Saturday, March 15, 2014

Richard Bulliet: The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization

Conventional wisdom maintains that the differences between Islam and Christianity are irreconcilable. Pre-eminent Middle East scholar Richard W. Bulliet disagrees, and in this fresh, provocative book he looks beneath the rhetoric of hatred and misunderstanding to challenge prevailing -- and misleading -- views of Islamic history and a "clash of civilizations." These sibling societies begin at the same time, go through the same developmental stages, and confront the same internal challenges. Yet as Christianity grows rich and powerful and less central to everyday life, Islam finds success around the globe but falls behind in wealth and power.
Modernization in the nineteenth century brings in secular forces that marginalize religion in political and public life. In the Christian world, this simply furthers a process that had already begun. In the Middle East this gives rise to the tyrannical governments that continue to dominate. Bulliet argues that beginning in the 1950s American policymakers misread the Muslim world and, instead of focusing on the growing discontent against the unpopular governments, saw only a forum for liberal, democratic reforms within those governments. By fostering slogans like "clash of civilizations" and "what went wrong," Americans to this day continue to misread the Muslim world and to miss the opportunity to focus on common ground for building lasting peace. This book offers a fresh perspective on U.S.-Muslim relations and provides the intellectual groundwork upon which to help build a peaceful and democratic future in the Muslim world.
Bulliet, a history professor at Columbia University and a former director of the Middle East Institute, offers a short, insightful book about Islam and Muslims that actually provides hope for the future. The book consists of four essays arguing that Islam and Christianity have tremendous common roots and history—as much as, or more than, Christianity and Judaism. Bulliet also contends that Western Christian policymakers and commentators, when encountering Islam, have reacted with knee-jerk Islamophobia and generalizations rather than thoughtfulness. Bulliet envisions a future, 20 years off at least, where Islamic countries will have active democracies. He also debunks the popular view that Islam has an inherent separation of church and state problem; Christians have had similar issues in the past, as he shows with the Church of England and other examples. Bulliet's optimism—which is backed up by solid arguments—is alluring, particularly where his counterparts can offer only gloom-and-doom scenarios. Bulliet's most brilliant insight, which comes in the last chapter, is the recognition that those Islamic movements on the fringe eventually become the center of Islam. The new leaders of Islam—probably those on the edge now, who have shown more diverse, tolerant attitudes—have not yet been heard from, he says. Although portions are written densely, this book is a quick, informative, and encouraging read. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Richard Bulliet's The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization re-examines most of the pieties of the West about the Muslim world and Islamic politics (and about the West itself) and finds them not only wrong but wrongly conceived.... He argues that modern European and Muslim history are deeply intertwined and that one cannot be understood in isolation from the other, thereby launching a profound challenge to teachers, historians and policy-makers.
(Juan Cole, University of Michigan The International Journal of Middle East Studies)

[An] insightful book about Islam and Muslims that actually provides hope for the future.... this book is a quick, informative, and encouraging read.
(Publishers Weekly)

A clearly written book, aimed at the general reader...requires a place on the library shelf
(Steve Young Library Journal)

Presents a persuasive case for viewing Islam and the West... [a]brilliant new book
(Emran Qureshi Toronto Globe and Mail)

Seeks to bridge a gap between Islam and the West... His solution is to try to patch things up by emphasizing all that Islam and Christianity have in common.
(Daniel Lazare The Nation)

As Bulliet writes... there is a far better case for 'Islamo-Christian civilization' than there is for a clash of civilizations.
(Washington Monthly)

Offers a rich lode of penetrating insights.
(L. Carl Brown Foreign Affairs)

A positive and challenging proposal, underscoring the importance of the phases we use in defining our world.
(Future Survey)

Obviously, this is an important book with the important proposal to familiarize everyone with the term "Islam-Christian civilization". Let us take heed.
(Murad Wilfried Hofmann The Muslim World Book Review)

It deserves the widest possible readership, addressing as it does with wit and insight one of the most freighted issues of our times.
(Malise Ruthven Times Literary Supplement)

Bulliet's ideas are collectively imaginative and a major contribution... No reader will see the history either of Christendom or Islam in quite the same way.
(Ronald Davis Domes 1900-01-00)

Great scholarship and vision... Bulliet offers rare insights in the Islamic and the (post)-Christian worlds.
(Johannes J. G. Jansen International History Review)

An excellent touchstone... this is not a volume that should be ignored.
(John J. Curry, Ph.D. Digest of Middle East Studies 1900-01-00)

[A] wise and wonderful book.
(Howard J. Dooley Journal of World History)

[These essays] emanate from a fair-minded approach to strident debates - written, if you will, from the center.
(International Journal of Middle East Studies 1900-01-00)


Only a historian as great as Richard Bulliet could offer such new daring insights into the Islamic-Christian encounter. After this book, it will no longer be possible to consider with any degree of seriousness the pop philosophy of a "clash of civilizations." All those who care about the future of the Muslim world-US relationship will do well to read this brilliant book.

