Thursday, August 18, 2016

Nicholas Kristof: Do You Care More About a Dog Than a Syrian?

Professor [Ebrahim Moosa] launches project to advance scientific and theological literacy among madrasa graduates in India

With a $1.2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation, Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame, has launched a three-year project to enrich scientific and theological literacy among recent graduates of Islamic seminaries in India. 
Working with scholars and teachers at Notre Dame and in India, Moosa will develop a curriculum and online learning program that integrates modern and classical knowledge traditions for young orthodox seminarians in India. 
The teaching team will recruit and train 100 recent madrasa graduates who are eager to acquire scientific knowledge that is indigenous to the Muslim tradition and interested in exposure to comparative theologies and modern humanities and social sciences. 
“Equipped with these knowledge resources,” Moosa said, “madrasa graduates can discover new ways to transform their lives and advance human dignity and the public good.”

New book: Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping the World by Shadi Hamid

In Islamic Exceptionalism, Brookings Institution scholar and acclaimed author Shadi Hamid offers a novel and provocative argument on how Islam is, in fact, "exceptional" in how it relates to politics, with profound implications for how we understand the future of the Middle East. Divides among citizens aren't just about power but are products of fundamental disagreements over the very nature and purpose of the modern nation state―and the vexing problem of religion’s role in public life. Hamid argues for a new understanding of how Islam and Islamism shape politics by examining different models of reckoning with the problem of religion and state, including the terrifying―and alarmingly successful―example of ISIS.  
With unprecedented access to Islamist activists and leaders across the region, Hamid offers a panoramic and ambitious interpretation of the region's descent into violence. Islamic Exceptionalism is a vital contribution to our understanding of Islam's past and present, and its outsized role in modern politics. We don't have to like it, but we have to understand it―because Islam, as a religion and as an idea, will continue to be a force that shapes not just the region, but the West as well in the decades to come. 
 “Shadi Hamid provides an invaluable corrective to Western interpretations of Islam, Islamism, and the future of democracy in the Muslim world. Whatever debate remains to be had cannot take place without reference to this insightful and sympathetic document.”–Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower and Thirteen Days in September

 “A riveting account of the Arab Spring and all that followed, by one of the world’s leading scholars on political Islam. Shadi Hamid explains convincingly that Islam and the political movements it spawns are truly exceptional and likely to frustrate the ‘liberal determinists’ who believe that history inevitably gravitates to a secular future. A hugely important book.” –General David Petraeus (Ret.), former director of the CIA and commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan

 “Islamic Exceptionalism is an honest, deeply researched, and at times anguished effort to make sense of the Middle East after the failure of the Arab Spring and the rise of ISIS. Particularly rich and subtle on the crisis facing the Muslim Brotherhood, the book offers both a snapshot of a painful moment and a long-view inquiry into the meeting between Islam and democracy. Sobering, urgent reading for anyone who cares about the region, past and future.” –Noah Feldman, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Harvard Law School and author of Cool War, Scorpions, and The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State

 “Beyond the zero-sum proposals of Islam or liberalism, Shadi Hamid boldly wrestles with how these two can negotiate the future of Muslim polities. Along the way, he educates us, challenging entrenched stereotypes and blind presumptions, especially the notion that the Muslim world must, can, or should go the way of the West. Islam is a constant not a variable. Islamic Exceptionalism suggests that this may be the beginning of wisdom for anyone wishing to understand, let alone shape, the political future of majority Muslim states.”–Sherman A. Jackson, King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture, University of Southern California

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Dr. Umar: The Perceptible and the Unseen: The Qu’anic Conception of Man’s Relationship to God and Realities Beyond Human Perception

Umar F. Abd-Allah, “The Perceptible and the Unseen: The Qur’anic Conception of Man’s Relationship to God and Realities Beyond Human Perception,” in Mormons and Muslims: Spiritual Foundations and Modern Manifestations, ed. Spencer J. Palmer (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University 2002), 209–64.

via Shaykh Omar Qureshi

Video with Shadi Hamid in The Atlantic: "Will the Middle East Ever Be Secular?"

