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Refugee identity is often shrouded in suspicion, speculation and rumour. Of course everyone wants to protect “real” refugees, but it often seems – upon reading the papers – that the real challenge is to find them among the interlopers: the “bogus asylum seekers”, the “queue jumpers”, the “illegals”.
Yet these distinctions and definitions shatter the moment we subject them to critical scrutiny. In Syria, no one would deny a terrible refugee crisis is unfolding. Western journalists report from camps in Jordan and Turkey documenting human misery and occasionally commenting on political manoeuvring, but never doubting the refugees’ veracity.
But once these same Syrians leave the overcrowded camps to cross the Mediterranean, a spell transforms these objects of pity into objects of fear. They are no longer “refugees”, but “illegal migrants” and “terrorists”. However data on migrants rescued in the Mediterranean show that up to 80% of those intercepted by the Italian Navy are in fact deserving of asylum, not detention.
Other myths perpetuate suspicion and xenophobia. Every year in the UK, refugee charity and advocacy groups spend precious resources trying to counter tabloid images of a Britain “swamped” by itinerant swan-eaters and Islamic extremists. The truth – that Britain is home to just 1% of refugees while 86% are hosted in developing countries, including some of the poorest on earth, and that one-third of refugees in the UK hold University degrees – is simply less convenient for politicians pushing an anti-migration agenda.
We are increasingly skilled in crafting complacent fictions intended not so much to demonise refugees as exculpate our own consciences. In Australia, for instance, ever-more restrictive asylum policies – which have seen all those arriving by boat transferred off-shore and, even when granted refugee status, refused the right to settle in Australia – have been presented by supporters as merely intended to prevent the nefarious practice of “queue-jumping”. In this universe, the border patrols become the guardians ensuring “fair” asylum hearings, while asylum-seekers are condemned for cheating the system.
That the system itself now contravenes international law is forgotten. Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan asylum-seeking mothers recently placed on suicide watch – threatening to kill themselves in the hope that their orphaned, Australian-born children might then be saved from detention – are judged guilty of “moral blackmail”.
Such stories foster complacency by encouraging an extraordinary degree of confidence in our ability to sort the deserving from the undeserving. The public remain convinced that “real” refugees wait in camps far beyond Europe’s borders, and that they do not take their fate into their own hands but wait to be rescued. But this “truth” too is hypocritical. It conveniently obscures the fact that the West will not resettle one-tenth of the refugees who have been identified by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees as in need of resettlement.
In fact, only one refugee in a hundred will ever be resettled from a camp to a third country in the West. In January 2014 the UK Government announced it would offer 500 additional refugee resettlement places for the “most vulnerable” refugees as a humanitarian gesture: but it’s better understood as political rationing.
Research shows us that undue self-congratulation when it comes to “helping” refugees is no new habit. Politicians are fond of remarking that Britain has a “long and proud” tradition of welcoming refugees, and NGOs and charities reiterate the same claim in the hope of grounding asylum in British cultural values.
But while the Huguenots found sanctuary in the seventeenth century, and Russia’s dissidents sought exile in the nineteenth, closer examination exposes the extent to which asylees’ ‘warm welcome’ has long rested upon the convictions of the few prepared to defy the popular prejudices of the many.
Poor migrants fleeing oppression have always been more feared than applauded in the UK. In 1905, the British Brothers’ League agitated for legislation to restrict (primarily Jewish) immigration from Eastern Europe because of populist fears that Britain was becoming ‘the dumping ground for the scum of Europe’. Similarly, the bravery of individual campaigners who fought to secure German Jews’ visas in the 1930s must be measured against the groundswell of public anti-semitism that resisted mass refugee admissions.
British MPs in 1938 were insistent that ‘it is impossible for us to absorb any large number of refugees here’, and as late as August 1938 the Daily Mail warned against large number of German Jews ‘flooding’ the country. In the US, polls showed that 94% of Americans disapproved of Kristallnacht, 77% thought immigration quotas should not be raised to allow additional Jewish migration from Germany.
All this suggests that Western commitment after 1951 to uphold a new Refugee Convention should not be read as a marker of some innate Western generosity of spirit. Even in 1947, Britain was forcibly returning Soviet POWs to Stalin’s Russia. Many committed suicide en route rather than face the Gulags or execution. When in 1972, Idi Amin expelled Ugandan’s Asians – many of whom were British citizens – the UK government tried desperately to persuade other Commonwealth countries to admit the refugees, before begrudgingly agreeing to act as a refuge of “last resort”. If forty years on the 40,000 Ugandan Asians who settled in the UK are often pointed to as a model refugee success story, this is not because but in spite of the welcome they received.
Many refugee advocates and NGOs are nevertheless wary of picking apart the public belief that a “generous welcome” exists for “real” refugees. The public, after all, are much more likely to be flattered than chastised into donating much needed funds to care for those left destitute – sometime by the deliberate workings of the asylum system itself. But it is important to recognise the more complex and less complacent truths that researchers’ work reveals.
For if we scratch the surface of our asylum policies beneath a shiny humanitarian veneer lies the most cynical kind of politics. Myth making sustains false dichotomies between deserving “refugees” there and undeserving “illegal migrants” here – and conveniently lets us forget that both are fleeing the same wars in the same leaking boats.
Recently the jihadist insurgent group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) underwent a re-branding of sorts when one of its leaders, known by the sobriquet Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was proclaimed caliph by the group’s members. In keeping with the horizonless pretentions that such a title theoretically conveys, the group dropped their geographical focus and embraced a more universalist outlook, settling for the name of the ‘Islamic State’.
As a few observers have noted, the title of caliph comes freighted with a long and complicated history. That history begins in the seventh century AD, when the title was adopted to denote those leaders of the Muslim community who were recognized as the Prophet Muhammad’s “successors”— not prophets themselves of course, but men who were expected, in the Prophet’s absence, to know how to guide the community spiritually as well as politically. Later in the medieval period, classical Islamic political theory sought to carefully define the pool from which caliphs might be drawn and to stipulate specific criteria that a caliph must possess, such as lineage, probity, moral standing and so on. Save for his most ardent followers, Muslims have found al-Baghdadi — with his penchant for Rolex watches and theatrical career reinventions — sorely wanting in such caliphal credentials.