(Mustapha Tlili, Founder and Director, Dialogues: Islamic World-U.S.-The West, World Policy Institute, New School)

About the Author

Richard W. Bulliet is professor of history at Columbia University. A former director of the Middle East Institute and executive secretary of the Middle East Studies Association, he is the author of Islam: The View from the Edge, The Camel and The Wheel, and editor of The Columbia History of the Twentieth Century. He lives in New York City.

NYU President John Sexton's website

God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215

This superb portrayal by NYU history professor Lewis of the fraught half-millennium during which Islam and Christianity uneasily coexisted on the continent just beginning to be known as Europe displays the formidable scholarship and magisterial ability to synthesize vast quantities of material that won him Pulitzer Prizes for both volumes of W.E.B. Du Bois.In characteristically elegant prose, Lewis shows Islam arising in the power vacuum left by the death throes of the empires of newly Christianized Rome and Persian Iran, then sweeping out of the Middle East as a fighting religion, with jihad inspiring cultural pride in hitherto marginalized Arab tribes. After Charles Martel's victory at the Battle of Poitiers in 732 sent the Muslim invaders back south of the Pyrenees, the Umayyad dynasty consolidated its rule in al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), forging a religiously tolerant, intellectually sophisticated, socially diverse and economically dynamic culture whose achievements would eventually seed the Renaissance. Meanwhile, the virtually powerless Roman popes joined forces with ambitious Frankish leaders, from Pippin the Short to Charlemagne, to create the template for feudal Europe: a religiously intolerant, intellectually impoverished, socially calcified, and economically primitive society. The collapse of the Umayyad dynasty and the rise of local leaders who embraced Muslim fundamentalism as a means to power destroyed the vitality of al-Andalus, paving the way for the Crusades and the Christian reconquista of Spain. Lewis clear-sightedly lays out the strengths and weaknesses of both worlds, though his sympathies are clearly with cosmopolitan doctor/philosophers like Ibn Rushd and Musa ibn Maymun (better known in the West as Averroës and Maimonides), who represented cultural eclecticism and creedal forbearance, sadly out of place in the increasingly fanatical 12th century.

9 Jackson articles

Available for free download here

Sherman A. Jackson Article: Between Preachers and Warriors

Even among those who actively pursue greater public recognition for Islam as a way of life, the Muslim world is not a monolith. Failure to recognize this leads to an unnecessary swelling of the ranks of those whom the West takes as enemies. Professor Amitai Etzioni suggests that this myopia can be overcome via a distinction between those he refers to as Preachers versus those he refers to as Warriors. I see considerable evidence in favor of Professor Etzioni's thesis, both contemporaneously and historically, and his thesis opens up much needed space within which to reconsider America's relationship with the Muslim world. Still, the impoverished language with which we have become accustomed to discussing Islam in the West makes it difficult to hold these possibilities in relief and keep them from being overcome by what Professor Etzioni refers to as “Multiple Realism Deficiency Disorder (MRDD).”

One cleric’s [Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah's] war on radicals is the hope for moderate Islam

Friday, March 14, 2014

More ʿAdī Setia via Rhamis Kent

"If economics is, following its original etymological meaning, the science of “household management,” or rather, the science of household stewardship, and the end of this stewardship is the well-being of the household, then any system of economics that leads, wittingly or unwittingly, to the dissolution of the household, or to the desolation of the earth as the macro-household, can only be an elaborate nihilistic inversion of the true meaning and purpose of economics. In the wake of the current financial and economic meltdown and widespread rethinking of all key economic concepts, Muslims should call for a serious and honest return to and creative revival of the traditional approach to understanding economics and the economy, which takes care to seamlessly embed the short-term goal of worldly prosperity into the larger, long-term goal of intergenerational sustainability and, ultimately, eternal felicity in the Afterlife. This understanding is very much in line with the Worldview of Islām (ruʾyat al-Islām lil-wujūd), which, as Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas puts it, “encompasses both al-dunyā and al-ākhirah, in which the dunyā-aspect must be related in a profound and inseparable way to the ākhirah-aspect, and in which the ākhirah-aspect has ultimate and final significance.”"

 -- Associate Prof. Dr. ʿAdī Setia, CASIS

Part of Dr. ʿAdī Setia's endeavour to restore the discipline of economics, the economy and community to its proper place. Join us. Insights and Excerpts from Al-Ghazālī’s Kitāb ādāb al-Kasb for Reviving Economies for Communities A reflective reading of this work provides valuable insights into the integrative socio-axiological vision underpinning all commercial transactions and economic activities in Islam, leading to a succinct re-definition of economics as “the science of earning and provisioning”

On farḍ al-kifāya (DYNAMITE as Professor Amir al-Islam says!)

