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  • Author: Karen Leonard
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Insight Turkey
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: Finding Mecca in America: How Islam is Becoming an American Religion Near the end of this interesting book, the author characterizes his final chapter as “a series of interpretive judgments about the venture of Islam in its American habitat (p.205),” and I find this true of the book as a whole. It began as a doctoral dissertation, and Bilici defines himself a cultural sociologist who takes an agonistic (combative, contesting) approach, an approach that “pays attention to the margins more than the mainstreams, to lived experience more than to floating abstractions (p.21).” Yet, lengthy discussions of philosophy and social theory punctuate the chapters, enabling readers to debate the stated balance. Bilici also characterizes his work as ethnography, and while he draws on his work in Detroit, Michigan, as part of a team project and his internship with the Council of American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, in Washington, DC, the ethnographic material is limited, providing illustrations for various points Bilici wants to make rather than systematic evidence for them. He argues that his topics have escaped attention (or been taken for granted) or are postdiasporic, meaning they have not yet fully appeared above the horizon (p.19), such as Abrahamic discourse and Muslim comedy. He writes that “what should be prized is not the sea of data but the wisdom of elucidation (p.23),” and this personal interpretation is certainly worth reading.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: America, Washington
  • Author: Nurullah Ardiç
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Insight Turkey
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: Secularism and Religion-Making Recent scholarship in the sociology of religion has produced fresh perspectives on the understanding of religion and its inter-relationships with society. Largely influenced by post-structuralist social theory, these new perspectives call for a re-evaluation of existing theoretical and methodological approaches as well as empirical analyses, as reflected in the oft-used terms to describe their projects, including “rethinking,” “imagining” religion and its “invention” and “manufacturing” a là “invention of tradition”. The term “religion-making” is one such concept that questions the traditional ways of studying religion (and its constitutive other, secularism). It refers to the reification by political and intellectual actors (with different motivations) of a religion (its beliefs and practices/rituals) based on certain taken-for-granted (binary) concepts, such as the religious/secular divide, within the discursive field of world religions. The collection of articles edited by Markus Dressler and Arvind-Pal Mandair brings together eleven theoretically-informed and empirically-focused studies on religion-making in different socio-historical contexts. It fits nicely, and contributes to, the above-mentioned recent trends in the sociology of religion and secularism. A strong trend within this scholarship is a critique of the “secular critique” of the Enlightenment-inspired secularization theory, which also implies a critical re-evaluation of the (secularist) notion of a clear-cut distinction between the religious and the secular. This is also a common theme among the articles brought together in this edited volume: each study questions from a post-structuralist angle (but focusing on a different aspect of) the assumption of the 'boundedness' of “religion” and “secularism” and their opposition to one another. The theoretical aim of the volume, according to the editors, is to problematize this dichotomous assumption and demonstrate instead the codependency of “secular” and “religious” discourses. Its empirical aim is to “examine the consequences of the colonial and postcolonial adoption of Western-style objectifications of religion and … the secular, by non-Western elites” (p. 3), but it also contains cases of Western actors. Moreover, the editors' lengthy Introduction contains a useful discussion on the philosophical foundations (from Kant to Heidegger, from Hume to Hegel) and current manifestations (in Taylor, Habermas etc.) of the epistemological hegemony of the religious/secular dichotomy and of the “universalization” of the concept of religion out of Western Christianity. The analyses contained in the volume address the processes of religion-making at three different levels. First, “religion-making from above” refers to the discursive strategy of reifying religion(s) from powerful positions rendering them an instrument of governmentality. This is often undertaken by nation-states in their efforts to reframe existing religious traditions in a docile manner. As the editors note, this strategy is also applied by individual political actors, intellectuals and NGOs, as exemplified by the famous American think-tank RAND Corporation's call for “rebuilding Islam” in a manner that would not constitute a threat to American interests worldwide. The same advice was reiterated in 2004 by Daniel Pipes, a member of the Zionist lobby in the US who was close to the Bush administration, who argued that the ultimate goal of “the war on terror” was “religion-building,” implying the neocon elites' desire to “civilize Islam” (p. 22). These examples show not only the fact that the notion of religion-making from above is extremely relevant to current global geo-politics but also a paradigmatic symptom of the secular-liberal hegemony over religion in Western imagination: all religious traditions are encouraged and/or forced to “fit in” the existing socio-political structures in the form of “protestantization” –i.e. becoming an a-political, “modernized”/secularized and docile religion with no agenda for change in the status quo. Therefore, this hegemonic secular discourse does not so much aim to cleanse the public sphere and politics from religion as to make the latter fit in with the existing system and, if possible, function as a source of legitimization for hegemonic powers.
