Western Imagination

2015-Muslims in the Western Imagination book

Muslims in the Western Imagination By: Sophia Rose Arjana Throughout history, Muslim men have been depicted as monsters. The portrayal of humans as monsters helps a society delineate who belongs and who, or what, is excluded. Even when symbolic, as in post-9/11 zombie films, Muslim monsters still function to define Muslims as non-human entities. These are not depictions of Muslim men as malevolent human characters, but rather as creatures that occupy the imagination — non-humans that exhibit their wickedness outwardly on the skin. They populate medieval tales, Renaissance paintings, Shak...

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Do Muslims Belong in the West? An Interview with Talal Asad

By: Hasan Azad
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In this discussion, Talal Asad identifies the problematic ways in which the presence of Muslim communities in Western contexts has been characterized in response to outbreaks of violence such as the recent events in Paris. Asad argues that many of the critiques to which Muslims are subjected, namely their dependence on transcendent forces, also inhabit the intellectual assumptions of secular and atheist commentators. He further expresses the need to examine Islam as a “tradition” in order to avoid precisely the types of sweeping generalizations and focus instead on the complexities...

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A Islamic State (IS) ; A totalitarian, expansive and hegemonic project

By: Volker Perthes
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Are we underestimating the scope of Islamic State (IS) by referring to it as a “terrorist militia”? IS raises taxes, recruits soldiers, pays officials and is keeping oil wells in operation. According to Volker Perthes, it would be more accurate to call it a jihadist nation-building project “Islamic State” is neither Islamic, nor a state, explained Barack Obama on 10 September, as he outlined his strategy for combating this organisation. The US President may well have been saying what the vast majority of Muslims are thinking. But, I’m afraid, he is not entirely co...

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ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror; by: Michael Weiss & Hassan Hassan

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ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror Michael Weiss & Hassan Hassan £5.99, 1169p. (I-Phone Reading). Reviewed by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi. The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, subsequently calling itself just “The Islamic State” since the Caliphate declaration of 29 Jun 2014) across Iraq and Syria will naturally provoke much questioning as to how this phenomenon came to such prominence. Overall, this book ably accomplishes the task in a concise manner, and is a valuable, compelling read for anyone- general reader or specialist- interested in ISIS. While minor errors exist ...

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Charlie’s questions

By: Esma Moukhtar
2015- democracy

How should we respond to an attack that hits so close? The initial reaction was an unambiguous and unanimous “Je suis Charlie”. Which was an appropriate way to start. But does that mean that everything has been said and done? What happens after this initial reaction, and how far does this identification actually extend? What are the questions that have been raised, and what should we do with these questions, assuming we are even able and willing to do something with them? One thing that struck me about the initial reactions to the murderous attack on the editorial staff of the magazine Cha...

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Revolution and despair

By: Asef Bayat
2011-asef-bayat

Things in the Middle East usually appear far worse than they really are when looked at from the outside. But on my recent visit to Egypt — as I talked and listened to people, watched local television, read daily papers and made observations — it became clear that revolutionaries were going through painful times. A deep disenchantment seemed to color the sentiments of many who once held high hopes for their remarkable revolution, but now have to face the vulgar triumphalism of the counter-revolution airing from what looked, not long ago, like an independent media. Despair is neither surpris...

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Islamic history is full of free thinkers – but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd

The West's best hope of dealing with the rise of Islamic extremism is to challenge the doctrines manufactured by religious scholars past and present, argues Ziauddin Sardar

By: Ziauddin Sardar
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“This has nothing to do with Islam,” say the imams. “These callous and fanatic murders have nothing to do with us,” say the mullahs. “Islam means peace,” say the worshippers. These disclaimers, and variations on them, have been repeated countless times by Muslim commentators since the Charlie Hebdo killings. They are designed to distance people from guilt by association with those who kill and maim in the name of Islam. But what about the sentence recently handed down to the (mildly) liberal blogger Raif Badawi in the Islamic state of Saudi Arabia? Ten years...