"In this culture of cognitive confusion, resulting from the fragmentation of sincere intention from true vision (tafrīq bayn niyya khāliṣa wa ruʾya ṣādiqa), farḍ al-kifāya becomes but a feel-good slogan, a vacuous verbal justification bandied around to justify pursuing any academic or vocational discipline or business enterprise whatsoever. One sees many smart Muslim young men and women getting trained in, say, neoliberal, capitalistic economics and finance, thinking this to be farḍ al-kifāya, while at the same time totally oblivious of even the basic ethico-juristic precepts of classical muʿāmala—already well-outlined by al-Ghazālī almost a thousand years ago—the creative grasp of which could have provided for them the conceptual tools necessary for a truly intellectual and critical engagement with their chosen fields of study (be they related to economics or other areas), and with their future career paths in the service of the Umma, if they really care about serving the Umma through their local communities." -- Associate Prof. Dr. ʿAdī Setia, CASIS

via Rhamis

Thomas Friedman: Prisoner in a Glass House

George Makdisi (1920-2002) [Dr. Sherman Jackson's mentor/adviser/teacher]

'Of Many' Chronicles An Unorthodox Friendship [featuring Rabbi Yehuda Sarna and Imam Khalid Latif of the Of Many Institute, produced by Chelsea Clinton]

Sunday, March 9, 2014

New book: Islam, Democracy, and Cosmopolitanism: At Home and in the World by by Ali Mirsepassi & Tadd Graham Fernée

This book presents a critical study of citizenship, state, and globalization in societies that have been historically influenced by Islamic traditions and institutions. Interrogating the work of contemporary theorists of Islamic modernity such as Mohammed Arkoun, Abdul an-Na'im, Fatima Mernissi, Talal Asad, Saba Mahmood, and Aziz Al-Azmeh, this book explores the debate on Islam, democracy, and modernity, contextualized within contemporary Muslim lifeworlds. These include contemporary Turkey (following the 9/11 attacks and the onset of war in Afghanistan), multicultural France (2009-10 French burqa debate), Egypt (the 2011 Tahrir Square mass mobilizations), and India. Ali Mirsepassi and Tadd Ferneé critique particular counterproductive ideological conceptualizations, voicing an emerging global ethic of reconciliation. Rejecting the polarized conceptual ideals of the universal or the authentic, the authors critically reassess notions of the secular, the cosmopolitan, and democracy. Raising questions that cut across the disciplines of history, anthropology, sociology, and law, this study articulates a democratic politics of everyday life in modern Islamic societies.

Statement of Ali Mirsepassi Professor, Sociology/Middle Eastern Studies Director, Iranian Studies Initiative, Gallatin School of Individualized Study New York University Before the New York City Planning Commission For the Public Hearing on The New York University Core Project April 24, 2012

The Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies TOPICS

Saba Mahmood interviews Talal Asad on modern power and the reconfiguration of religious traditions

Professor Amir al-Islam
Amir Al-Islam is currently an Assistant Professor at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, UAE.  Dr. Al-Islam formerly held the post of Distinguished Lecturer on African American History, Islam, and World Civilization at Medgar Evers College, City University of New York (CUNY) in Brooklyn, NY. He received his Ph.D. from New York University in African American and African Diasporic History.  Prior to joining CUNY, Professor Al-Islam worked for 15 years as the Coordinator of Religious Affairs (Dawah) and Community Outreach of the Muslim World League Office to the United Nations.  He is the former Secretary General of the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations, U.S.A., served as Secretary General of the World Conference on Religion and Peace USA, and is a founding Director of the Joint African / African American Muslim Commission on HIV/AIDS and Orphaned Children, located at the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem, New York. 
Dr. Al-Islam has helped facilitate collaboration among people of various religious, ethnic and culturally diverse backgrounds internationally through his participation in peace and interfaith initiatives such as the UN Conference on Social Development in Copenhagen, 1994; the World Conference of Religious Leaders at the Vatican, 1995; the UN World Habitat II, Istanbul, 1996; the Millennium World Peace Summit at the UN, New York, 2001; and two meetings of the World Parliament of Religions in South Africa, 2000 and in Spain, 2004.  During Sierra Leone’s civil strife in the 1990’s, he helped establish one of their first interfaith councils in that country. 
Dr. Al-Islam assisted in organizing the first delegation of Muslim leaders to visit Auschwitz, Poland during the 1990’s.  He also served as Senior Advisor for several World Youth Peace Summits convened from 2004 through 2007 to address critical social issues, including those sponsored by the World Council of Religious Leaders in Bangkok and Sarajevo, and the Global Peace Initiative of Women in the U.S. and India in 2008.  Dr. Al-Islam is one of the founders and serves on the leadership council of the Muslim Alliance in N. America (MANA) headquartered in New York City. Currently Dr. Al-Islam is the Chairman of the Board of the Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) a non-profit NGO headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, USA, which focuses on issues of social justice and delivers a range of direct services including a free medical clinic, a post-release program for former incarcerated Muslims, and an expansive youth program which engages young people, particularly artists, in programs of service and social change.  Additionally, he is the founder of the newly established Institute for the Study of Islam Among Black Americans.