[The Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI) brings you the tenth in a series of “Peer-Reviewed Article Reviews” in which we present a collection of journals and their articles concerned with the Middle East and Arab world. This series will be published seasonally. Each issue will comprise one-to-three parts, depending on the number of articles included.]

Arabica (Volume 66, Issue 5)

The Ascent of Ishmael: Genealogy, Covenant, and Identity in Early Islam

By: Mohsen Goudarzi

Abstract: This essay argues that biblical genealogy serves as a fundamental organizing principle in the Qurʾān. In particular, the Qurʾān anchors the cultic and scriptural aspects of the Prophet’s mission squarely on his community’s descent from Abraham via Ishmael. The first part of the essay marshals qurʾānic evidence in support of this claim and critiques a number of recent studies that downplay or deny the significance of Abrahamic-Ishmaelite genealogy in the Qurʾān. The second part reinforces this significance by demonstrating that Ishmael’s qurʾānic characterization as an upright prophet sharply contrasts with his predominantly negative portrayals in pre-Islamic writings. The final part shows that modern scholars initially acknowledged Abraham and Ishmael’s key ancestral and cultic roles in the Qurʾān but came to see these roles as exclusively Medinan constructs. The essay challenge this view and offers a different explanation for the Qurʾān’s varying portrayals of Abraham and Ishmael.

Urban Levantine Dialectal Features and the Levantine-Mesopotamian Dialect Continuum in the Light of the Dialect of Damascus

By: Carmen Berlinches Ramos

Abstract: The Levantine-Mesopotamian dialect continuum is the result of important linguistic contacts through the centuries, and the existence of an Aramaic substrate in both areas.The linguistic situation in the Levant today is extremely heterogeneous. Among the different vernaculars spoken there, Damascus Arabic has established itself as the model urban Levantine variety. Therefore, it is commonly heard in the media and easily understandable for speakers of other varieties of Arabic, inside and outside Syria.This paper examines fourteen linguistic features of Damascus Arabic related to phonology, morphology, and syntax. Moreover, it compares them with urban varieties of the Levant and Mesopotamia (qǝltu), thus providing further evidence for the Levantine-Mesopotamian dialectal continuum. It also confirms the close relationship between different Levantine varieties—particularly the urban ones. Finally, it shows the difficulty in setting linguistic hallmarks for both the entire Levant and the Syro-Lebanese region, to which Damascus Arabic belongs.

Contemporary Arab Affairs (Volume 12, Issue 3)

Post-Islamism: Ideological Delusions and Sociological Realities

By: Abdul Ghani Imad

Abstract: The thesis of political Islam’s failure reignites a deep discussion of fundamental questions. At the same time, it opens the door for a discussion of post Islamism as a concept, a term, and a phase. The term “post-Islamism,” like every “post-” term, is undoubtedly characterized by an extremely fluid definition. This leads to certain interpretations expiring without establishing others and to profound transformations occurring within an intellectual and social phenomenon that presages that it will evolve away from its original form. In no circumstance, however, will what comes after resemble what came before. The aspects of the relationship and similarity between the two phases largely remains relative and ambiguous. Although the use of the term “post-Islamism” dates back decades, in particular to the 1990s, it has once again returned to the spotlight, more prominently now than ever, as several Islamist movements are advancing further on the path to accepting democracy, political pluralism, and power-sharing. Several Islamist movements in the Arab and Islamic world today are embracing public and individual freedoms, and advocating a separation of religion and politics. This article examines the concept of post-Islamism, its legitimacy, and credibility as a fundamental shift in Islamist rhetoric and behavior, as well as the causes leading to it, and the conditions, obstacles, and realistic models of this concept or its approximates, both Sunni and Shiite, in the Arab or Muslim world.

Offensive versus Defensive Realism: Russia’s Policy of Countering the United States in Syria and Beyond

By: Dmitry Grafov

Abstract: This article approaches Russia’s strategy of countering the United States indirectly by way of intermediate states. It is concerned with the reasons why Russia decided to engage in the Syrian conflict in 2015 and, from this perspective, the real goals of Russia’s policy in the region. These questions cannot be considered without taking account of how they are linked with the all-out confrontation between Russia and the West in Ukraine. The Syrian conflict merely represents an external platform for Russia in countering the United States. Russia is testing her own power to force the United States out of Syria and seeks any opportunity to demonstrate American vulnerability. There is a triangle of interests for the key regional actors—Turkey, Iran, and Russia—that oppose US interests. The rising confrontation with Washington in Syria triggered Moscow to seek ways of using other potential rivals of the United States, given that there are numerous areas of tension and conflict with Washington beyond the Middle East. The author’s analysis of the actors’ behavior is based on the “security dilemma” and the “balance of power” approaches. There are well-known disputes between “defensive” and “offensive” realism in the theory of international politics concerning which of these approaches is more reliable and reasonable when considering costs and results, as well as the risk of tensions spiraling out of control (“security spiral”). The aim of this research is to make a comparison between America’s offensive strategy with Russia’s defensive approach and evaluate the efficiency of both policies. Following a particular scholarly approach, this article presumes that Moscow acquires power via the indirect, “low-cost strategies,” using any opportunity available to counterbalance US power via other countries. It is concluded that offensive or defensive behavior depends on the situation and available resources. The United States has sufficient resources to implement an offensive strategy, and Washington may raise the stakes in confrontation. Russia’s defense approach of a “buck-passing” strategy is more efficient, but Moscow suffers from a lack of resources and chooses indirect countering, using any means necessary to counterbalance US power in Syria and beyond.

Rethinking the Root Causes of The Tunisian Revolution and its Implications

By: Mohammad Dawood Sofi

Abstract: What happened within and beyond Tunisia in 2010–11 has been told repeatedly from a number of perspectives, each putting a greater or a lesser emphasis on one or several variables ranging from society, politics, economics, to religion or the involvement of external dynamics. An exploration of the causes of the Arab Spring and the factors that shaped its outcome is critical when answering several frequently raised questions, some of which are highlighted here. This article provides a concise picture of the Arab Spring and its consequences for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It defines the meaning of revolution by examining various explanations and interpretations provided by several theorists and shows which explanation(s) best fits the Tunisian case. Moreover, the study explains how multiple factors, such as social and economic injustice, authoritarian rule, the internet, and social media have played a role in enabling the Tunisian Revolution to happen.

The Mauritanian Civil State in Crisis: The Gulf between Society and State

By: Mohamed El-Amine Ould Mohamed Ibrahim

Abstract: The Mauritanian national state emerged as a questionable entity in both its historical and social legitimacy. This article considers the cliental relationship that remains within today’s Mauritanian national state and which dominates the political arena. The national state implements the same colonial policy and thereby has become the biggest client, offering favors for obedience and allegiance to it. Today, this is the greatest challenge Mauritania faces to break free from traditional political practice and move towards democratization and a peaceful transfer of power, the separation of powers, the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary.