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Étienne Balibar: Three words for the dead and the living; By Mike Watson

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An old Japanese friend of mine, Haruhisa Kato – formerly a professor at Todai university – wrote to me with this: ‘I’ve seen the images of all of France in mourning. I’ve been deeply moved by all this. Over the years I really loved Wolinksi’s collections. I have always been a subscriber to the Canard enchaîné, and I enjoyed Cabu’s “Beauf” cartoons every week. I still have his collection Cabu et Paris by my desk, including a number of fine drawings he did of Japanese girls, tourists having fun on the Champs-Élysées’. But further on, this reservation: ‘The 1 January Le ...

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Islam in Liberalism

2015-JOSEPH A. MASSAD

In the popular imagination, Islam is often associated with words like oppression, totalitarianism, intolerance, cruelty, misogyny, and homophobia, while its presumed antonyms are Christianity, the West, liberalism, individualism, freedom, citizenship, and democracy. In the most alarmist views, the West’s most cherished values—freedom, equality, and tolerance—are said to be endangered by Islam worldwide. Joseph Massad’s Islam in Liberalism explores what Islam has become in today’s world, with full attention to the multiplication of its meanings and interpretations. He seeks to underst...

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THE PYRES OF AUTUMN, By: JEAN BAUDRILLARD (2006)

Jean Baudrillard

The torching of the French banlieues as both sequel to the No vote of May 2005 and symptom of a wider Western malaise. Rejection of official pieties of integration, and flames of revolt against an automated Europe.   THE PYRES OF AUTUMN, By: JEAN BAUDRILLARD Fifteen hundred cars had to burn in a single night and then, on a descending scale, nine hundred, five hundred, two hundred, for the daily ‘norm’ to be reached again, and people to realize that ninety cars on average are torched every night in this gentle France of ours. A sort of eternal flame, like that under the Arc de Triomphe...

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The Arab Spring and its enemies

The end of all hope

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Ultimately, the Arab Spring was a failure because the movements fighting for freedom were faced with too many enemies who sought to quash the revolutions and thwart the efforts of the region’s peoples to achieve greater democracy. An essay by the Syrian dissident Akram al-Bunni It was only to be expected that the tyrannical regimes themselves would be the first to take a stand against the slogans about freedom, justice and dignity. Some governments tried to take the wind out of the sails of the movement for real change by offering concessions and reforms. Other regimes didn’t even ...

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Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post–Islamist Turn

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Book by Asef Bayat Book review by Richard Bulliet     Discussions of contemporary Islam in the United States tend to be held in black and white, with the religion depicted either as a backward, dangerous and hateful force, or as a misunderstood and moderate foundation for peaceful living. Discussions in Europe range over a somewhat larger spectrum because they are often based on experiences with immigrant communities, and usually engage cultural issues in addition to security–related ones. The most colorful and useful expositions for readers in search of a deep understanding of Isl...

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Confusing Democracy with Terrorism: A Region in Transition

By: John L. Esposito
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The euphoria and promise of the “Arab Uprising” or “Arab Spring” have given way to what many refer to as “Arab Winter” rather than a “Arab Spring”. Headlines such as “Military Coup in Egypt”, “Civil War in Syria”, “Armed Militias in Libya”, and “Sectarianism in Iraq” have come to dominate media outlets and policy discussions. The examples of Egypt and Tunisia reflect two distinctively different political paths. Democratic Transitions in Egypt and Tunisia Since the ouster of Zeine Abedin Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia has, on the whole, made significant strides towards...

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Cairo is defended against its own citizens – City of walls

Since the Arab Spring, the walls have gone up in Cairo. They can’t keep the future out or the people in.

By: Nael Shama
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 Cities talk, smile, frown, wail and rejoice, but their language can be only heard by those who care to listen. A city’s architecture and art, planning and design, streets and traffic, houses and shacks, signs and billboards, advertisements and banners, all speak about its identity. Old Cairo became Egypt’s capital city in the 10th century, though the current downtown area was built in the 19th century by the overambitious Khedive as a Paris on the Nile, a symbol of his grand plan to align Egypt with Europe and western civilisation. Demographic and socioeconomic changes over the past 150 ...