He’s not the only one of course. Over the span of Islamic history, the title of caliph has been adopted by numerous (and sometimes competing) dynasties, rebels, and pretenders. The last ruler to bear the title in any significant way was the Ottoman Abdülmecid II, who lost the title when he was exiled in 1924. And even then it was an honorific supported only by myths of Ottoman legitimacy. But it’s doubtful that al-Baghdadi gives the Ottomans much thought. For he is really tapping into a much more recent dream of reviving the caliphate embraced by various Islamist groups since the early 20th century, who saw it as a precondition for reviving the Muslim community or to combat Western imperialism. Al-Baghdadi’s caliphate is thus a modern confection, despite its medieval trappings.
That an Islamic fundamentalist (to use a contested term of its own) like al-Baghdadi should make an appeal to the past to legitimate himself, and that he should do so without any thoughtful reference to Islamic history, is of course the most banal of observations to make about his activities, or about those of any fundamentalist. And perhaps that is the most interesting point about this episode. For the utterly commonplace nature of examples like al-Baghdadi’s clumsy claim to be caliph suggest that Islamic history today is in danger of becoming irrelevant.
Caliph Abdulmecid II, the last Caliph before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
This is not because Islamic history has no bearing upon the present Islamic world, but because present-day agendas that make use of that history prefer to cherry-pick, deform, and obliterate the complicated bits to provide easy narratives for their own ends. Al-Baghdadi’s claim, for example, leaps over 1400 years of more nuanced Islamic history in which the institution of the caliphate shaped Muslim lives in diverse ways, and in which regional upstarts had little legitimate claim. But he is hardly alone in avoiding inconvenient truths — contemporary comment on Middle Eastern affairs routinely employs the same strategy.
We can see just such a history-shy approach in coverage of the sectarian conflicts between Shi’i and Sunni Muslims in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Pakistan, and elsewhere. The struggle between Sunnis and Shi’ites, we are usually told, has its origins in a contest over religious authority in the seventh century between the partisans of the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law ‘Ali and those Muslims who believed the incumbent caliphs of the day were better guides and leaders for the community. And so Shi’ites and Sunnis, we are led to believe, have been fighting ever since. It is as if the past fourteen centuries of history, with its record of coexistence, migrations, imperial designs, and nation-building have no part in the matter, to say nothing of the past century or less of authoritarian regimes, identity-politics, and colonial mischief.
We see the inconvenient truths of Islamic history also being ignored in the widespread discourse of crusading and counter-crusading that occasionally infects comment on contemporary conflicts, as if holy war is the default mode for Muslims fighting non-Muslims or vice-versa. When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi can wrap himself in black robes and proclaim himself Caliph Ibrahim of the Islamic State, when seventh-century conflicts seem like thorough explanations for twenty-first century struggles, or when a terrorist and mass-murderer like the Norwegian Anders Breivik can see himself as a latter-day Knight Templar, then we are sadly living in a world in which the medieval is allowed to seep uncritically into the contemporary as a way to provide easy answers to very complicated problems.
But we should be wary of such easy answers. Syria and Iraq will not be saved by a caliph. And crusaders would have found the motivations of today’s empire-builders sickening. History properly appreciated should instead lead us to acknowledge the specificity, and indeed oddness, of our modern contexts and the complexity of our contemporary motivations. It should, one hopes, lead to that conclusion reached famously by Mark Twain: that history doesn’t repeat itself, even if sometimes it rhymes.
Reading the newspaper these days feels a little like time traveling. After eight years of war in Iraq and (let's be honest) at least three years of societal amnesia, it's startling to wake up to headlines about sectarian violence and the president's requests for resources to fight ISIS, the radical Islamic organization conquering vast swathes [...]
The arc of a presidency is long, but it bends towards failure. So, to paraphrase Barack Obama, seems to be the implication of recent events. Set aside our domestic travails, for which Congress bears primary responsibility, and focus on foreign policy, where the president plays a freer hand. In East Asia, China is rising and truculent, scrapping with its neighbors over territory and maritime resources. From Hanoi to Canberra, the neighbors are buttressing their military forces and clinging to Washington’s security blanket. Across Eurasia, Vladimir Putin is pushing with sly restraint to reverse the strategic setbacks of 1989-91. America’s European allies are troubled but not to the point of resolution. At just 1.65 percent of GDP, the EU’s military spending lags far behind Russia’s, at 4.5 percent of GDP. The United States, the Europeans presume, will continue to provide, much as it has done since the late 1940s.
Washington’s last and longest wars are, meanwhile, descending towards torrid denouements. Afghanistan’s fate is tenuous. Free elections are heartening, but whether the Kabul government can govern, much less survive the withdrawal of US forces scheduled for 2016 is uncertain. Iraq, from which Obama in 2011 declared us liberated, is catastrophic. The country is imploding, caught in the firestorm of Sunni insurgency that has overwhelmed the Levant. We may yet witness genocide. We may yet witness American personnel scrambling into helicopters as they evacuate Baghdad’s International Zone, a scene that will recall the evacuation of Saigon in April 1975. The situations are not analogous: should ISIS militia penetrate Baghdad, the outcome will be less decisive than was North Vietnam’s 1975 conquest of South Vietnam, but for the United States the results will be no less devastating. America’s failure in Iraq would be undeniable, and all that would remain would be the allocation of blame.
We have traveled far from Grant Park, where an inspirational campaign culminated in promises of an Aquarian future. We are no longer in Oslo, where a president newly laden with a Nobel Prize spoke of rejuvenating an international order “buckling under the weight of new threats.” Obama’s charisma, intellect, and personality, all considerable, have not remade the world; instead, a president who conjured visions of a “just and lasting peace” now talks about hitting singles and doubles. There have in fairness been few errors, although Obama’s declaration that US troops will leave Afghanistan in 2016 may count as such. The problem is rather the conjuncture of setbacks, many deep-rooted, that now envelops US foreign policy. These setbacks are not Barack Obama’s fault, but deal with them he must. The irony is this: dire circumstances, above all Iraq, made Obama’s presidential campaign credible and secured his election. Dire circumstances, including Iraq, may now be overwhelming Obama’s presidency.