Sovereignty in Morocco: Between Royal Legitimacy and Democratic Legitimacy

By: Mohamed Fouad El Achouri

Abstract: This article tackles the issue of sovereignty in the Moroccan political system and argues that there are formally two sources of legitimacy, royal and democratic, with deeper implications for decision-making and political power. The article analyzes this phenomena as enshrined in the Moroccan constitution of 2011 and identifies the characteristics of a political system quite different from known democratic systems. This concept of political power makes the elected institutions play a secondary representative function compared with the high and transcendent representation of the royal institution.

Saudi Arabia and UAE in the Horn of Africa: Containing Security Threats from Regional Rivals

By: Shady Ahmed Mansour, Yara Yehia Ahmed

Abstract: This article explains the active policies adopted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) towards the Horn of Africa, which could be attributed to the existence of rival regional powers, especially Iran and Turkey, and their adoption of policies deemed threatening to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. It uses “alliance politics” to explain how both countries are containing regional threats by building alliances with countries in the Horn of Africa by promoting military and trade relations and boosting development.

Defense and Peace Economics (Volume 30, Issues 5 & 6)

The Economic Consequences of the Libyan Spring: A Synthetic Control Analysis

By: Javier García-Enríquez, Cruz A. Echevarría

Abstract: In 2011 a wave of revolutionary movements, the so-called Arab Spring, spread in the Middle East and North Africa. Libya was one of the most affected countries, ending Gaddafi’s dictatorship after an international intervention and a civil war. This paper assesses the effects that this revolution had on Libyan economy. The analysis is made by means of the synthetic control method. Our estimates for the 2011–2014 period show (i) a cumulative loss in the growth rate of per capita real GDP of 64.15%; (ii) a cumulative loss in per capita real GDP of 56,548 dollars; and (iii) a cumulative loss in the aggregate real GDP of 350.5 billion dollars.

Thirty Years of Conflict and Economic Growth in Turkey: A Synthetic Control Approach

By: Firat Bilgel, Burhan Can Karahasan

Abstract: This study seeks to estimate the causal effects of PKK separatist terrorism on economic development in Turkey using the synthetic control method. By creating a synthetic control group that reproduces the Turkish Gross Domestic Product (GDP) before PKK terrorism emerged in the late 1980s, we compare the GDP of the synthetic Turkey and the actual for the period 1955–2008. Our study finds that the Turkish per capita GDP would have been higher by about $2600 had it not been exposed to terrorism. This translates into an average of 21.4% higher per capita GDP over a period of 21 years.

Emotions, Risk Perceptions and Precautionary Actions of Citizens During a Military Operation Using a New Defence Technology: The Israeli Case of the Iron Dome

By: Eyal Lahav, Shosh Shahrabani, Uri Benzion

Abstract: The current field study used unique data collected in Israel in July 2014, during a military operation that the Israel Defence Forces (I.D.F.) conducted in the Gaza Strip, in reaction to the thousands of missiles launched from there into Israel. During this operation, the new Iron Dome anti-missile defence system was used to protect Israelis exposed to missile attacks. The study examined factors that correlate with decisions to comply with I.D.F. defence instructions regarding behaviour during missile attacks. In addition, the study examined the relationship between attitudes towards the Iron Dome technology and emotions, risk perceptions, and the decision to comply with I.D.F. defence instructions. The results indicate that stronger positive opinions towards Iron Dome were correlated with lower levels of fear and anger, and beliefs that participant’s chances of being injured by a missile were lower than they had been during previous military operation. In addition, better compliance with I.D.F. defence instructions correlated with being more fearful, angrier at Hamas, living closer to Gaza Strip, and having more positive opinions about Iron Dome. The findings also indicate gender differences with respect to factors correlated with risk perceptions, opinions regarding Iron Dome, and precautionary actions during attacks.

Jihad Against Palestinians? The Herostratos Syndrome and the Paradox of Targeting European Jews

By: Jean-Paul Azam, Mario Ferrero

Abstract: This paper addresses the waves of mass killings recently perpetrated by individuals with a weak or nonexistent ideological motivation, whose acts either appear to contradict their purported political cause or are admittedly driven by a quest for notoriety. Examples range from killers who have been waging jihad against European Jews to unattached mass killers such as the Germanwings pilot to the perpetrators of mass school shootings in America and worldwide. We argue that these phenomena can be understood as instances of the Herostratos syndrome, which has been known for thousands of years as characterizing the behavior of people who seek to survive in the collective memory by excelling in their infamous acts. We provide a model of hybrid killers which accommodates the Herostratic motive alongside a political motive and characterize a well-behaved Nash equilibrium where Herostratic killers are competing with one another with a view to make a name for themselves in infamy. The policy implications point towards reducing the publicity the killers enjoy, thus frustrating their quest for notoriety.

The Effects of Terrorism on Turkish Financial Markets

By: Mine Aksoy, Sercan Demiralay

Abstract: In this research, we analyzed how Turkish financial markets and foreign investors in the stock market reacted to the terror attacks in Turkey. Our analysis, which was performed using the terror index for the stock market and the foreign exchange market, revealed that returns, abnormal returns, and cumulative abnormal returns were not affected by the terror attacks; however, foreign investors in the stock market were affected. When the geographic regions of the terror attacks were analyzed, the findings showed that foreign investors were negatively affected mainly by the terror attacks that occurred in southeast Anatolia. Attack type and target type were important only for foreign investors. An evaluation of the interaction between the terror attacks and the markets with the involvement of the terrorist organizations indicated that only the foreign investors in the stock market were affected by Al-Qaeda and PKK-linked terror attacks. An evaluation of the effect of terror attacks in foreign countries on Turkish financial markets revealed no effect on the domestic stock market and foreign exchange markets. We also examined the volatility spillovers from the terror index to the stock market and found that terrorist attacks increased the volatility of the stock market.

Iran (Volume 57, Issue 2)

The Settlement Patterns in Roshtkhar Plain, Northeastern of Iran

By: Mohammad Hossein Rezaei, Javad Zanganeh Ebrahimi, Hassan Basafa

Abstract: Understanding the interaction of human communities and their ecosystem is one of the major goals of archaeological field studies. The climate, unique geographical location, and strategic position of Roshtkhar along the natural corridor between northeastern Iran and Central Asia have attracted the interest of people for some time. The geographical location of Roshtkhar clearly demonstrates the importance of this area, and the need for archaeological studies of north-eastern Iran. In particular, it justifies the importance of undertaking regional archeological research. In order to record the position and shape of topographic features in Roshtkhar, an archaeological field study was carried out, and random sampling of surface findings. In the archaeological exploration of this area, 16 sites belonging to the prehistoric period were identified. The oldest period of settlement dates back to the late Chalcolithic period, but these findings are not definitive, as natural factors such as erosion and sedimentation, along with human factors and potential damage may have affected this area. In this paper, the settlement pattern of Roshtkhar was analysed based upon archaeological studies, and dating of historical sites based upon surface data. Finally, the role of the ecosystem in the formation of Roshtkhar plains was assessed using ArcGIS software.

