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  • Author: Aaron Rock-Singer
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Religion was a pillar of pre-modern political identity in the Middle East, arising out of Muslims’ understanding of Islam’s foundational moment and state institutions that developed with the spread of Islamic Empire. Beginning at the turn of the 19th century, European colonial powers and indigenous reformers questioned the centrality of religious identity; instead, it was to be the nation that defined the political community. Since then, the nationalist project has permeated 20th century ideological conflicts in the region, equally shaping the claims of secularists and Islamists. Today, advocates of religious change refer back to early Islamic history as they seek to place religious over national identity, yet they, like their competitors, are unmistakably shaped by the secular nationalist project.
  • Topic: Islam, Nationalism, Post Colonialism, Religion
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Lev Weitz
  • Publication Date: 11-2015
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The majority of the Middle East’s population today is Muslim, as it has been for centuries. However, as the place of origin of a range of world religions – including Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and many lesser-known faiths – it remains a region of remarkable religious diversity. This article considers the place of religious minorities in the modern Middle East from three angles: their distinctive religious and communal identities, their place in the major transformations of the region’s political landscape from the nineteenth century to the post-World War I era, and the challenges of contemporary political conditions.
  • Topic: Demographics, Islam, Religion, Sectarianism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Samuel Helfont
  • Publication Date: 10-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The term “post-colonial” has presented a seminal problem for historians of the 20th century Middle East. As this essay will detail, debates over the term have provided an important axis around which discussions of political identity revolve. Following World War Two European power in the Middle East crumbled and a number of post-colonial states emerged. These states often justified their existence in terms of ideologies that were tied to specific post-colonial, political identities. Endless debates have occurred over how much emphasis to put on the post-colonial nature of these states and their political identities. In this essay, I will discuss whether a state’s status as post-colonial matters. If so, how? And what are the consequences? Following a general discussion of debates over post-colonialism, will look more closely at three case studies: Egypt, Iraq, and Iran.
  • Topic: Development, Islam, Nationalism, Post Colonialism
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Arab Countries
  • Author: Michael Noonan
  • Publication Date: 04-2011
  • Content Type: Book
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: On the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have confronted third-party national combatants. Known as “foreign fighters,” these individuals have gained deadly skills and connections that can be exported or exploited to devastating effect in other locations. Over the past two decades, the foreign fighters phenomenon has grown after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979—to the ethnically cleansed fields of the Balkans to Chechnya and beyond. But this is not a new problem. This report is the second volume of findings from an important series of FPRI conferences on the so-called foreign fighter problem. These conferences have brought together leading experts in the field to examine and discuss this phenomenon from different ideational and disciplinary perspectives. While the first volume dealt primarily with functional areas of the phenomenon, this edition focuses primarily on the case studies of al Qaeda franchises or allied affiliates in Somalia, the Maghreb, Yemen, and Afghanistan/Pakistan. Today, the outcomes of the geopolitical revolution unfolding across North Africa and the Middle East are far from clear, the problems associated with al Qaeda and its affiliated movement are likely to breed havoc for the foreseeable future across the region. Furthermore, the veterans spawned by such conflicts undoubtedly will present problems for international security writ large, too. The cases and phenomenon analyzed here may well provide important lessons for both those interested in the regions under examination here, but also for others who examine international challenges far removed from the study of radical extremism of the al Qaeda variety.
  • Topic: War, International Security, Insurgency, Violent Extremism
  • Political Geography: Arab Countries, North Africa