Cerebral and introspective, Obama may rue that the last years of presidencies are often difficult. Truman left the White House with his ratings in the gutter, while Eisenhower in his last years seemed to critics doddery and obsolete. But for Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan’s presidency might have ended in ignominy. Yet a president’s last years can be years of reinvention, even years of renewal. With the mid-terms not yet upon us, the fourth part of Obama’s day has not passed; its shape is still being defined.
Barack Obama speaks in Cairo, Egypt, 4 June 2009. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Notorious as a time of setbacks, the 1970s offer examples of late-term reinventions. Henry Kissinger, serving President Ford, in 1974-76 and Jimmy Carter in 1979-80 snatched opportunity from adversity; their examples may be salutary. The mid-1970s found Kissinger’s foreign policy in a nadir: political headwinds were blowing against the East-West détente that he and Richard Nixon had built, even as Congress voted to deny the administration the tools to confront Soviet adventurism in the Third World. Transatlantic relations were at low ebb, as the industrialized countries competed to secure supplies of oil and to overcome a tightening world recession. Alarmed by the deterioration of core alliances, Kissinger in 1974-76 pivoted away from his prior fixation with the Cold War’s grand chessboard and set to work rebuilding the Western Alliance. As he did so, he pioneered international economic governance through the G-7 summits and restored the comity of the West. Kissinger even engaged with the Third World, proposing an international food bank to feed the world’s poorest and aligning the United States with black majority rule in sub-Saharan Africa. Amidst transient adversity, Kissinger laid the foundations for a post-Cold War foreign policy, and the benefits abounded in the decades that followed.
Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s inherited serious challenges, some of which he exacerbated. Soviet-American détente was already on the ropes, but Carter’s outspoken defenses of Soviet human rights added to the strain. The Shah of Iran, a longtime client, was already in trouble, but the strains on his regime intensified under Carter, who sent mixed messages. Pahlavi’s tumbling in the winter of 1978-79 and the ensuing hostage crisis threw Carter’s foreign policy off the rails. Months later, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Carter responded by reorienting US foreign policy towards an invigorated Cold War posture. He embargoed the USSR, escalated defense spending, rallied the West, and expanded cooperation with China. This Cold War turn was counterintuitive, being a departure from Carter’s initial bid to transcend Cold War axioms, but it confirmed his willingness to adapt to new circumstances. Carter’s anti-Soviet turn turned up the fiscal strain on the Soviet Union, helping to precipitate not only the Cold War’s re-escalation but also the Cold War’s resolution. Carter also defined for the United States a new military role in the Persian Gulf, where Washington assumed direct responsibility for the security of oil supplies. This was not what Carter intended to achieve, but he adapted, like Kissinger, to fast-shifting circumstances with creative and far-reaching initiatives.
Late term adaptations such as Kissinger’s and Carter’s may offer cues for President Obama. One lesson of presidencies past is that the frustration of grand designs can be liberating. The Nixon administration in the early 1970s sought to build a “new international structure of peace” atop a Cold War balance of power. Despite initial breakthroughs, Nixon’s design faltered, leaving Ford and Kissinger to pick up the pieces. Carter at the outset envisaged making a new “framework of international cooperation,” but his efforts at architectural renovation also came unstuck. The failures of architecture and the frustration of grand designs nonetheless opened opportunities for practical innovation, which Kissinger, Carter, and others pursued. Even George W. Bush achieved a late reinvention focused on practical multilateralism after his grand strategic bid to democratize the Middle East failed in ignominy. Whether Obama can do the same may hinge upon his willingness to forsake big ideas of the kind that he articulated when he spoke in Cairo of a “new beginning” in US relations with the Muslim world and to refocus on the tangible problems of a complex and unruly world that will submit to grand designs no more readily today than it has done in the past.
Moving forward may also require revisiting favored concepts. Embracing a concept of Cold War politics, Nixon and Kissinger prioritized détente with Soviet Union and neglected US allies. Kissinger’s efforts to rehabilitate core alliances nonetheless proved more durable than his initial efforts to stabilize the Cold War. Substituting a concept of “world order politics” for Cold War fixations, Carter set out to promote human rights and economic cooperation. He nonetheless ended up implementing the sharpest escalation in Cold War preparedness since Truman. Making effective foreign policy sometimes depends upon rethinking the concepts that guide it. Such concepts are, after all, derived from the past; they do not predict the future.
President Obama at West Point recently declared that “terrorism” is still “the most direct threat to America.” This has been the pattern of recent years; whether it is the pattern of years to come, only time will tell. New threats will also appear, as will new opportunities, but engaging them will depend upon perceiving them. Here, strategic concepts that prioritize particular kinds of challenges, such as terrorism, over other kinds of challenge, such as climate change, may be unhelpful. So too are the blanket prohibitions that axiomatic concepts often produce. Advancing US interests may very well depend upon mustering the flexibility to engage with terroristic groups, like the Taliban or Hamas, or with regimes, like Iran’s, that sponsor terrorism. Axiomatic approaches to foreign policy that reject all dialogue with terrorist organizations may narrow the field of vision. Americans, after all, did not go to China until Nixon did so.
If intellectual flexibility is a prerequisite for successful late presidential reinventions, political courage is another. While he believed that effective foreign policy depended upon domestic consensus, Kissinger strived throughout his career to insulate policy choice from the pressures of domestic politics. He persevered in defending Soviet-American détente not because it was popular but because he believed in it. Carter also put strategic purposes ahead of political expedience. Convinced that America’s dependence on foreign oil was a strategic liability, Carter decontrolled oil prices, allowing gasoline prices to rise sharply. The decision was unpopular, even mocked, but it paid strategic dividends in the mid-1980s, when falling world oil prices helped tip the Soviet Union into fiscal collapse. Obama, in contrast, appears readier to let opinion polls guide foreign policy. Withdrawing US forces from Iraq in 2011 and committing to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan during 2016 were both popular moves; their prudence remains less obvious. Still, the 22nd Amendment gives the President a real flexibility in foreign policy. Whether Obama bequeaths a strong foundation to his successor may depend on his willingness to embrace the political opportunity that he now inhabits for bold and decisive action.