The Role of Cultural Factors in Locating of Archaeological Sites: the Settlement Patterns of Prehistoric Sites in Jājarm, Khorasan, Iran

By: Mohsen Dana, Ali Hozhabri

Abstract: The county of Jājarm is in the southwestern North Khorasan Province, in the northeastern extreme of the central Iranian plateau. In 2009, Ali Hozhabri led an archaeological survey in the county where 165 sites were identified and recorded. Of these, 13 represent the prehistoric era spanning the Neolithic to Iron period. The distribution of the prehistoric sites reveals a certain pattern as they cluster in three fairly distinct groups. Analysis of the clusters of prehistoric sites in the Jājarm County suggests that the sites were located on trade routes, and that the regional climate differed from the one that prevails currently.

Jubaji, a Neo-Elamite (Phase IIIB, 585–539 BC) Tomb in Ramhurmuz, Khuzestan

By: Roonak Ahmadinia, Arman Shishegar

Abstract: In May 2007, a Neo-Elamite period (phase IIIB) burial site was discovered during excavations carried out as part of a piping project by the Khuzestan Water and Sewage Company around Jubaji village, which is near the town of Ramhurmuz, Khuzestan province. The site included a small tomb structure and two bronze coffins. A large number of diverse funerary objects were recovered both inside and outside the coffins, having been scattered as a result of the action of mechanical machinery. Several inscriptions were preserved on gold items, one of which includes the royal name Shutur-Nahunte son of Indada. This paper aims to introduce and describe the tomb and its related artefacts and outline some historical interpretations. A hypothetical reconstruction of the site and the much damaged coffins is also given at the end.

A Decorated Bronze Belt from Gargul, Iran

By: Megan Cifarelli, Kazem Mollazadeh, Ali Binandeh

Abstract: During the early first millennium BC, the southern Lake Urmia basin in northwestern Iran was in the throes of political, military and cultural upheaval. Its material culture, as exemplified by the finds at Hasanlu, Marlik and in Luristan, suggests the elite in the area were consumers of fine, locally produced metalwork. This paper discusses the discovery of an artifact that expands our understanding of the material culture of northwestern Iran during the ninth century BC: a decorated bronze belt found at Gargul, Iran. The chance discovery of this belt, which is closely related to a type known only from the most elite contexts at Hasanlu, Iran, provides a hint of the richness and complexity of the entire region. This belt demonstrates that Hasanlu was not the only regional polity wealthy and powerful enough to employ skilled artisans for the creation of sophisticated luxury goods. While the craftsmanship of this belt does not match that of exemplars from Hasanlu, it clearly evidences similarly advanced metallurgical skills, awareness of a range of contemporary and ancient iconographic traditions from the highest reaches of power in Assyria to local sites like Hasanlu, and the means and desire to combine them to aggrandise the bodies and identities of the local elite.

Mid-Parthian Pottery from Building V at Shahr-i Qumis

By: Ruth Stronach, David Stronach, Alan Farahani, Alison Parsons

Abstract: This paper introduces the pottery of mid-Parthian date from Building V at Shahr-i Qumis, a major Parthian settlement that dates, at least in part, from the second and the first centuries BC, and which lies some thirty km to the west of Damghan. A little over two thousand years ago the local water supply appears to have been adequate to support a site that was notable for its monumental mud-brick architecture as well as for its pottery, which included a number of distinctive “Iron Age related” characteristics. This is not, however, a publication of the pottery from the entire site of Qumis; it represents pottery from the core plan of only one building, even if this particular building does much to illustrate the nature of typical mid-Parthian pottery in the vicinity of Qumis. Subsequent ceramic studies will complement the present treatment. Whether or not this same location ought also to be associated with a slightly earlier Achaemenid/Seleucid township that was known to the Greeks as Hecatompylos remains an unresolved issue.

A New Hypothesis: The Behistun Inscription as Imperial Calendar

By: Paul J. Kosmin

Abstract: This article proposes a function for the dates in the Behistun inscription of Darius I: that alongside its telling of an authorised story of righteous accession it made possible, and perhaps even established, a calendar of historical commemoration. The article makes observations about DB’s internal chronography – its synchronisation of the Persian and Babylonian calendars, the function of its single-year container for the battles’ day-month dates, and the stability, panimperial distribution, and continued availability of this information; it establishes parallels for annual victory calendars in Mesopotamia and Judea; and it identifies good, if infrequent, testimony to an Achaemenid concern with the institution of anniversary celebrations and battle commemorations.

Early Nizari Ismailism: A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation of Khwajah Qasim Tushtari’s Recognizing God

By: Shafique N. Virani

Abstract: Khwajah Qasim Tushtari’s recently discovered Recognizing God (Maʿrifat-i Khuday taʿala) is one of the only texts known to have survived from the early Alamut period of Ismaili Muslim history. It preserves evidence of the “new Invitation” (daʿwat-i jadid) to the Ismaili faith that al-Shahrastani (d. 548/1153) tells us was inaugurated by the Fatimid Imam al-Mustansir billah (d. 487/1094) and championed by Hasan-i Sabbah (d. 518/1124). The text emphasises that the ultimate purpose of human existence is to know God, and that the path to this knowledge is through the Imam of the Time. Likely composed between 525/1131 and 533/1139, the text contains near-contemporary references to Sanaʾi Ghaznawi (d. ca. 525/1131) and points to the very early development of Persian pious, devotional and homiletic poetry as well as the “mathnawi metre” in Ismaili environments. This metre was later famously used by Farid al-Din ʿAttar (d. ca. 618/1221) and Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 672/1273) in their mystical compositions. The article includes an introduction, critical edition and annotated translation to Qasim Tushtari’s Recognizing God.