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How America made ISIS

Their videos and ours, their “caliphate” and ours

By: Tom Engelhardt
2014-Under Fouad Chehab's Bridge-Modern Orientalism

Whatever your politics, you’re not likely to feel great about America right now. After all, there’s Ferguson (the whole world was watching!), an increasingly unpopular president, a Congress whose approval ratings make the president look like a rock star, rising poverty, weakening wages, and a growing inequality gap just to start what could be a long list. Abroad, from Libya and Ukraine to Iraq and the South China Sea, nothing has been coming up roses for the U.S. Polls reflect a general American gloom, with 71% of the public claiming the country is “on the wrong track.” We have the loo...

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Islamic State fills Middle East void – IS back in business

Emerging in an increasingly chaotic Middle East, IS is profiting from the region’s growing sectarianism, political vacuum and the ambivalence of the West.

By: Peter Harling
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The so-called Islamic State (IS) — the jihadist movement also known as ISIL or ISIS and by the derogatory acronym Da’ish in Arabic — now controls much of northeast Syria and northwest Iraq (1). In a region beset with so much confusion, it appears uniquely determined and self-assured. Despite its name, it is in no sense a new state, since it rejects the concept of borders and largely does without institutions. Yet IS tells us much about the Middle East — and especially about its genuine states — as well as about western foreign policy. IS is an aggressive movement with a surprisingly ...

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Iraq Illusions

By: Jessica Tuchman Mathews
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 The story most media accounts tell of the recent burst of violence in Iraq seems clear-cut and straightforward. In reality, what is happening is anything but. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), so the narrative goes, a barbaric, jihadi militia, honed in combat in Syria, has swept aside vastly larger but feckless Iraqi army forces in a seemingly unstoppable tide of conquest across northern and western Iraq, almost to the outskirts of Baghdad. The country, riven by ineluctable sectarian conflict, stands on the brink of civil war. The United States, which left Iraq too soon, now has ...

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The Sistani Factor – How a struggle within Shiism will shape the future of Iraq

By: Mohamad Bazzi
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The most influential man in Iraq is an octogenarian Shiite cleric who rarely ventures out of his modest home in the holy city of Najaf. His scowling portrait hangs on walls, storefronts, concrete blast barriers, and cars throughout Iraq, yet he prefers to stay out of the limelight. But ever since early June, when an insurgent group of Sunni militants captured a large swath of northern Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has emerged from seclusion in a last-ditch effort to restrain the jihadists, persuade Iraq’s Shiite political elite to replace Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and preserve a ...

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Syria in Revolt – Understanding the Unthinkable War

By: Sadik J. Al-Azm
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The people’s intifada in Syria, against the military regime and police state of the Assad family, took me by surprise. I was fearful at first that the regime would crush it almost instantly, given its legendary ferocity and repressiveness. Like other Syrian intellectuals, I felt total impotence before this devouring monster, which precluded any thought of an imminent, or even possible, collective “no.” I was surprised by the revolution, but I should not have been. Daily experiences and recurrent observations foretold a crisis that many Syrians tried hard to deny. And deny we did. Let me ...

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“Five Broken Cameras”

  “Five Broken Cameras” nominated to the Oscars 2013, but will the Oscars help to bring this film to Israeli youth. “Five Broken Cameras” is the engaging story of Palestinian cameraman, Emad Burnat, who documented 6 years of the Non-violent movement in his village, Bil’in. This impressive movement joined by international and Israeli peace activists and solidarity movements became a symbol and a model for a positive resistance to create political change in the region. This intimate and powerful film, shot by Emad himself and co-directed and written by Israeli ...

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Recalling anti-racism

Can the anti-racist struggle keep up with racism's capacity to reinvent itself again and again? Yes - we can "recall" anti-racism and adjust it.