Setbacks of the kind that the United States is experiencing in the present moment are not unprecedented. Americans in the 1970s fretted about the rise of Soviet power, and they recoiled as radical students stormed their embassy in Tehran. Yet policymakers devised ways out of the impasse, and they left the United States in a deceptively strong position at the decade’s end. Reinvention depended upon flexibility. Kissinger, Carter, and others understood that the United States, while the world’s leading superpower, was more the captive of its circumstances than the master of them. They were undogmatic, insofar as they turned to opportunities that had not been their priorities at the outset. They operated in the world as they found it and did not fixate upon the world as it might be. They scored singles and doubles, but they also hit the occasional home run. This is a standard that Obama has evoked; with luck, it will be a standard that he can fulfill, if he can muster the political courage to defy adverse politics and embrace the opportunities that the last 30 months of his presidency will present.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a lot of talk lately about the need for more diversity in books. We already know that the population of the United States is rapidly changing, and people have been demanding books that reflect this. From the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign to this recent article from School Library Journal, the demand for diverse titles grows louder every day. One category we often get asked about is recommendations of books featuring Middle Eastern and Muslim characters, so we thought we’d put together a list of some favorites:
The Butter Man, by Elizabeth & Ali Alalou, ill. by Julie Klear Essakalli: As young Nora waits impatiently for her mother to come home from work and for her father to serve the long-simmering couscous that smells so delicious, her father tells her about his childhood in Morocco.
Coming to America: A Muslim Family’s Story, by Bernard Wolf: With captivating photographs and engaging text, Bernard Wolf invites us into the life of this close-knit family — a family whose love and courage speak for all immigrants who work hard and make sacrifices in the pursuit of a better life.
Deep in the Sahara, by Kelly Cunnane, ill. by Hoda Hadadi: Lalla lives in the Muslim country of Mauritania, and more than anything, she wants to wear a malafa, the colorful cloth Mauritanian women, like her mama and big sister, wear to cover their heads and clothes in public.
The Flag of Childhood: Poems From the Middle East, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye: In this stirring anthology of sixty poems from the Middle East, honored anthologist Naomi Shihab Nye welcomes us to this lush, vivid world and beckons us to explore.
Four Feet, Two Sandals, by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed, ill. by Doug Chayka: Ten-year-old Lina is thrilled when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly, until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. But soon Lina and Feroza meet and decide that it is better to share the sandals than for each to wear only one. As the girls go about their routines washing clothes in the river, waiting in long lines for water, and watching for their names to appear on the list to go to America the sandals remind them that friendship is what is most important.
King For a Day, by Rukhsana Khan, ill. by Christiane Krömer: This lively, contemporary story introduces readers to a centuries-old festival and the traditional sport of kite fighting, and to a spirited, determined young boy who masters the sport while finding his own way to face and overcome life’s challenges.
The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq, written & ill. by Jeanette Winter: Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library–along with the thirty thousand books within it–will be destroyed forever.
Mystery Bottle, written & ill. by Kristen Balouch: A boy in Brooklyn receives a package from Iran. When he opens up the mysterious bottle that lies within, a great wind transports him over the oceans and mountains, straight into the arms of his grandfather.
Nadia’s Hands, by Karen English, ill. by Jonathan Weiner: The morning of her aunt’s wedding, Nadia’s hands are decorated with “mehndi.” But Nadia is worried. When she goes to school on Monday, what will her classmates think of her hands? Will they understand that “mehndi “is part of her Pakistani heritage?
Ruler of the Courtyard, by Rukhsana Khan, ill. by R. Gregory Christie: The chickens in Saba’s yard are especially mean, chasing her and pecking at her toes. But when she sees a snake in the bathhouse, Saba realizes that she has to act fast to protect herself and her nani, her grandma, from the snake. Can she conquer the chickens and the snake to become the Ruler of the Courtyard?
Sami and the Time of the Troubles, by Florence Parry Heide & Judith Heide Gilliland, ill. by Ted Lewin: A ten-year-old Lebanese boy balances his life in a war-torn city.
The Sifrah Glider, by Ahmad AbdulGhani Al Redha, ill. by Joanne Mendelski: A class of children is in for a treat when their class guest turns out to be an Emirati man who teaches them about his traditional dress and the significance behind each item.
Silent Music: A Story of Baghdad, by James Rumford: Like other children living in Baghdad, Ali loves soccer, music and dancing, but most of all, he loves the ancient art of calligraphy. When bombs begin to fall on his city, Ali turns to his pen, writing sweeping and gliding words to the silent music that drowns out the war all around him.
Sitti’s Secrets, by Naomi Shihab Nye, ill. by Nancy Carpenter: When Sitti, an American girl, goes to visit her grandmother in her small Middle Eastern village on the other side of the world, they don’t need words to understand each other’s heart.
This March we celebrate Women’s History Month, commemorating the lives, legacies, and contributions of women around the world. We’ve compiled a brief reading list that demonstrates the diversity of women’s lives and achievements.
Illuminate the brilliant life and tragic death of Isabella de Medici, one of the brightest stars in the dazzling world of Renaissance Italy, the daughter of Duke Cosimo I, ruler of Florence and Tuscany.
Reach back through women’s long history of labor, political activism, and contributions to — or even support of — family and community well-being.
Women’s history encompasses the history of humankind, including men, but approaches it from a woman‐centered perspective. It highlights women’s activities and ideas and asserts that their problems, issues, and accomplishments are just as central to the telling of the human story as are those of their brothers, husbands, and sons. It places the sociopolitical relations between the sexes, or gender, at the center of historical inquiry and questions female subordination.
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By Steven A. Cook
If February 11, 2011 demonstrated the very best of Egypt, then October 9, 2011 demonstrated the very worst of Egypt. The only way to describe what unfolded in front of the state television building (and subsequently Tahrir Square), where Copts were protesting over not-so-subtle official efforts to stoke sectarian tension over a church being constructed in Aswan, was an anti-Christian pogrom. The death toll stands at 25 with 300 injured. There have been scattered reports of soldiers and policemen injured, but by far the Copts took the brunt of the violence.
Outdated goals of war in the 21st century
By Louis René Beres
Even now, when the “fog of war” in Iraq and Afghanistan is likely at its thickest point, our leaders and military commanders still speak in starkly traditional terms. Such ordinary emphases on “victory” and “defeat” belie the profound and critically-nuanced transformations of war presently [...]