Journal of Arabic Literature (Volume 50, Issue 3-4)

Al-Sharīf al-Raḍī and Nahj al-balāghah: Rhetoric, Dispossession, and the Lyric Sensibility

By: Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych

Abstract: This study explores the relationship between the extraordinary poetic achievement of Sharīf al-Raḍī (d. 406/1016) in his highly lyrical and influential Dīwān, on the one hand, and the literary-religious accomplishment of his unrivalled compilation of the sermons, epistles, and sayings of ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, Nahj al-balāghah, on the other. It examines the interplay among the contemporary Mutanabbī-dominated literary scene, the Imāmī Shīʿite dominated Baghdādī politico-religious scene, and, in Islamic scholarship generally, the increasingly balāghah- (rhetoric)-focused theological discourse on iʿjāz al-Qurʾān (the miraculous inimitability of the Qurʾān). Finally, the paper attempts to connect al-Raḍī’s sense of alienation and dispossession from his hereditary right to rule—one that he has found so strikingly expressed in the sermons of his forefather ʿAlī—and the extraordinary lyrical-elegiac strain in his own poetry.

The Politics of Literary Value in Early Modernist Arabic Comparative Literary Criticism

By: Haifa S. Alfaisal

Abstract: The modernist epistemic disconnect from the “medieval Islamic republic of letters,” Muhsin al-Musawi argues, is attributable both to the incursion of Enlightenment-infused European discourse and a failure to read the import of the republic’s significant cultural capital. This article explores the effects of Eurocentric incursions on transformations in literary value in two of the earliest known works of comparative Arabic literary criticism: Rūḥī al-Khālidī’s Tārīkh ʿilm al-adab ʿind al-ifranj wa-l-ʿarab wa-fiktūr hūkū (The History of the Science of Literature of the Franks, the Arabs, and Victor Hugo, 1902) and Aḥmad Ḍayf’s Muqaddimah li-dirāsat balāghat al-ʿarab (Introduction to the Study of Arab balāghah, 1921). I employ the various theoretical formulations of the decolonial school of thought, primarily Walter Mignolo’s coloniality/modernity complex, in tracing these epistemological shifts in literary value and focus on the internalization of Eurocentric critiques of Arabic literary capital. I also discuss the politics involved in such processes, presenting a decolonial perspective on these modernists’ engagement with their Arabic critical heritage.

Doing Things with Lists—Enumeration in Arabic Prose

By: Christian Junge

Abstract: This article discusses the performative function of enumeration in Arabic prose. Bringing together a great variety of word lists from classical to modern prose (including the 1001 Nights, al-Tawḥīdī, al-Suyūṭī, al-Shidyāq, and Darwīsh), it unveils their often neglected importance to literature by drawing from an emerging scholarship on enumeration. Focusing on “enumerative games” (Mainberger), the article does not ask what the enumerated elements mean, but how the act of enumerating produces meaning. In the first part, the article discusses elements central to the poetics of the enumerative (including items, length, arrangement, and frame). In the second part it deals with the politics of enumeration in the example of al-Shidyāq’s al-Sāq ʿalā al-sāq fī mā huwa al-Fāriyāq (1855). The article seeks to provide a basic approach to enumeration and argues that enumerative games in literature perform acts of cultural politics.

Entanglements between the Tanzimat and al-Nahḍah: Jurjī Zaydān between Tārīkh ādāb al-lughah al-turkiyyah and Tārīkh ādāb al-lughah al-ʿarabiyyah

By: C. Ceyhun Arslan

Abstract: This article analyzes comparisons between Arabic and Turkish literatures in literary histories from the late Ottoman period, with a particular focus on works by Jurjī Zaydān (1861-1914). Drawing upon Alexander Beecroft’s concept of “literary biomes,” it argues that these comparisons overlooked intersections of Arabic and Turkish literatures in the “Ottoman literary biome” and depicted them as belonging to two separate “biomes.” I define the “Ottoman literary biome” as the transcultural space of the Ottoman Empire that allowed the circulation of a multilingual textual repertoire and cultivated a cultural elite. Through foregrounding the transcultural context of Ottoman literary biome, I demonstrate that modern Arabic and Turkish literatures morphed in a reciprocal entanglement. My work finally calls for the fields of Arabic literature and comparative literature to further flesh out the diversity of literary biomes in which Arabic texts circulated.

The Jewish Ahl al-Adab of al-Andalus

By: Jonathan Decter

Abstract: This article studies the use of adab and related terminology among medieval Jewish authors with particular attention to shifts in cultural and religious sensibilities, matters of group cohesion and self-definition, and the contours of adab discourse across religious boundaries. The article demonstrates that, although Jews in the Islamic East in the tenth century internalized adab as a cultural concept, it was in al-Andalus that Jews first self-consciously presented themselves as udabā. The article focuses on works of Judeo-Arabic biblical exegesis, grammar, and poetics as well as Hebrew poetry composed after the style of Arabic poetry.

Journal of Islamic Studies 
(Volume 30, Issue 3)

Up All Night Out of Love for the Prophet: Devotion, Sanctity, and Ritual Innovation in the Ottoman Arab Lands, 1500–1620

By: Jonathan Parkes Allen

Abstract: Devotion to the Prophet Muḥammad was a major feature of late medieval and early modern Islamic religious life across much of the Islamic world. The history of this devotion remains understudied in relation to its importance and pervasiveness. This study takes as its locus of analysis a particular instance of early modern devotion: a weekly, public all-night session of ṣalawāt upon the Prophet that would become known as the maḥyā. Developed by the peasant-turned-shaykh Nūr al-Dīn al-Shūnī in late Mamluk Egypt, performance of the maḥyā would spread over the following century throughout the Arab Ottoman world, undergoing changes, provoking controversy, and becoming embedded in the sacred spaces and ritual life of one city after another. I approach the history of the maḥyā as a discrete and legible instance of ritual change in an Islamic context, exploring this instance of communal devotion to the Prophet through such lenses as ritual studies and the spatial turn, examining the intersection of this devotional ritual with practices of subjectivity, the use and contestation of ritual space, and the meaning, regulation, and experience of the night.

Islamic Astronomy in Fifteenth-Century Christian Environments: Cardinal Bessarion and His Library

By: Alberto Bardi

Abstract: This paper shows how Islamic astronomy played a significant role in the education of one of the most important Christian figures in the history of culture between eastern and western Europe, promoter of a crusade against the Ottoman Turks, namely Cardinal Bessarion (1400/1408–72). While the Byzantine polymath has generally been considered a purist of Ptolemaic astronomy, his interest in Islamic astronomy can be traced back to his youth and persisted throughout his life, as is testified by several sources from his manuscripts collection. It is misleading therefore to consider him a ‘purist’ of Ptolemy. The paper provides a survey of the texts of Islamic astronomy among the manuscripts of Bessarion’s estate. These are compared to Ptolemaic astronomy in order to assess the importance of Islamic astronomy within the framework of Bessarion’s collection. The results shed new light not only on Bessarion’s astronomical interests, but also on the reception of Islamic astronomy in non-Islamicate contexts in the fifteenth century, such as the late Byzantine Empire, Rhodes, Crete, Venice, and European humanism.