By: GHASSAN HAGE
2014-GhassanHage

Anti-racism as a current of thought and as a social movement has a long history. From the opposition to slavery to the anti-colonial struggles and until today, anti-racism has been and remains a vital and important current of thought and a social movement embodying the noblest of all human values: at the very least, a belief in the right of all human beings to be related to in a decent and dignified manner regardless of where they come from and how they happen to be perceived and categorised. Yet, despite this long history, and some remarkable victories against the forces of racism in their va...

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Noam Chomsky | Nightmare in Gaza

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Amid all the horrors unfolding in the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza, Israel’s goal is simple: quiet-for-quiet, a return to the norm. For the West Bank, the norm is that Israel continues its illegal construction of settlements and infrastructure so that it can integrate into Israel whatever might be of value, meanwhile consigning Palestinians to unviable cantons and subjecting them to repression and violence. For Gaza, the norm is a miserable existence under a cruel and destructive siege that Israel administers to permit bare survival but nothing more. The latest Israeli rampage was se...

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Analyst Mouin Rabbani on the Gaza Crisis

2014- Mouin Rabbani

Q — On Saturday, under intense international pressure to negotiate a ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a press conference to say that the Israeli military would “regroup,” while continuing its operations in Gaza. Following the announcement, Israel began to withdraw at least some of its forces from inside Gaza. Why is Netanyahu halting the ground invasion now, even though one of his main stated objectives for the operation, stopping rocket fire, hasn’t been accomplished? MR — “Even though Israel has announced relatively modest military objectives ...

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Italian activist and artist, Gianluca Costantini

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      Italian activist and artist, Gianluca Costantini, has created a series of drawings calling for an end to Israel’s on-going siege of Gaza, the third in five years. We published a similarly moving collection of his work on Gaza last week. To read more about the siege and what you can do to oppose the bloodshed in Gaza, click here. soure: Muftah   ...

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Racists and anti-racists by Etienne Balibar

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Racists and anti-racists by Etienne Balibar Where, when and how was the concept of racism formed? It seems to have its origins in a book that appeared in 1933-1934, in which Magnus Hirschfeld described the ‘racial theory’ underlying Hitler’s conception of race war. So the word was born in Germany, by way of contact with its first ‘object’: the racism of the Nazi state elaborated in the name of the Aryan myth, principally directed against Jews, but also against other ‘untermensch’ peoples and populations. As early as 1938 the term appeared in English in...

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Dignity and solidarity

The struggle of the Palestinian people is now a byword for emancipation and enlightenment, except, perhaps, in the Arab world, writes Edward Said (2003)

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In early May I was in Seattle lecturing for a few days. While there I had dinner one night with Rachel Corrie’s parents and sister, who were still reeling from the shock of their daughter’s murder on 16 March in Gaza by an Israeli bulldozer. Mr Corrie told me that he had himself driven bulldozers, although the one that killed his daughter deliberately because she was trying valiantly to protect a Palestinian home in Rafah from demolition was a 60 ton behemoth especially designed by Caterpillar for house demolitions, a far bigger machine than anything he had ever seen or driven. Two...

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‘A racism without races’: An interview with Étienne Balibar By Clement Petitjean

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Professor emeritus at the Université Paris X, the philosopher Étienne Balibar has made the question of racism and its new forms of expression an important theme of his political philosophy, notably in his critique of capitalism and of liberal society. He is the author, among others, of Citoyen Sujet et autres essais d’anthropologie philosophique (2010) and La proposition de l’égaliberté (2011), published by Presses Universitaires de France. Passing through Montreal last November, he was keen to answer our questions. Relations: Given the predominance of the question of human rights in o...

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The Holocaust, Palestine and the Arab World: Gilbert Achcar interviewed (January 2011)

By: Arwa Aburawa
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In his latest book The Arabs and the Holocaust, Gilbert Achcar, a professor of Development Studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, explores the Arab world’s complex and sometimes contradictory relationship with the Holocaust. Focusing on the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Achcar tackles the Zionist caricature of all Arabs as anti-Semitic Holocaust-deniers complicit in Nazi crimes by meticulously deconstructing the evidence put forward. Achcar also doesn’t shy away from condemning the persistence of unacceptable attitudes towards the Holocaust acros...

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