The United States, preemption, and international law
By Professor Louis René Beres
Admiral Leon “Bud” Edney
General Thomas G. McInerney
For now, the “Arab Spring” and its aftermath still occupy center-stage in the Middle East and North Africa. Nonetheless, from a regional and perhaps even global security perspective, the genuinely core threat to peace and stability remains Iran. Whatever else might determinably shape ongoing transformations of power and authority in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Saudi Arabia, it is apt to pale in urgency beside the steadily expanding prospect of a nuclear Iran.
Enter international law. Designed, inter alia, to ensure the survival of states in a persistently anarchic world – a world originally fashioned after the Thirty Years War and the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 – this law includes the “inherent” right of national self-defense. Such right may be exercised not only after an attack has already been suffered, but, sometimes, also, in advance of an expected attack.
What can now be done, lawfully, about relentless Iranian nuclear weapons development? Do individual states, especially those in greatest prospective danger from any expressions of Iranian nuclear aggression, have a legal right to strike first defensively? In short, could such a preemption ever be permissible under international law?
For the United States, preemption remains a part of codified American military doctrine. But is this national doctrine necessarily consistent with the legal and complex international expectations of anticipatory self-defense?
To begin, international law derives from multiple authoritative sources, including international custom. Although written law of the UN Charter (treaty law) reserves the right of self-defense only to those states that have already suffered an attack (Article 51), equally valid customary law still permits a first use of force if the particular danger posed is “instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation.” Stemming from an 1837 event in jurisprudential history known as the Caroline, which concerned the unsuccessful rebellion in Upper Canada against British rule, this doctrine builds purposefully upon a seventeenth-century formulation of Hugo Grotius.
Self-defense, says the classical Dutch scholar in, The Law of War and Peace (1625), may be permitted “not only after an attack has already been suffered, but also in advance, where the deed may be anticipated.” In his later text of 1758, The Right of Self-Protection and the Effects of Sovereignty and Independence of Nations, Swiss jurist Emmerich de Vattel affirmed: “A nation has the right to resist the injury another seeks to inflict upon it, and to use force and every other just means of resistance against the aggressor.”
Article 51 of the UN Charter, limiting self-defense to circumstances following an attack, does not override the customary right of anticipatory self-defense. Interestingly, especially for Americans, the works of Grotius and Vattel were favorite readings of Thomas Jefferson, who relied heavily upon them for crafting the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America.
We should also recall Article VI of the USConstitution, and assorted US Supreme Court decisions. These proclaim, straightforwardly, that international law is necessarily part of the law of the United States.
The Caroline notes an implicit distinction between preventive war (which is never legal), and preemptive war. The latter is not permitted merely to protect oneself against an emerging threat, but only when the danger posed is “instant” and
On November 20, 1977, Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat made an historic speech before Israel’s Knesset, or Parliament, becoming the first leader of an Arab nation to speak there. He was also the first of Israel’s Arab neighbors to publicly say anything like these words: “Today I tell you, and I declare it to the whole world, that we accept to live with you in permanent peace based on justice.”
By 1977, Israel and the nearby Arab states had fought four wars in less than 30 years. Sadat himself had been a principal architect of the most recent conflict, the Yom Kippur War of 1973. That conflict ended when Egypt, Syria, and Israel accepted a United Nations–imposed cease-fire. This time, though, the uneasy peace was not followed by yet another war. Sadat failed in peace talks to regain control of the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had occupied in 1967. To break the deadlock, on November 9, 1977, he stunned the world by telling Egypt’s Parliament that he was willing to travel to Israel to negotiate peace. No Arab state had ever recognized Israel’s existence, let alone sent a leader to the Jewish state. Israel quickly accepted his offer, and arrangements for the historic visit were made.
Sadat’s bold move set in course discussions that resulted in the Camp David Accords the following September, and a peace treaty in early 1979—the first treaty signed by Israel and an Arab nation. Both Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin received Nobel Peace Prizes for their historic agreement. While Sadat was hailed across the world, he was less well received in the Arab world, however. The Arab League denounced Egypt in September of 1978, and Sadat was assassinated in his homeland by radical Islamists because of his overtures to Israel and the western world.
Nearly a year has passed since the huge crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square rallied to overthrow former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Yet, the Egyptian public remains loathe to articulate a coherent vision for Egypt, and “that is the challenge going forward,” says Steven A. Cook, CFR’s top Egypt expert. He says that the next crucial step will be choosing a hundred-person group to write a new constitution, which could to lead to a crisis between the interim military-led government and the newly elected Islamist parliament. Meanwhile, the United States, which has been a close ally of Egypt for decades, finds itself having to deal with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and as a result, Cook says, “there’s going to be a divergence between Egypt and the United States over time.”
Interviewee: Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, CFR.org
With the anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution [January 25] only a couple of weeks away, do Egyptians think they are better off now than they were when Mubarak was in charge? What about U.S. officials, are they happier or more worried?
For the most part, Egyptians are happy to see the end of the Mubarak era, which was not an era of prosperity. It was not an era in which they could participate. It was an era of corruption and authoritarian politics. There remain supporters of the old regime, although they are a relatively small minority. The big question is what does the so-called silent majority–that the Egyptian Armed Forces consistently looks to–want? It’s unclear without major nationwide polling, but you do get a sense that what these people want is change. They came out in large numbers to vote in the now-concluded parliamentary elections. They want change. They want prosperity. They do not want the authoritarianism of the previous regime, but beyond that, it’s entirely unclear what Egyptians want. And I think that that is the challenge going forward.
There is supposed to be a hundred-person constitutional assembly created to write a new Egyptian constitution, which is to be followed by a presidential election. Is that going to be easy?
The challenge in the constitution-writing period is divining a vision for Egypt that the vast majority of Egyptians agree upon. And I think that that’s been and remains a problem.
Is Washington content to watch this uncertainty unfold?
The challenge in the constitution-writing period is divining a vision for Egypt that the vast majority of Egyptians agree upon.