Of Saints, Shrines, and Tractors: Untangling the Meaning of Islam in Soviet Central Asia

By: Paolo Sartori

Abstract: In this article I suggest that in the Soviet period Central Asians cultivated and conceptualized Islam as an episteme. They did this by reaching beyond alienating (and often ephemeral) categories offered to them by the state. I argue that the constitution of an Islamic culture was made possible, among other things, by Central Asians’ encounters with the past, most notably with what they perceived as an Islamic past. We observe the curious phenomenon of Central Asians’ continuous interaction with the Islamic historical sites that escaped the bulldozers of the Soviet campaigns of religious repression. For some, encounters with the past might be accidental. For many others, the exploration of the past represented a purposive, self-conscious, and reiterated emotional act. I show that Central Asians in the Soviet period—even if at school they were taught little about, and were usually offered a distorted vision of, the Islamic history of their region—were still able to access their past through the surviving architectural presence of Islam. Monumental sites, however, were not enough for Muslims to understand the past and use it to construct their own identity. Such artifacts acquired meaning through an interpretive framework provided by Sufi narratives about saints and their miracles. Therefore, shrines represented for Central Asia a collective memory space, i.e., a place in which the past was preserved for mobilization in the present through narrative.

Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (Volume 62, Issue 5-6)

From the Archetypical Archive to Cultures of Documentation

By: James Pickett, Paolo Sartori

Abstract: This essay argues that recent theoretical literature on the archive contains critical insights for studies of Islamic documents, while also pushing to move beyond some of the core assumptions of that same literature. There is no question that the fundamental concerns of an “archival turn” are every bit as relevant to studies of Islamic societies, past and present, as they are to European-dominated ones. Yet investigating Islamic “archives” presents the challenge of coming to terms with a concept—the archive—and an attending set of assumptions and theoretical baggage derived almost exclusively from European history. To address this challenge, we propose that employing the term “cultures of documentation” offers a way of having one’s cake and eating it too. In deploying this expression, we signal that there existed multitudes of textual practices and record-keeping activities in the pre-industrial Islamic world, and that it is possible to move away from “archive” as a term without abandoning the core insights and questions of the historical literature built around it.

“In Compliance with the Old Register”: on Ottoman Documentary Depositories and Archival Consciousness

By: Guy Burak

Abstract: The article examines multiple approaches to archived documents and documentary depositories in the Ottoman Empire. By exploring a range of views that reflect a sense of archival consciousness among different groups and individuals throughout the Ottoman lands, the essay seeks to better contextualize the Ottoman quite successful attempts to regulate the imperial paper trail and to promote a specific view of the archive. More generally, by tracing the emergence of a particular form of archival consciousness among members of the imperial administrative and judicial elites as well as Ottoman subjects, the article intends to offer a framework for a comparative study of the archival practices throughout the eastern Islamic lands.

Inscribing Authority: Scribal and Archival Practices of a Safavid Decree

By: Zahir Bhalloo, Omid Rezai

Abstract: The mis̱āl, a type of administrative decree associated with the most important religious official in Safavid Iran (1501-1736), the ṣadr, has received little scholarly attention. This article attempts to lay the preliminary groundwork for a more comprehensive future study on the mis̱āls of the Safavid ṣadrs. In the first part, we introduce the ṣadr and his department, the dīwān al-ṣadāra. In the second part, we study how the scribal and archival practices of the mis̱āl construct the religious and administrative authority of the ṣadr and the dīwān al-ṣadāra. We focus on an unpublished mis̱āl relating to the endowment (waqf) of the shrine of a prominent Sufi shaykh of the Ṭayfūriyya tradition in Basṭām, Shaykh Abū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad b. ʿAlī Dāstānī (d. 417/1026). The appendix includes the text, translation, and a facsimile of the document.

From a Legal Proof to a Historical Fact: Trajectories of an Ottoman Document in a Franciscan Monastery, Sixteenth to Twentieth Century

By: Ana Sekulić

Abstract: While scholarship on the Ottoman Empire has explored its rich archives with great enthusiasm, there has been little work on the circulation of documents among the Empire’s subjects. This paper explores the archive of a Franciscan monastery in Ottoman Bosnia by following a single document in Ottoman Turkish from its issuance in the mid-sixteenth century to its interpretation within a historical monograph in the early twentieth. I address the ways in which the document circulated beyond the imperial offices and how the Franciscans transformed it through strategies including storing, marking, interpreting, cataloging, and silencing. The paper sheds light on the convergence between the deployment of the Ottoman documents and the rise of the Franciscan authority, indicating how Franciscan usage of the archive produced useful narratives beyond the confines and control of the Empire.

Copied and Collected: Firmans, Petitions, and the Political History of Qajar Iran

By: Assef Ashraf

Abstract: This article uses two manuscripts, comprising collections (majmūʿa) of firmans, petitions, and letters from Qajar Iran, as a lens through which to explore Qajar governance. It begins by introducing the manuscripts, and then discusses who copied them and why, how the contents of the collections circulated in Qajar Iran prior to their compilation, what that circulation says about Qajar Iran, and finally, how collections how such manuscript compilations such as these open new avenues of research in Qajar political history.

Middle Eastern Studies (Volume 55, Issue 6)

The British Empire in India, the Gulf pearl and the making of the Middle East

By: Guillemette Crouzet

Abstract: Genealogies of the term ‘Middle East’ conventionally focus on a juncture around the 1890s, when it gained new geopolitical currency, promoted by various European and American officials with reference to a space centred around the Arabo-Persian Gulf. This article argues instead that the ‘Middle East’ label should be seen as the culmination of a longer process, led less from London than from India. Over the previous century, this consolidation of ‘British’ India as a distinct regional actor was accompanied by the conceptualisation of its borderlands, including that Gulf-centred space. This space become a theatre for economic and political monitoring strategised from India, seeking to transform what was represented as a pirate-infested margin into a pacified buffer zone. Control and exploitation of pearl fisheries, the main economic activity for Gulf populations, was central to these efforts. Imperial strategy around the Gulf pearl was a key tool in founding an informal Indian empire in the Gulf and its hinterlands, in that very space to which the name ‘Middle East’ would subsequently be given.

Between national sovereignty and foreign capital: the fate of the French companies’ concessions in Turkey after the War of Liberation

By: Neslişah Leman Başaran Lotz

Abstract: Genealogies of the term ‘Middle East’ conventionally focus on a juncture around the 1890s, when it gained new geopolitical currency, promoted by various European and American officials with reference to a space centred around the Arabo-Persian Gulf. This article argues instead that the ‘Middle East’ label should be seen as the culmination of a longer process, led less from London than from India. Over the previous century, this consolidation of ‘British’ India as a distinct regional actor was accompanied by the conceptualisation of its borderlands, including that Gulf-centred space. This space become a theatre for economic and political monitoring strategised from India, seeking to transform what was represented as a pirate-infested margin into a pacified buffer zone. Control and exploitation of pearl fisheries, the main economic activity for Gulf populations, was central to these efforts. Imperial strategy around the Gulf pearl was a key tool in founding an informal Indian empire in the Gulf and its hinterlands, in that very space to which the name ‘Middle East’ would subsequently be given.

