Syria’s Struggling Civil Society The Syrian Uprising


Authoritarian regimes have traditionally been disinclined to accept any political or social opposition and have been hostile to the development of an independent civil society that could form a counterweight to state power.

Article 8 of the Syrian constitution established the Baath party, which has prevented any independent parties from emerging since the 1963 military coup that brought it to power as “the leading party in the state and society.”[1] Yet despite this systematic repression, there has been a sustained effort by a small group of intellectuals and critics over the past decade to transform the country’s political system and make it more open and accountable.
While these activists did not ignite the uprising that has shaken Syria since March 2011, their courageous defiance of Bashar al-Assad’s regime has given them high standing among many Syrians. They may yet play a significant role in shaping Syria’s future.

Read more on the Middle East Quarterly: http://www.meforum.org/3194/syria-civil-society

Thinking Intentionality: Arab Women’s Subjectivity and its Discontents


Thus far, scholarship on subjectivity, relevant to Arab men as well as women, skirts the key issue of “intentionality.” Feminist scholars often conflate agency and intentionality. Agency, as it is approached, is attached to the subject in the aftermath of observing actions. Intentionality invites a probe into before and during actions. The two main approaches to intentionality in psychology are “drive” theory and “relational-models.” First, I briefly consider drive theory. Second, I examine relational concepts from the field of psychology, by way of a query, ending with a discussion of Kenneth J. Gergen’s Relational Being: Beyond Self and Community (Oxford University Press, 2009). Third, I review some of the standing tropes through which Arab women as subjects are viewed. Fourth, I explore what these inquiries could mean for the study of Arab women’s subjectivity and intentionality. Finally, I gesture toward questions on methodologies and languages.Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies © 2012 Indiana University Press

http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/jmiddeastwomstud.8.2.1

Early Contributions to the Theory of Islamic Governance: ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Awzāʿī


This paper deals with the political understanding of one of the early masters of fiqh, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Awzāʿī (d. 157/773), as manifested in his biography and what can be substantiated of his legal scholarship. It argues that, although the principles of Islamic governance were systematically formulated and laid down by later generations, the corresponding concepts were well established and acted upon in the generation of this famous Syrian scholar. The paper draws on primary historical source material that has hitherto been largely underused. It sheds light on the scholar and his time, his evaluation of political events, his attitude to and relationship with people in power and his views on the legitimacy of rulers.

Early Contributions to the Theory of Islamic Governance: ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Awzāʿī Journal of Islamic Studies (2012) 23(2): 137-164 first published online March 19, 2012 doi:10.1093/jis/ets041, http://jis.oxfordjournals.org/content/23/2/137.full

Being a Nonbeliever in a Time of Islamic Revival: Trajectories of Doubt and Certainty in Contemporary Egypt


What is the function of logic in al-Kindī’s corpus? What kind of relation does it have with mathematics? This article tackles these questions by examining al-Kindī’s theory of categories as it was presented in his epistle On the Number of Aristotle’s Books (Fī Kammiyyat kutub Arisṭū), from which we can learn about his special attitude towards Aristotle theory of categories and his interpretation, as well. Al-Kindī treats the Categories as a logical book, but in a manner different from that of the classical Aristotelian tradition. He ascribes a special status to the categories Quantity (kammiyya) and Quality (kayfiyya), whereas the rest of the categories are thought to be no more than different combinations of these two categories with the category Substance. The discussion will pay special attention to the function of the categories of Quantity and Quality as mediators between logic and mathematics.

Samuli Schielke (2012). BEING A NONBELIEVER IN A TIME OF ISLAMIC REVIVAL: TRAJECTORIES OF DOUBT AND CERTAINTY IN CONTEMPORARY EGYPT. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 44 , pp 301-320 doi:10.1017/S0020743812000062  http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0020743812000062

Cultural Engineering Under Authoritarian Regimes: Islamization of Universities in Postrevolutionary Iran


The purpose of this article is to analyze the efforts that have been made to Islamize Iranian universities, specifically since the emergence of hardliners in 2005. After the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Islamic regime relentlessly intensified its efforts to Islamize universities to train a new generation of ideologically driven students. In the three decades following the Revolution, three major periods of university Islamization have been implemented. The Cultural Revolution, which started in 1980, was the first step in the Islamization of Iran’s universities: to cleanse the higher education systems from students and professors who criticized the new established Islamic regime. By increasing the number of students and the development of universities throughout Iran in the Rafasanjai era, the second wave of the Islamization of the university was triggered by Ayatollah Khamenei in 1994. During the reform era, the Islamization of universities slowed because of the many confrontations between the Supreme Leader and the reformist administrations. With the victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election, the Islamization of universities intensified. While there are a few publications about the Islamization of universities, they mainly focused on the first and second decades following the 1979 Revolution. Focusing on the third period, this article will investigate the different strategies and tactics for the Islamization of universities, as well as reasons for its failures.