  • Topic: Islam, Politics
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: David Ramin Jalilvand
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Insight Turkey
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: Revolution and Reform in Russia and Iran: Modernisation and Politics in Revolutionary States In her comparative study, Ghoncheh Tazmini investigates the Russian revolution of 1917 and the 1979 Iranian revolution to identify patterns of continuity and change, including attempts at reform. At first, both revolutions might appear entirely different. In Russia, the Tsarist monarchy was replaced by socialism, whereas in Iran political Islam prevailed. However, Tazmini convincingly shows that both revolutions had related roots: the people's opposition to Western-inspired, autocratically enforced modernization that was endorsed by the Russian Tsars and Iranian Shahs. Moreover, in Vladimir Putin and Mohammad Khatami, she argues, both countries saw reformers with a similar outlook. By adopting beneficial Western practices without 'Westernizing' their countries, Putin and Khatami overcame the “antinomies of the past.” After the introduction, chapters two, three, and four discuss the experiences of modernization in Russia and Iran under the Romanov tsars and Pahlavi shahs. Both Peter the Great (in the 18th century) and Reza Shah (in the 20th century) sought to catch-up with developed European countries. To this end, they embarked on ambitious modernization programs, which were continued by their successors. In this context, Tazmini shows that the Russian and Iranian modernization programs only partially followed the European example. While embracing outward signs of modernity such as modern industries, state-society relations remained traditionally autocratic. Tazmini rightly grasps this as “modernization without modernity” in an attempt of “modernization from above.” Modernization from above is described as a “double helix” of economic modernization on the one hand and authoritarian political stagnation on the other hand. She notes, “Whilst both countries aspired to converge with the West by meeting its material and technological achievements, they ended up diverging by retaining the autocratic foundations of the ancient régimes.”
  • Topic: Islam, Politics, Reform
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran
  • Author: Anne Sofie Roald
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Insight Turkey
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: Muslim Minorities and Citizenship: Authority, Communities and Islamic Law In her comparative study, Ghoncheh Tazmini investigates the Russian revolution of 1917 and the 1979 Iranian revolution to identify patterns of continuity and change, including attempts at reform. At first, both revolutions might appear entirely different. In Russia, the Tsarist monarchy was replaced by socialism, whereas in Iran political Islam prevailed. However, Tazmini convincingly shows that both revolutions had related roots: the people's opposition to Western-inspired, autocratically enforced modernization that was endorsed by the Russian Tsars and Iranian Shahs. Moreover, in Vladimir Putin and Mohammad Khatami, she argues, both countries saw reformers with a similar outlook. By adopting beneficial Western practices without 'Westernizing' their countries, Putin and Khatami overcame the “antinomies of the past.” After the introduction, chapters two, three, and four discuss the experiences of modernization in Russia and Iran under the Romanov tsars and Pahlavi shahs. Both Peter the Great (in the 18th century) and Reza Shah (in the 20th century) sought to catch-up with developed European countries. To this end, they embarked on ambitious modernization programs, which were continued by their successors. In this context, Tazmini shows that the Russian and Iranian modernization programs only partially followed the European example. While embracing outward signs of modernity such as modern industries, state-society relations remained traditionally autocratic. Tazmini rightly grasps this as “modernization without modernity” in an attempt of “modernization from above.” Modernization from above is described as a “double helix” of economic modernization on the one hand and authoritarian political stagnation on the other hand. She notes, “Whilst both countries aspired to converge with the West by meeting its material and technological achievements, they ended up diverging by retaining the autocratic foundations of the ancient régimes.” Chapter five examines the people's opposition to the modernization from above, which resulted in the 1917 and 1979 revolutions. Tazmini argues that the contradiction inherent to modernization from above – economic development versus political stagnation – made people lose confidence in their respective state institutions. This provided the ground on which “ideological channels and fateful 'sparks' culminated in revolution” that replaced the Romanov and Pahlavi monarchies with communism in Russia and an Islamic Republic in Iran.