U.S. policymakers find themselves in an unknown environment. Egyptian politics have been quite scrambled. The party of the Muslim Brotherhood–the Freedom and Justice Party–is slated to win somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 percent of the seats in the new People’s Assembly, followed by the Salafist al-Nour Party, with some 25 percent. Neither of these groups has historically held worldviews that conform to American interests in the region. So there’s going to be a divergence between Egypt and the United States over time. And that’s due not only to Islamist politics. People associate Egypt’s strategic relationship with the United States with Hosni Mubarak, even though it began before him, and people don’t believe that it served Egypt very well. As a result, I think there are going to be changes, and I think that that is certainly cause for concern. American policy makers are aware of the changes in Egypt, and they’re struggling to find a poli
Has the Washington foreign policy establishment disavowed democracy in the Middle East? According to Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald the answer is a resounding yes. Greenwald, a lawyer by training and blogger/author by trade, has long been a trenchant critic of various “establishments.” In addition to “America’s national security priesthood,” he has often skewered the mainstream media for various transgressions such as giving the George W. Bush administration a pass on the invasion of Iraq and more recently for giving Luke Russert and Chelsea Clinton high-profile jobs. Greenwald’s work on post-9/11 domestic policies, especially the way the Bush administration and a complicit Congress compromised civil liberties through dubious laws like the USA Patriot Act is among the best there is out there. Yet on those occasions when he has wandered into foreign policy, Greenwald’s commentary is considerably less original.
In his January 2 column, Greenwald went after CSIS’s Jon Alterman for an oped he published in the December 31 New York Times. Alterman had been an election observer in Egypt during the second round of polls. In about 80 words he relayed what he saw, including large numbers of voters turning out for either the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party or the al-Nour Party, which is affiliated with one strand of the Egyptian Salafist movement. Alterman, who spent three years living in Egypt in the 1990s, suggests that the best outcome in terms of American interests would be “a balance” between the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and Egypt’s new politicians. The implication being, I think, that the military would retain control over important foreign policy issues like the bilateral relationships with the United States and Israel while ceding executive authority in other areas to elected civilians.
Being well…I guess… part of the foreign policy establishment by dint of my employment, it is hard to understand how Greenwald extrapolates from Alterman’s oped that Washington foreign policy establishment has collectively decided that democracy in the Middle East is bad for the United States. A few observations before I move on: 1) people outside of Washington often make claims about Washington that they would never make about anywhere else. Greenwald is a smart guy. He surely knows that the so-called foreign policy elite is a diverse group. Indeed, there are many varieties of species in this zoo, 2) I don’t know whom Greenwald has been reading, but I count exactly two people who have warned that democratic development in the Middle East is bad for U.S. interests—Les Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and Greg Gause, professor of political science at the University of Vermont. Greenwald suggests his two primary bugaboos: Israelis and neocons. He is surely correct about the Israelis who prefer to make deals with regional authoritarians whom they hope can keep a lid on public sentiment, but he has got the neocons wrong. (By the way, in order to make his claim that “many neocons” oppose democracy in the Arab world, Greenwald cites a February 2, 2011 piece—nine days before Hosni Mubarak fell—in The Forward that only references David Wurmser and Malcolm Hoenlein , hardly a representative sampling.) Take the Egypt Working Group, a bipartisan group that which includes leading neocon personalities like my colleague, Elliott Abrams, and the Brookings Institutions’ Robert Kagan. Neither the Group nor Abrams nor Kagan have wavered in their support for democratic change in Egypt.
The jaundiced views of folks like Gelb and Gause does not make either of them democracy haters, though. It seems to me that they are onto something that
Nadir Shah enters Delhi and captures the Peacock Throne
On March 21, 1739, Nādir Shāh, leading Persian (modern Iranian) and Turkish forces, completed his conquest of the Mughal Empire by capturing Delhi, India, its capital. He seized vast stores of wealth, and among the prizes he carried away was the fabled Peacock Throne.
Nādir Shāh Afshār. Source: Victoria & Albert Museum.
Born in 1688, Nadr Qoli Beg belonged to a Turkish people loyal to the Safavid rulers of Iran. He became a military leader and helped Shah Tahmasp II regain the throne that had been lost to Afghan invaders. Soon after, however, he was angered by the Shah’s surrender to the Ottoman Turks. In response, he deposed the Shah and placed the Shah’s son on the throne, naming himself regent. That arrangement lasted only a few years; in 1736, he deposed the boy and assumed rule as Nādir Shāh.
The new ruler was bent on conquest. He built a navy and captured Bahrain and Oman before launching himself overland against the Mughals. His conquest of that empire went quickly, giving him the prized throne. Built originally by the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan, it reportedly had silver steps set on golden feet. The back showed two open peacock tails. The whole was studded with precious gems.
The throne became the symbol of the Iranian monarchy, though it only remained in Nādir Shāh’s hands for a short time. He was defeated in battle by the Kurds, who seized the throne and apparently dismantled it. A modern Peacock Throne was made in the early 1800s. That splendid but less spectacular model served as the throne of Iran’s Shahs until the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
Nādir Shāh did not fare much better than his magnificent throne. He continued his warring ways, building an empire that was plagued by financial problems and frequent revolts against his cruel rule. In 1749, he was killed by members of his own army.
The Trojan War. The history of piracy. The great naval battles between Carthage and Rome. The Jewish Diaspora into Hellenistic worlds. The rise of Islam. The Grand Tours of the 19th century. The mass tourism of the 20th. We may have missed World Maritime Day on March 17th, but we can still admire the watery wonder of the sea and its peoples. As brilliant and sweeping as the Mediterranean itself, The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean interweaves major political and naval developments with the ebb and flow of trade. Author David Abulafia stresses the remarkable ability of Mediterranean cultures to uphold the civilizing ideal of convivencia, “living together,” exemplified in medieval Spain, where Christian theologians studied Arabic texts with the help of Jewish and Muslim scholars, and traceable throughout the history of the region. And now a quick quiz on the history of the Mediterranean…
What are the oldest large-scale buildings of the Mediterranean?
(1) The Acropolis in Athens
(2) Mnajdra temple complex in Malta
(3) Leptis Magna in modern day Khoms, Libya
(4) The necropolis of Orvieto, Italy
What do the famous Cycladic figurines depict?
(1) Kings with a distinctive left foot stepped forward
(2) Female companions of the dead
(3) The bull-leapers, ancient athletes who performed acrobatics using bulls
(4) Fertility goddesses with distinctly long hair
What destroyed the Akrotiri on Thera in 1500 BC?