Digest of Middle East Studies: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1949-3606.2012.00124.x/abstract

Redeeming Sunni Islam: Al-Qa‘ida’s Polemic against the Muslim Brethren


The appearance of al-Qa‘ida at the beginning of the 1990s challenged the modern Islamic discourse by bringing the struggle against the ‘new Crusaders’—the United States and Europe—to centre stage. Impelled by frustration with the meagre record of Sunni radicalism in achieving substantive political change, and by its own aspiration for leadership, the organisation singled out the non-violent, influential Muslim Brethren as a main rival and a prime target for polemics. The formative basis for this polemic was provided by an essay written by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Hisad al-murr [The Bitter Harvest], around 1989. The essay, which has not been dealt with in the research literature until now, constitutes a biting attack against the Brethren. It undermines their historical legacy and goes so far as to shatter the image of their charismatic founder, Hasan al-Banna. More broadly, al-Zawahiri’s essay reveals the close affinity between historical memory and politics, and illuminates the clash within modern Islam.

British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13530194.2012.659442

Between Logic and Mathematics: al-KINDĪ’s approach to the Artistotelian Categories


What is the function of logic in al-Kindī’s corpus? What kind of relation does it have with mathematics? This article tackles these questions by examining al-Kindī’s theory of categories as it was presented in his epistle On the Number of Aristotle’s Books (Fī Kammiyyat kutub Arisṭū), from which we can learn about his special attitude towards Aristotle theory of categories and his interpretation, as well. Al-Kindī treats the Categories as a logical book, but in a manner different from that of the classical Aristotelian tradition. He ascribes a special status to the categories Quantity (kammiyya) and Quality (kayfiyya), whereas the rest of the categories are thought to be no more than different combinations of these two categories with the category Substance. The discussion will pay special attention to the function of the categories of Quantity and Quality as mediators between logic and mathematics.

Arabic Sciences and Philosophy: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0957423911000099

University of Exeter holds International Conference on Kurdish Studies


The Kurds and Kurdistan: Considering Continuity and Change’
Exeter, 6-8 September 2012

The States where Kurds live have seen tumultuous events. The Iranian elections and their aftermath have been followed by the protests in Iraq, anger over the referendum and elections in Turkey, and huge violence in Syria.

As many ask whether the so-called ‘Arab spring’ will bring change to the Middle East, this conference would like to interrogate the very ideas of continuity and change themselves across a number of disciplines. Does complete ‘rupture’ ever occur in history? Does regime change bring real differences in people’s lives? When migration brings change to individuals and families, what continuity is maintained in order to re-produce identity? How does language change and how far should linguistic change be managed? How should we study cultural continuity which exists over ethnic boundaries and international frontiers? What have been the changes and continuities within the field of Kurdish studies itself?

The Second International Conference on Kurdish Studies will be held in Exeter on 6-8 September 2012. It aims to bring together scholars from all over the world, working in political science, geography, anthropology, history, literature, linguistics, gender studies and other disciplines of the humanities and social sciences.

Read more here

A Gulf of Potential: a review of Boom amid Gloom by Allan Jacob


Boom amid Gloom The Spirit of Possibility in the 21st Century Persian Gulf
Boom amid Gloom: The Spirit of Possibility in the 21st Century Gulf
by N. Janardhan
Ithaca Press, ISBN: 9780863723933, Hardback, August 2010, 250pp

A Gulf of potential
Allan Jacob

5 August 2011, 7:25 PM

Silver linings abound in this book on Middle Eastern Studies by N. Janardhan, a Dubai-based researcher. The Gulf Cooperation Council countries are making their presence felt on the global stage, leaving their historical reticence behind. Changes may be slow in coming, but they are happening nevertheless, says the author who has 
witnessed the transformation of the region.

In his book Boom Amid Gloom, he attempts to strike a balance on what the Persian Gulf has achieved over two decades, the potential it possesses and the regenerative process driven by the youth who are growing in numbers.

Political, social and economic reforms are generally keeping pace with the changing times, according to the author, who is averse to promoting a Western vision of democracy. He is of the firm view that political reforms must come from within the system, without outside intervention. The six countries that make up the GCC, are making strides in reinventing themselves politically, so let them be, is Janardhan’s refrain.