Young Turk Governance in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War

By: Erik Jan Zürcher

Abstract: The article analyses the system of government of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War by looking at three elements: the constitutional-parliamentarian monarchy, the Committee of Union and Progress and the army. The analysis takes place along two axes: one in which the functioning of, and the power relations between, the different institutional elements are analysed, and one based on a series of case studies of important decision-making moments of the years 1914–18.

The civil-military relations as they developed during the war years are studies in a comparative framework. The Ottoman situation is analysed against the backdrop of changes in the balance of power between military and civilian authorities in other belligerent countries in Europe. The conclusion is that the Ottoman Empire was a constitutional and parliamentarian monarchy only in name, but that its governance did not turn into a form of military rule either. It was run by the Committee of Union and Progress, but within that, key decisions were taken by changing informal coalitions of power brokers in such a way as to make sure that the two dominant factions, the civilian one led by Talât and the military one led by Enver were in agreement.

Turco-British relations, Cold War and reshaping the Middle East: Egypt, Greece and Cyprus (1954–1958)

By: Şevki Kıralp, Cemal Yorgancıoğlu

Abstract: This article tries to shed light on Turco-British relations in the early Cold War era. It focuses on the two states’ cooperation in Middle Eastern defence, as well as their interactions with Egypt and Greece. Immediately after the Second World War, the Soviet Union and communism were accepted as common threats directed against Turkey, Greece, Britain, the entire Western camp and a broad range of Middle Eastern countries. Washington and London were in search of alliances with regional actors; however, due to the anti-Western attitudes of Egypt in particular, and the anti-Israeli attitudes of the Arabic realm in general, the West was not satisfied with the defence system established in the region. In regard to the relations between the four abovementioned states, while Turkey and Britain joined forces against the Egyptian cause in the Suez issue and the Greek cause on the Cyprus issue, Greece and Egypt sided with each other against the British positions.

The latent politicization of Alevism: the affiliation between Alevis and leftist politics (1960–1980)

By: Mehmet Ertan

Abstract: Traditional Alevism, which was based on rural/isolated life started to dissolve as a result of urbanization in the 1960s and the 1970s. The social dynamics of Turkey associated the dissolution of archaic Alevism with political mobilization that Turkey experienced in the same period; therefore, the Alevis affiliated themselves with socialist movements in order to participate into political process more efficiently. This article analyses the affiliation between Alevis and socialist movements within the framework of the overlap between the socio-political culture of the Alevis and the political needs of the socialist movements in the 1960s and the 1970s. This affiliation might be followed in Alevi folk songs, squatter settlements, villages and the massacres that Alevis suffered in the late 1970s. Because the relation between the Alevis and socialist movements meant not the politicization of the Alevism as an independent politics of identity, but rather the politicization of Alevis through their affiliation with leftist politics, this article conceptualizes the politicization dynamism of the Alevism between 1960 and 1980 as latent politicization.

The construction and re-construction of the civil religion around the cult of Atatürk

By: Birol Çaymaz

Abstract: The longest living among its twentieth-century counterparts, the century-old cult of Atatürk is deeply rooted in the collective conscience in Turkey. In this essay, we will try to show the dual role of the image of Atatürk in the political struggle, both in current times and in the past, as a national hero created around civil religiosity. In the case of Atatürk, not only do we encounter a figure that primarily facilitates the legitimation of the existing political and social system, but also an eternal saviour who is called upon in order to oppose that system at various times.

Children in war time: the first pupils of the Syrian (Schneller) orphanage in Jerusalem 1860–1863

By: Fruma Zachs

Abstract: Greater Syria experienced several civil wars in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries affecting women and children, the most vulnerable segments of the population whose history is rarely told. This article deals with Syrian children orphaned as a result of the 1860 Civil War in Mount Lebanon and Damascus and from other parts of Ottoman Palestine who were brought to the Syrian orphanage in Jerusalem founded by the German Protestant missionary Johann Ludwig Schneller. His annual reports (1861–3) provide much needed data on the emotional and physical condition of orphans from agrarian regions in Greater Syria and contribute to a better understanding of the historiography of childhood in the region.

Historical geography of the Palestine southern coastal plain in the late Ottoman period – the Ashkelon region as a case study

By: Avi (Avraham) Sasson

Abstract: The city of Ashkelon occupies the geographical area that, during the Ottoman and Mandatory periods, belonged to six settlements (Majdal, Hamame, Nailia, Jora, Rasem, and Hasas). Although these settlements differed from one another in nature and in status, they nonetheless had ties with each other and with the large village, later to become the town Majdal, the central settlement in the region. The various developments that Palestine underwent during the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries did not pass over this area. Although the livelihood of the settlements in the region was based primarily on agriculture, each also possessed a distinctive character. The research describes the geographical developments in the Ashkelon region and its landscape, and examines the changes they and the area, underwent as a case study of the southern coastal plain.

The destruction of old Jaffa in 1936 and the question of the Arab refugees

By: Tamir Goren

Abstract: One outcome of the Jewish–Arab conflict at the time of the British Mandate was the Arab refugee problem. It usually accompanied any escalation in hostilities and was evident at foci of the friction between Arabs and Jews. Reprisals by the authorities against the Arab population was an additional cause. At the time of the Arab Revolt the refugee issue assumed for the first time significant proportions as a result of destructive actions by the British army, the greatest being the home demolition operations unleashed in Jaffa. As a result many families became refugees inside and outside their city. For the first time in the Mandate period the British government was obliged to contend with the problem of Arab refugees that it itself had created, and resolve it. The article aims to shed light on a unique operation by the Mandatory government intended to establish a locality to house Arab refugees, which was implemented and completed in the Mandate period. The article shows that for the authorities the establishment of a quarter for refugees was the required and most appropriate solution to the problem that had arisen.

The Sephardi and Oriental Jews of Haifa and Arab-Jewish relations in Mandate Palestine

By: Moshe Naor

Abstract: This article examines the development of the relations between Jews and Arabs in Haifa during the British Mandate period from the perspective of the Sephardi and Oriental Jews (Mizrahim). It focuses on the two Sephardi neighborhoods in Haifa: Ard al-Yahud and Harat al-Yahud. The article examines the character of the shared Jewish-Arab space that existed in both these mixed neighborhoods, which were inhabited by both Jews and Arabs. The character of this spatial system was exposed during the course of a local political struggle to secure representation for the Sephardi and Oriental Jews and to improve their social condition, as well as during periods of security tension. The article also examines the attitude of the Sephardi leadership toward the ‘Arab question’, and discusses the manner in which everyday life in Ard al-Yahud and Harat al-Yahud manifested the existence of an Arab-Jewish identity during the Mandate period.