(1) A succession of difficult weather and poor growing seasons led to them abandoning the island
(2) A series of raids from nearby Minoan Crete devastated their population and economy
(3) A mysterious illness
(4) A massive volcanic eruption
The Battle of Actium played what decisive role in Mediterranean history?
(1) Lord Nelson of the British Navy defeated Napoleon and the French fleet — the first in a series of victories ensuring the British naval dominance of the Mediterranean during the Napoleonic Wars
(2) Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s forces were defeated — the last resistance to Octavian’s power grab — which eventually allowed him to transform the Roman Republic into the Empire
(3) Roman forces, so weakened by the cost of their victory at Actium, could no longer defend against invading Germanic tribes on the Italian peninsula
(4) The Venetian fleet led by Andrea Dandolo defeated the Genoese fleet, allowing Venice to dominate the glass trade in Renaissance Europe
What did the Venetians steal from fellow Christian city Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade and erect in front of St Mark’s Basilica?
(1) The throne of Constantine
(2) The gold and jewel encrusted reliquary of Saint Mark’s head
(3) Four magnificient horses of ancient Greek workmanship
(4) A Persian statue, symbol of Constantinople’s reach across trade routes
In the Battle of Lepanto, an alliance of Mediterranean Christian states defeated the Ottoman fleet. Which famous writer was known as “the cripple of Lepanto”?
(1) Ben Jonson, English playwright and notorious fighter
(2) Petrarch, Italian poet and father of Humanism
(3) Cervantes, Spanish author of Don Quixote
(4) Michel de Montaigne, French essayist and aristocrat
To which war does the Marine’s hymn refer with the verse “The shores of Tripoli”?
(1) The Revolutionary War (the British navy routinely press-ganged American citizens across the seas into becoming British sailors)
(2) First Barbary War (American involvement to end
In the male-dominated oil industry, executive Olivia McInnes plays a careful game – she’s cold, uncompromising, and ambitious as hell. Once she seals the deal to drill in the clear waters of Saqat, she’ll finally prove herself worthy to take the reins of her father’s oil company. Her only obstacle is marine biologist – and Saqat’s royal heir – Sheikh Khaled Ibm Saqat al Mayim, who’s determined to protect both his people and his country from environmental devastation…
It’s not long before Olivia’s icy cool exterior is shattered by the intelligent and wickedly hot sheikh, and business is surpassed by sweet, stolen pleasures. But outside the bedroom, there’s reality to be faced. Soon Khaled must return to his obligations – and his betrothed – in Saqat.
Caught between duty and ambition, can an oil tycoon and a sexy sheikh find room for love… or will this business deal spell disaster for them both?
I wanted to read The Oil Tycoon and Her Sexy Sheikh because I was curious to see how the conflict between the characters would be portrayed. Olivia is an executive at a successful oil company, and in order to ensure that she will take her father’s place when he retires, she needs to land the contract to drill for oil in the waters off of Saqat. Khaled is next in line to rule the country, but he is also a marine biologist. He has studied the long term effects of oil spills on marine life, and what he has learned is discouraging. It takes far longer than originally thought for the aquatic ecosystem to recover from the devastating consequences of a spill, and he is reluctant to allow any corporation to set up shop in his coastal waters. He doesn’t believe that safety precautions go far enough, and he thinks that the cleanup efforts outlined in the contract are also lacking. But tempering his reluctance to open up Saqat to oil investors is the need to alleviate the poverty of his people. The money from oil production would help bring education and improvements in medical care, and it is very difficult for him to turn that down. I enjoyed this conflict between these two driven people. Olivia is gung-ho to prove herself to the naysayers at her father’s company, and Khaled wants what’s best for both his country and his people. This puts them at odds with each other, and it is a heavy weight on Khaled’s shoulders. Does he allow these foreigners into the pristine waters, when there is a potential that they will bring ruin to the fragile ecosystem?
While I found the business negotiations interesting, I was not convinced about the romantic conflict between Khaled and Olivia. They are instantly attracted to each other, but because Khaled is next in line to inherit the throne, he tries to put the brakes on their budding relationship. It just can’t work out for them, because he has a duty to his people. Their relationship can’t go anywhere, because he is expected to marry a quiet, respectable Muslim girl from Saqat, and Olivia just doesn’t fit into the mold he has imagined his future wife must fit into. I didn’t buy into this conflict because the only person wh
In September, 2008, The Fed and the Treasury came to President George W. Bush and issued him an economic suicide threat. Secretary Henry Paulson walked into the Oval Office and put a financial gun to his own head and said, give us $800 Billion dollars or in 24 hours the American economy will die and 5 trillion dollars would disappear with the entire world economy. President Bush said yes. What if he had said NO? -
The Consortium by Steven Clark Bradley ________________ Feature Post
A Bird's-Eye View Of the People's Republic of China
In “The Second Republic – Patriot Acts Part II,” the President of the United States is confronted with a radical underground secret cabal that has targeted America with a domestic bio-terror attack that dwarfs the assault unleashed on September 11, 2001.
This second book in the Patriot Acts trilogy takes the reader inside the White House where treachery and terrorism boils below its underbelly. While trying to avoid invoking emergency powers that could destroy American constitutional freedoms, a former Special Ops officer, now the President of the United States, races to stop a deadly virus, which has killed thousands of innocent Americans.
This Fisher Harrison saga, The Second Republic, is an action thriller that could appear on any of today’s headlines, on any given day with a plausible scenario for the death of humankind that is too frighteningly conceivable for comfort.
When Too Much Security Can Kill You! Steven Clark Bradley
"An office sought and achieved by a candidate according to the rules set out in the US Constitution who, once elevated to high office, proceeds to ignore, disavow, repudiate, deviate from and misappropriate the powers and limitations prescribed, declared and demanded therein." -Steven Clark Bradley
For most of the modern world, ancient Nubia seems an unknown and enigmatic land. Only a handful of archaeologists have studied its history or unearthed the Nubian cities, temples, and cemeteries that once dotted the landscape of southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Nubia’s remote setting in the midst of an inhospitable desert, with access by river blocked by impassable rapids, has lent it not only an air of mystery, but also isolated it from exploration. Scholars have more recently begun to focus attention on the fascinating cultures of ancient Nubia, prompted by the construction of large dams that have flooded vast tracts of the ancient land. These photos by Chester Higgins Jr., photographer of Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile, reveal the remarkable history, architecture, culture, and altogether rich legacy of the ancient Nubians.