Economically, the group, with its large oil resources and wealth, are a potent force globally. They have turned barren deserts into world-class commercial hubs to match the best in the world. They are attracting talent in the form of professionals across sectors, investments are pouring in and infrastructure is booming.

Their purchasing power abroad has grown with stakes in several firms. They have fine-tuned their diplomatic prowess, which is now second to none, according to Janardhan. However, economic integration for the group like the EU appears to be a distant.

The Gulf countries have created a framework for larger pursuits, according to the author. This sense of dynamism and ability to beat the recent downturn despite Dubai’s financial troubles proves the resilience of the region.

But there have been glitches along the way that cannot be glossed over. Education is one, women’s empowerment another. The environment and demographic imbalances are also proving to be tricky obstacles 
to surmount.  All GCC countries are dealing with these issues in their own unique way and time is on their side. In an era of growth for Gulf countries, it is imperative they grab opportunities that come their way. The writer looks at the promise of a rising Asia led by China and India, and how the region can benefit through cooperation, while taking stock of ebbing US influence over the course of events. The book is a good reference point for those seeking the spirit of possibility.

allan@khaleejtimes.com

Nonviolent resistance mapped – A review on Refusing to be Enemies, by Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta


Refusing to be Enemies – Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation.  Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta.  Ithaca Press (Garnet Publishing, Reading, UK), 2011.

Source:

When Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta came to live in Israel more than twenty years ago, there was little awareness of the idea of nonviolent resistance in the peace movement here. There were sometimes those to whom the practice of nonviolent resistance came naturally, but there was no underlying vision.

Beate Zilversmidt

Maxine had a long background in the Quaker movement. She was quite unique as a Jewish Quaker. Maybe she hoped to bring the nonviolent resistance idea to the Israelis, but she was too wise to do that in the form of preaching. Energetically she threw herself into all kinds of actions, and soon had many Israeli friends. In conversations with Maxine, I’ve learned a few things. For example, that nonviolent resistance is something other than simply demonstrating in a civilized way. But shouting abuse at police officers who arrest activists is also not consistent with the idea of nonviolence. Verbal abuse is also violence. Nonviolent resistance is not an easy thing. Civil disobedience takes courage, and self-control and perseverance, not to mention sacrifice.

When, in the nineties, Maxine returned to Canada for family reasons, she left behind also many Palestinian friends. In particular, her departure was a blow to the Jahalin Bedouin whose existence in the West Bank was under pressure from the ever-advancing Ma’ale Adumim settlement.

But Maxine had not really gone. One time she came back to attend a Jahalin event. Another time she explained that she had begun writing a book for which she had to interview many Israeli and Palestinian activists. That book became a years-long project, for which she always had to do more interviews. I was certainly not the only one who doubted whether the book would ever come about.

Meanwhile nonviolent protest became the trademark of the weekly demonstrations against the wall—in Bil’in, but also in many other farming villages that saw their land confiscated—a weekly procession of Palestinians, Israelis and other friends, who always approached the hated wall closer than the soldiers would have it, not shrinking back from clouds of tear gas (weekly) or bullets (sometimes fatal); continuing with resolve week after week, year after year, always with another playful element assuring it of continued media interest. (Once, the musical protest of the Dutch pianist Jacob Allegro-Wegloop did the job.) Had Maxine come too early or had she gone away too soon?

But now there is the book. A portrait of Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent resistance against the occupation, based on conversations, continued over the years, with more than one hundred individuals. Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta ordered the material thematically, and it sometimes made my head spin when pieces of many conversations were placed side by side [yet] again. But continuing to read, I became gradually aware that the peace movement had rarely been written about so vividly, so intelligently, and so from within.

In the years that Maxine has no longer lived here, the radical groups in particular have undergone significant development. But she has witnessed these developments nonetheless, through her conversations with many unique individuals, Israeli and Palestinian, each with a different story, who together form the movement of the dreamers. Dreamers who take their dreams very seriously, and dedicate their lives to them.

All those conversations, and Maxine’s thinking about them –of which you find a lot in the book—the careful description of the dilemmas, interspersed with personal anecdotes, make this book a historiography of the movement which constituted the only glimmer of hope in hard times, the movement of those who refuse to be enemies—or to take the occupation and the lack of rights of Palestinians for granted. Where is the Palestinian Gandhi? you hear people ask who look for excuses. Anyone who has read this book has at least something to say to them.

Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta: Refusing to be Enemies: Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Resistance to the Israeli Occupation, Ithaca Press 2011, ISBN: 9780863723803