Will the Middle East Ever Be Secular? Jul 16, 2016 |  Video by The Atlantic

In this era of ISIS, many debates in the West center on how followers of Islam will eventually, through a series of steps and growing pains, arrive at liberal democracy. Shadi Hamid, the author of the new book Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World, believes that Muslims don’t want that path. In this animated interview by The Atlantic, Hamid explains how not only was the Prophet Mohammed a religious figure, he was a politician. In fact, for much of the Middle East’s existence, there hasn’t been a separation of religion and governance. "Islam has proven to be resistant to secularization," he says. “We don't have to like it or agree with it...but the goal shouldn't be to push [Islam] away or exclude people, it has to be to find ways to accommodate Islam in a legal, peaceful, democratic process.”

Authors: Shadi Hamid, Daniel Lombroso, Caitlin Cadieux

Monday, August 8, 2016

Roy Scranton, "The Trauma Hero: From Wilfred Owen to 'Redeployment' and 'American Sniper'", LA Review of Books, Jan 25, 2015

American Sniper focuses in tight on one man’s story of trauma, leaving out the complex questions of why Kyle was in Iraq being traumatized in the first place. The Iraqis in the film are villains, caricatures, and targets, and the only real opinion on them the film offers is Kyle’s. The Iraqis are all “savages” who threaten American lives and need to be killed. There’s some truth in this representation, insofar as this is how a lot of American soldiers thought. Yet the film obviates the questions of why any American soldiers were in Iraq, why they stayed there for eight years, why they had to kill thousands upon thousands of Iraqi civilians, and how we are to understand the long and ongoing bloodbath once called the “war on terror.” It does that precisely by turning a killer into a victim, a war hero into a trauma hero. [...]
The sad fact Klay plays on is that most American readers will care more about a dead dog than they will about a dead Iraqi, and in this way “Redeployment” opens up an emotional conduit for those readers to feel the pang of grief that can come with killing, but without having to connect that feeling to the political reality of the war in Iraq. Whereas an Iraqi victim would have to be reckoned with as a fellow human being, with all the complexity that entails, a dog can simply be pitied and his killer simply empathized with. This moral simplification comes at a cost. [...]
The Yellow Birds, “Redeployment,” and American Sniper may portray a loss of innocence that makes the dirty war in Iraq palatable as an individual tragedy, but they only do so by obscuring the connection between American audiences and the millions of Iraqi lives destroyed or shattered since 2003. Focusing on the suffering of Private Bartle, Sergeant Price, or Chief Petty Officer Kyle allows us to forget the suffering of the very people whose land was occupied in our name. There are almost no Iraqis in The Yellow Birds or Redeployment at all, and where they do appear, they are caricatures. If the point of literature is to help us “recognize [our] own suffering in the stories of others,” as George Packer sententiously asserts, rather than soothing our troubled consciences with precisely the stories we want to hear, then novels such as The Yellow Birdsand stories such as “Redeployment” are gross moral and literary failures. But the failure does not belong to the writers. It belongs to all the readers and citizens who expect veterans to play out for them the ritual fort-da of trauma and recovery, and to carry for them the collective guilt of war.

[brought to my attention by Michiko Kakutani's review in the NYT of Scranton's new novel War Porn (just out this month).]

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pope Francis: Powerful People Don’t Want Peace Because They Profit from War

Francis responded by saying the question should really be, “Why do many powerful people not want peace?” 
“Because they live off war — the arms industry,” he said. “Some powerful people make their living with the production of arms and sell them to one country for them to use against another country … It’s the industry of death, the greed that harms us all, the desire to have more money.” 
“When we see that everything revolves around money,” the Pope continued, “the economic system revolves around money and not around the person, men and women, but money — so much is sacrificed and war is waged in order to defend the money.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Khaled Abou El Fadl on the role of Muslim jurists in a nation state today