The façade of the Great Temple built by Ramesses II at Abu Simbel and dedicated to his deified self as well as the god Amun and the sun god Re-Harakhte. The four colossal figures that dominate the facade depict the king, with smaller figures of female family members beside him. Above the doorway, between the pairs of figures stands a statue of a hawk headed deity crowned with a sun disk and holding a plant; this is a rebus writing of Ramesses II’s name and is one of the first parts of the temple to be illuminated by the rising sun.
The interior of the Great Temple of Abu Simbel with figures of the king wearing his royal kilt and holding the crook and the flail, symbols of his royal office, in his crossed hands. On the right side the figures wear the double crown symbolic of the king’s dominion over Upper and Lower Egypt, and perhaps also over both Egypt and Nubia, while on the left side he wears the white crown, indicative of his rule over Upper Egypt. The ceiling of the chamber is decorated with vultures with outspread wings, protecting the sacred space, and in the distant holy-of-holies the statues of the king and the gods can be seen.
The pyramids at Meroe were constructed to house the bodies of the kings and queens of the Kingdom of Meroe. The pyramids combine a temple-like pylon entrance with a chapel set within the pyramids. These chapels are carved in sunk relief with images of the deceased royalty together with divinities. The famous gold treasure discovered by Ferlini and belonging to a Meroitic Queen was found buried with their owner in the burial chambers of one of these pyramids.
The tomb of Pennout, deputy of Wawat and chief of the quarries, dating to the reign of Ramesses VI (1141-113 BC) was originally located at Aniba, but moved to save it from the rising waters of Lake Nasser after the building of the Aswan High Dam. Images of the deceased’s family wearing white robes and holding lotus and papyri, symbols of resurrection, and praising the deceased, as well as images of deities are found in this charming rock cut tomb.
The temple of Beit al-Wali, originally situated 40 miles south of Aswan, was constructed during the reign of Seti I and decorated and completed during the early part of the reign of Ramesses II. The entire temple is unique in form when compared to other Egyptian temples in Nubia, and entirely cut into the rock face. The entrance hall leads into the vestibule, which shows scenes of the king and the gods worshiping. On either side, fluted columns are visible situated in the center of the room, through which is a view of the sanctuary with a recess cut into the back of the chamber for statues that would sit upon the bench-like structure in the back. This is the most sacred area of the temple, where the divine world of the gods existed. This temple was later moved during the 1960s to its current location south of the Aswan Dam.
Relief of Satet, Horus, and Isis from the Lion Temple at Musawwarat al-Sufra
The Lion Temple at Musawwarat al-Sufra is located 180 kilometers northeast of Khartoum. This site was important during the Meroitic Period as a major religious cult center. Shown on the side of this temple is a relief of the goddess Satet wearing a crown with horns, behind whom stands the hawk-headed god Horus and his mother, Isis.
Ancient Nubia: African Kingdoms on the Nile attempts to document some of what has recently been discovered about ancient Nubia, with its remarkable history, architecture, and culture, and thereby to give us a picture of this rich, but unfamiliar, African legacy. It is edited by Marjorie Fisher, Peter Lacovara, Sue D’Auria and Salima Ikram, photographs are by Chester New York City, and the foreword by Zahi Cairo. It is published by American University in Cairo Press.
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This fall Clive Cussler, Sandra Brown, Kathy Reichs, Mark Bowden and Andrew Peterson will embark on Operation Thriller, a USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour.
Operation Thriller sends authors to military bases around the world to entertain our troops–follow this link to read about last year’s tour. At the moment, the exact locations and tour dates cannot be revealed for security reasons. 2011 marks the 70-year anniversary of the USO organization.
Here’s more from the release: “OPERATION THRILLER, will fly to the Middle East, where they will sign autographs, pose for photos with the troops and talk about their books, movies, television series and writing. This trip marks the tour’s second installment, the first one kicked off in November 2010 and was comprised of Steve Berry, David Morrell, Doug Preston, James Rollins and Andy Harp.”
By Bassem SabryIn early April, Bothaina Kamel, a female television presenter and media figure, announced that she would run for the office of the presidency. In a society where the idea of a woman leading a country, the judiciary, or serving any similar role is discouraged by both culture and religion (indeed, it is often outright banned), the presence of a woman in elections stirs up strong reactions from the public. A cursory glance at the news articles that have mentioned her after she declared her candidacy feature such statements as: “Are we so out of men that we would be run by a woman?”
By Charles Kurzman
Last month, a few hours after a bomb exploded in downtown Oslo, I got a call from a journalist seeking comment. Why did Al Qaeda attack Norway? Why not a European country with a larger Muslim community, or a significant military presence in Muslim societies? I said I didn't know.
A second media inquiry soon followed: Given NATO's involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the number of disaffected Muslims in Europe, why don't we see more attacks like the one in Norway? This question was more up my alley. I recently
By Nathan Schneider
Not long after his return from Cairo, where he was doing fieldwork, I spoke with Talal Asad at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, where he is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology. Distinguished indeed: with books like Genealogies of Religion and Formations of the Secular, as well as numerous articles,Asad’s work has been formative for current scholarly conversation about religion and secularity, stressing both
By Steven A. Cook
As Cairo's citizens drove along the Autostrad [last] week, they were greeted with four enormous billboards featuring pictures of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. With Turkish and Egyptian flags, the signs bore the message, "With United Hands for the Future." Erdogan's visit marks a bold development in Turkey's leadership in the region. The hero's welcome he received at the airport reinforced the popular perception: Turkey is a positive force, uniquely positioned to guide the Middle East's ongoing transformation.
This Day in World History - October 10 marks a signal date in Islamic history. On that day, Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, was defeated and killed at Karbala, in modern Iraq. His death cemented deep and lasting division among Muslims that persist to this day. In Iran, where the population is overwhelmingly Shia, the death of Hussein—“leader of the martyrs”—is regularly commemorated in passion plays.