Jewish and Christian Sanctity under Israeli Sovereignty: Mount Zion, King David’s Tomb and the Last Supper Room (1948–1967)

By: Doron Bar

Abstract: The article discusses the status of the Room of the Last Supper and King David’s tomb – the two central holy sites located on Mount Zion, south of the old city of Jerusalem – in the period between 1948 and 1967. The purpose of the article is to examine the way the State of Israel treated those sites: a Jewish holy site and a Christian holy site located one above the other. The status of these holy sites during this period has wider implications for the broader picture of the Jewish and Christian holy sites developed and controlled by Israel during these years. It raises questions about the Israeli attitude towards Christian holy sites in Israel in general and in Western Jerusalem in particular.

Studies in Conflict & Terrorism (Volume 42, Issues 9-11)

Understanding the Idea: Dynamic Equivalence and the Accurate Translation of Jihadist Concepts

By: Brandon Colas

Abstract: This article argues that inaccurate translation of commonly-transliterated jihadist terms poses a major difficulty to scholars and policy makers who are seeking to understand the appeal and potential weaknesses of jihadist movements. Jihadist English-language propaganda is filled with transliterated terms, usually from Arabic. Although these transliterated terms (such as jihad and sharia) are extremely common, the shorthand English translations of these terms (such as “holy war” and “Islamic law”) often fail to accurately convey the connotative meaning experienced by the jihadist groups using them.

Driving Factors behind Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq

By: Elena Pokalova

Abstract: With the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the phenomenon of foreign fighters became a significant security concern. Governments around the world have become preoccupied with the possibility of their citizens leaving for combat zones and then coming back with training and experience. While previously foreign fighters participated in such conflicts as Afghanistan, Bosnia, or Chechnya, today ISIS has attracted record numbers of individuals from various backgrounds. This article examines factors that might be connected with the outflow of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq. The analysis is based on 190 countries with 103 of them serving as countries of origin for 33,815 foreign fighters. Negative binomial regression is used to evaluate the connection of political, economic, demographic, and social factors to numbers of foreign fighters. The findings indicate that more foreign fighters come from countries with higher Human Development Index levels, unemployment rates, percentages of youth, population size, percentages of Muslim population, emigration levels, Internet penetration, and the presence of Al Qaeda cells. However, the findings further indicate that the effect of these variables is not uniform across majority Muslim and majority non-Muslim countries.

The Strategic Logic of Women in Jihadi Organizations

By: Hamoon Khelghat-Doost

Abstract: Despite the traditional restrictive views of Islamic jurisprudence on women’s social activities, the level of women’s incorporation into jihadi organizations is growing rapidly in both numbers and roles. This article argues that this increase reflects a strategic logic—jihadi groups integrate women to enhance organizational success. The article develops a typology of jihadi organizations: operation-based and state building and argues that the strategic logic of women in operation-based organizations lays in the tactical advantages women provide them. However, for state-building jihadi groups, the strategic logic of women is geared toward addressing the challenges facing a functioning state.

Muslim Youth Unemployment and Expat Jihadism: Bored to Death?

By: Moamen Gouda, Marcus Marktanner

Abstract: Empirical studies analyzing the push factors of expat jihadism are scarce and typically give contradictory results. We hypothesize that youth unemployment, as opposed to overall unemployment, is a significant determinant of foreign fighters flow to join the Islamic State. Moreover, we also consider the interaction between youth unemployment and the Muslim population share as another meaningful variables affecting expat jihadism. Controlling for several variables including gross domestic product per capita; Gini; geographical proximity; the share of manufactures and services as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product; Polity score; and fractionalization, we provide strong evidence for the hypothesis that Muslim youth unemployment is a driver of expat jihadism not only for Muslim-majority countries, but globally.

Terrorism Watch Lists, Suspect Ranking and Decision-Making Biases

By: Peter J. Phillips, Gabriela Pohl

Abstract: The large number of names on terrorism watch lists raises the problem of monitoring. Given the existing resource constraints and other logistical considerations, efficient and accurate ranking of individuals in terms of threat posed is of paramount importance. This process, however, may be impacted by reference points, diminishing sensitivity, loss aversion, and other aspects of the human decision-making process that introduce biases. This article explores the relevance of decision-making processes and biases to the specific task of ranking and monitoring individuals whose names have been placed on a terrorism watch list.

The Oslo Talks: Revealing the Turkish Government’s Secret Negotiations with the PKK

By: İ. Aytaç Kadıoğlu

Abstract: This article explores the extent to which the secret talks influenced the path of official negotiations toward ending Turkey’s Kurdish conflict, which the scholarly literature has yet to assess. Utilizing interviews with key political actors, this article aims to close this gap by assessing the Oslo talks (2006–2011) as the most comprehensive secret contact between the Turkish government and Kurdistan Workers’ Party. It demonstrates that the secret track is not merely a “pre-negotiation” stage aimed at de-escalating the violent conflict ahead of official talks, but also a crucial part of the negotiation stage aimed at establishing a final political agreement.

Exploiting the Prophet’s Authority: How Islamic State Propaganda Uses Hadith Quotation to Assert Legitimacy

By: Jennifer Boutz, Hannah Benninger, Alia Lancaster

Abstract: Through its prolific propaganda, the self-declared Islamic State (IS) seeks to attract new recruits, motivate existing members, and assert the group’s legitimacy. This study addresses the question of how IS attempts to legitimize itself through its official rhetoric by exploring its invocation of religious authority via reference to sacred Islamic texts. The study focuses on a specific category of religious scripture: the collected words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad, known as the hadith. The body of hadith has historically served as a bridge of authority from past to present, linking later individuals and groups to the legacy of the Prophet. Related studies have demonstrated that within the Arabic-speaking community in general, citing hadith and Qur’an is an everyday rhetorical strategy for argumentation across all topics, secular and sacred. This article takes an in-depth look at the hadith quotations included in a sample of official IS propaganda to compare the relative frequency of specific themes and to determine which hadith compilations IS publicists prefer. The study compares the quotation of hadith across media platforms (videos, newsletters, and magazines), genres (print and video), and languages (Arabic and English). The findings show that IS messaging tends to quote hadith from canonical Sunni collections. The study highlights important differences between English and Arabic language propaganda, noting in particular that English-language propaganda focuses more on apocalyptic prophecies than Arabic-language materials. Case studies illustrate how IS selectively draws on the vast body of hadith literature as part of the group’s strategic framing.