The role and function of Islamic law in the modern age has changed dramatically. In the age of the nation-state, the interpreters of the Shari‘ah play a fundamentally different role— they are no longer the maintainers of law and order and functionaries of a living sociologically viable legal system. The jurists of today cannot rely on the authoritative weight yielded by the idea of rule of law because they are no longer the representatives of that principle of law and order. The jurists of Islamic law in the current age ought to be far closer to being theologians and moral philosophers than lawyers. They no longer bear the burden of representing the law of the land, but they do bear the far more onerous and grave burden of being the advocates for the law of God. In other words, they cannot hide behind the functionalities and technicalities of legalism, but they must rise to the challenge of being the voice of conscience reminding people of the primordial, transcendental, and divine. This is nothing short of a complete shift of paradigm and total restructuring of the juristic culture in Islam. This is dictated by the fact that Islamic law in the contemporary democratic state cannot be enforced by the state. By definition, political sovereignty in the nation-state belongs to the citizenry of the state and not to God. The role of the faqih, or of the Shari‘ah expert, is critical— as the Qur’an describes it, [18] the role of those who study the divine law is to act as teachers and reminders to people of the call of conscience and the indicators (adilla) that point to God’s will. This necessarily means that the only method available to them is persuasion by appealing to people’s minds and hearts. If they fail to convince people to do what is good and right, then they have failed to be persuasive. I believe, however, that the function of those who take on the responsibility of witnessing for God is very different from the role played by those who are practitioners of a legal system. For those who witness on God’s behalf, testifying in terms of ethics, virtue, and also the aesthetics of beauty and transcendence is critical. Testifying for God— the very acts of shahada and jihad— is fundamentally about witnessing about godliness as opposed to godlessness. If under any set of circumstances a law or set of laws are attributed to God but the concrete results are unjust, unfair, oppressive, or ugly, this cannot be godly, and what is being perpetuated is a state of godlessness and not godliness.
Fadl, Khaled Abou El (2014-10-23). Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari‘ah in the Modern Age (Kindle Locations 12529-12546). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition. Page 365 in the book.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Dartmouth student interviews Wirathu ‘(Myanmar nationalist.’” AKA ‘Burmese bin Laden')

#VQRTrueStory presents @khatrysarah on her encounter with Wirathu (1/5): “Don’t publish the article with any adjective I did not use,” he says. "If you want to use an adjective, use ‘Myanmar nationalist.’” He chuckles. “Don’t use ‘radical’ or ‘brutal.’ ‘Burmese bin Laden.’” // Wirathu, the Myanmar nationalist, sits across from me in a chamber of his monastery in Mandalay, his translator at the end of the desk between us. A monk fills his teacup. Another is stationed to his left with a large camera on a tripod, the lens aimed at me. // I’m in over my head. I didn’t expect to get to speak with him. With a taxi driver as my Burmese negotiator, I awaited him earlier today in this chamber. As he entered, the other monks instructed me to kneel, and from my knees I made my request. He refused me, explaining his distrust—his fear—of American media (TIME Magazine did name him “The Face of Buddhist Terror” in 2013). I promised only what I could: I would hear him out. // Something worked—my youth, my South Asian face, perhaps his own vanity. // A few hours later, I pass my first question to the translator: Why do you love Trump? // At the sound of that name, Wirathu gives an impulsive thumbs up. “He is a nationalist,” he says. “He is not like other people. He can behave toward the Muslims—but he will also protect his country. Most people will not speak the truth about them because the Muslim community is big and powerful. Trump dares to speak the truth.” // “In the past, the United States has been governed alternatively by Republicans and Democrats,” the translator continues. Wirathu folds the four fingers of his right hand down, counting Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama. // “Now begins the Donald Trump age.” // Nuance has been lost in translation, of course, but this tale of Trump the truth-teller against the Muslim media is only the first of many he shares with me. // He answers with stories—simplistic, slippery. He elides “facts” but claims to speak for one truth: that of plain hate in his country toward Islam. His stories may have no need to cohere with reality, but he still gets to shape it. #VQRTrueStory #VQR #SarahKhatry #Extremism #myanmar #burma #wirathu
A photo posted by Virginia Quarterly Review (@vqreview) on