  • Topic: Islam, Law
  • Political Geography: Russia, Iran
  • Author: Sajjad H. Rizvi
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Insight Turkey
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: The Story of Islamic Philosophy You cannot judge a book by its cover – or even its title. Now and then, a work comes along that forces us to take notice of what the author means by giving his work a particular title. Certainly, those who pick up The Story of Islamic Philosophy might expect a conventional history of the philosophical endeavour in the world of Islam, starting with the translation movement and the appropriation of Aristotelianism and ending with the 'eclipse' of 'rational discourse' in medieval mysticism and obscurantism. The study of philosophy in Islam is rather polarised: the traditional academic field of 'Arabic philosophy' starts with the Graeco-Arabica and is very much in the mould of understanding what the Arabs owed to the Greeks and then what the Latins owed the Arabs. This book is a story of Aristotle arabus and then latinus, and hence it is not surprising that the story culminates with the ultimate Aristotelian, Averroes. Many Arab intellectuals, such as the late Muḥammad ʿĀbid al-Jābirī, have been sympathetic to such readings and wished to revive a sort of Averroist Aristotelianism in the name of reason and enlightenment. In particular, they wished to save the Arab-Islamic heritage from its 'perversion' by the Persians, starting with Avicenna and Ghazālī who initiated the shift from reason and discourse to mystagogy and 'unreason.' The models for this tradition of philosophy are the Metaphysics and the Organon of Aristotle. However, the Greek heritage was always much more than Aristotle – Plato and the thoroughly neoplatonised Aristotle were critical. If anything, a serious historical engagement with the course of philosophy in the late antiquity period, on the cusp of the emergence of Islam, demonstrates that philosophy was much more than abstract reasoning, discourse and a linearity of proof.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: Europe, Arabia
  • Author: Aysegul Cimen
  • Publication Date: 04-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Insight Turkey
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: Principles of Islamic International Criminal Law: A Comparative Search As one of the major components of the Islamic state, Islamic law has drawn considerable attention from different scholars both in the East and West. Particularly, comparative studies on the historical evolution of Islamic law and its application in modern legal systems are some of the major topics in the last two decades. Peters' Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law: Theory and Practice from Sixteenth to Twenty-First Century, Millers' Legislating Authority: Sin to Crime in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, Hallaq's Shari'a: Theory, Practice, Transformations, and Naim's Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari'a are some of the prominent books in the field.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Law, Islam, Law
  • Political Geography: Turkey
  • Author: Ödül Celep
  • Publication Date: 10-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Insight Turkey
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: The current peace process regarding Turkey's Kurdish question could pave the way for the normalization of politics and democratization in Turkey if the existing opportunities are not missed. The major actors that represent the Kurdish left in Turkey, the PKK and the HDP (formerly BDP), are all equally significant parts of the peace process. The HDP in particular has the potential to turn into a constructive actor for Turkey's democratization in the near future. This article argues that the Kurdish left of the democratic, parliamentary stage, lately the HDP, could contribute to Turkey's democratization if it can fulfill the libertarian left policy space in Turkish politics, which has long been abandoned by all existing political parties.
  • Topic: Development, Islam, Politics
  • Political Geography: Turkey
  • Author: Elizabeth H. Ozdalga
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Insight Turkey
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: STUDIES on late Ottoman society continue to be inviting for historians in many aspects. This period is not only important for historical research into the Ottoman world but also necessary for a better understanding of modern Turkey. This also can be extended to the Islamic world, including many Middle Eastern countries together with the Balkans, North Africa, and the Caucasus regions. Özdalga has made a valuable contribution with this comprehen-sive volume on the intellectual legacy of the period.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Azzam Tamimi
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Insight Turkey
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: THIS BOOK is an easy to read textbook that is structured to present readers with an historical overview of some of the prominent Islamic movements active in parts of the Muslim world, specifically in West and South Asia. It comprises an introduction, five chapters, and a conclusion. The first chapter is about Egypt's Islamism with the main focus on the Muslim Brotherhood. The second chapter is on the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel. A summary of the history of the conflict leads to a discussion of Hamas, Palestine's main Islamic group. The third chapter is on Saudi Arabia tracing the roots of Wahhabism to Najd. The fourth chapter is on Pakistan with an emphasis on Mawdudi and Jama'at-I Islami. And the fifth chapter is on Afghanistan and the rise of Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and Alqaida.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine, Gaza, Saudi Arabia
  • Author: Francis Ghilès
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Insight Turkey
  • Institution: SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research
  • Abstract: In recent years the Arab lands have been reduced to a uniform discourse, which well suited those in America such as Bernard Lewis who tried to convince their political masters that a clash of civilisations between the West and Islam was inevitable. However, over the past twelve months a series of revolts recast the map of the Middle East. When the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt started, many Western commentators failed to understand how young Arabs peacefully managed to overthrow well-entrenched dictators such as Ben Ali and Mubarak. Their initial reactions fitted into a broader collective spirit of Orientalism, which long gave up hope on Arab societies ever joining contemporary trends towards democratization. It was not Islam or poverty that provoked the uprisings – it was the crushing humiliation that had deprived the majority of the Arabs who are under the age of thirty of the right to assert control over their own lives.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: America, Middle East, Arabia, Egypt