Terrorist Group Rivalries and Alliances: Testing Competing Explanations

By: Brian J. Phillips

Abstract: Terrorist group rivalries and alliances have important consequences, but the sources of these relationships are debated. This article offers a side-by-side examination of correlates of terrorist rivalries and alliances. Global analyses of hundreds of terrorist groups find violent rivalry is associated with drug trafficking, state sponsorship, ethnic motivation, and operating in a civil conflict country. Alliances are associated with territorial control, intermediate membership size, and religious motivation. The idea that alliances are an indicator of weakness does not find much support. When relationships are disaggregated into theoretically relevant categories (inter-field and intra-field rivalries, and domestic and international alliances), further distinctions appear.

Terrorism and Political Violence (Volume 31, Issue 5)

Choose Your Weapon: The Impact of Strategic Considerations and Resource Constraints on Terrorist Group Weapon Selection

By: Gabriel Koehler-Derrick, Daniel James Milton

Abstract: Historians of terrorism note that modern terrorists rely almost exclusively on two weapon types: the gun and the bomb. However, the comparative use of these weapons differs from one terrorist group to the next. We exploit this variation to examine how the tactical decisions of terrorists respond to both strategic aspirations and resource constraints. We argue that a group’s goals (a strategic consideration) and size (a resource constraint) provide a parsimonious explanation for weapon selection. Because firearms inherently expose the shooter to higher risk, are more precise, and must be used if a group aspires to maintain social order, they are unlikely to be used by groups with limited recruits in a campaign of violence. We test this theory using data on over 350 terrorist organizations. Our analysis shows that strategic considerations and resource constraints both impact tactical choices, although groups with the most expansive goals, those which transcend national borders, as well as militias, are two interesting exceptions to our theory. Our research has implications for the use of disaggregated tactical data and in furthering our understanding of the rationality of terrorism.

The Rational Foraging Terrorist: Analysing the Distances Travelled to Commit Terrorist Violence

By: Paul Gill, John Horgan, Emily Corner

Abstract: This paper applies the distance-to-crime approach to the case of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and shooting attacks conducted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) during the Northern Ireland conflict, 1970–1998. The aim is to (a) measure the typical ‘distance to crime’ (b) detect whether a distance-decay effect is noticeable and (c) investigate whether there is a discernible difference in the distance traveled depending upon individual offender characteristics or aspects of how the offence was committed. In particular, it highlights that many of the same dynamics that influence offender decision making within the volume crime world, also apply within the terrorism realm. Five findings stand out in particular. First, a distance decay effect is identifiable. Second, younger offenders travel significantly smaller distances. Third, complex attacks typically involve greater distances. Fourth, our results show the ability of leading decision-makers within PIRA to impact upon the day-to-day operations of the field operatives. Together the results reinforce the argument that when we focus on terrorism from a preventative angle, we should focus on their behaviors: what they do rather than remain preoccupied with concerns about who they are and/or what they might be like. Collectively the results also highlight the fact that for a finer-grained understanding of terrorist behavior we need to disaggregate on a number of levels: within the cadre of operatives, across terrorist attacks, across targets and within conflicts.

Striking Home: Ideal-Type of Terrorism

By: Gideon Aran

Abstract: This essay presents some preliminary notes in an anthropological perspective on terrorism. The following aims to be a questioning review of issues that haunt informed students of terrorism, and yet also an introductory text to the study of terrorism. It is revisionist but didactic. The essay is based on extended research of Palestinian and Israeli terrorism cases, and on critical integration of the literature on terrorism. It offers an alternative approach to the problem of the definition and distinct character of terrorism, expands on overlooked aspects of terrorism, like its relationship to the concept of “home,” emphasizes under-theorized subjects, like the randomness of the targets, and discusses hitherto untouched topics, like the “bad death” of terrorism’s victims. Terrorism is examined in terms of liminality and hybridity, and consequently as more subversive than coercive, threatening our ontological security no less than our physical security.

Support for Terrorism: The Role of Beliefs in Jihad and Institutional Responses to Terrorism

By: Adrian Cherney, Kristina Murphy

Abstract: Passive support for terrorism refers to expressions of sympathy for acts of terrorism and/or the justifications (ideology) used by terrorist groups to legitimise their beliefs and actions. One form of passive support is whether Muslims feel terrorists have valid grievances. Appealing to a sense of grievance is a key way that violent Islamists attempt to recruit fellow Muslims to their cause. Using survey data collected from 800 Muslims living in Australia, this paper examines factors that lead Muslims to believe that terrorists have valid grievances. Factors examined include beliefs in jihad and attitudes towards counterterrorism policing and laws. Other variables included in the analysis are social identity, age, gender, income, religious denomination (Sunni vs. Shia), religious commitment, i.e., Mosque attendance, and recent contact with police. The most significant predictor of passive support for terrorism was found to be particular beliefs in jihad. The perceived legitimacy of counterterrorism laws and trust in police were also important. Implications for countering extremist ideology and generating community cooperation in counterterrorism will be considered.

Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permitted: Premodern Religious Terrorism

By: Jeffrey Kaplan

Abstract: In the beginning faith was the alpha and omega of revolutionary dreams and terrorist actions. This article will examine case studies among the Peoples of the Book—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—for religious terrorism is not the product of one faith. It argues that the cultural resonance of each movement examined offers a blank slate on which contemporary seekers, dreamers, and fighters may write. The title, borrowed from a popular novel, is the leitmotif of this form of violence. By all objective forms of analysis, the movements chronicled in these pages are a parade of seemingly stupid ideas held by idealists, fools, and fanatics who dreamed that, with God at their side, they could bring perfection to a fallen world. In such a cause, antinomian violence is inevitable and genocide its logical outcome. Yet these early movements are not to be despised, for together it was they, not the huddled masses cowering before the powers that be, that created the modern world.

Terrorism as Cancer: How to Combat an Incurable Disease

By: Bryan C. Price

Abstract: This paper provides an alternative framework that conceptualizes the threat posed by terrorism based on an epidemiological approach that views it as a chronic disease like cancer rather than as a military, ideological, or socio-economic problem. After highlighting the similarities in the causes, behavior, treatments, and challenges of combating terrorism and cancer, this paper presents a staging system policymakers can use to educate the public and allocate counterterrorism resources more efficiently. This approach encourages policymakers to see terrorism for what it is (an all but inevitable facet of modern life that can be managed but never fully eliminated), and not what they wish terrorism to be (a national security problem that can be solved, defeated, or vanquished). It provides policymakers with a useful model to conceptualize the threat and treat terrorism in a comprehensive manner, from preventing future attacks to effectively responding to them when they will inevitably occur.