News & Events
Abstract: On the Seventh anniversary of the Arab Spring, Professor Asef Bayat, a prominent sociologist and a distinguished theorist of social movements in the Middle East, will argue that The revolutionary wave that swept the Middle East in 2011 was marked by spectacular mobilization, spreading within and between countries with extraordinary speed. Several years on, however, it has caused limited shifts in structures of power, leaving much of the old political and social order intact. In his most recent book Revolution without Revolutionaries, Professor Asef Bayat— whose Life as Politics anticipated the Arab Spring— uncovers why this occurred, and what made these uprisings so distinct from those that came before. Setting the 2011 uprisings side by side with the revolutions of the 1970s, particularly the Iranian Revolution, Asef Bayat reveals a profound global shift in the nature of protest: as acceptance of neoliberal policy has spread, radical revolutionary impulses have diminished. Protestors call for reform rather than fundamental transformation. By tracing the contours and illuminating the meaning of the 2011 uprisings, Bayat gives us the what is needed to explain and understand our post–Arab Spring world.
For more information about his recent book, please visit http://www.sup.org/books/title/?id=26257
Bio: Asef Bayat is the Catherine and Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies at the Department of Sociology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Before joining Illinois, Bayat taught at the American University in Cairo for many years, and served as the director of the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) holding the Chair of Society and Culture of the Modern Middle East at Leiden University, The Netherlands.In the meantime, he had visiting positions at the Universality of California, Berkeley, Colombia University, Oxford, and Brown. His books include, Revolution without Revolutionaries: Making Sense of the Arab Spring (Stanford University Press, 2017); Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East (2nd edition: Stanford University Press, 2013);Post-Islamism: The Changing Faces of Political Islam (Oxford University Press, 2013); Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn (Stanford University Press, 2007); Middle East and Its Subaltern: Politics and Movements (Istanbul: Iletisim, 2006); Street Politics: Poor Peoples Movements in Iran (Columbia University Press, 1997); Work, Politics and Power (Monthly Review Press, 1991); and Workers and Revolution in Iran (Zed Books, 1987).
Professor Bayat’s Distinctions and Awards include, Elected as Chair of Islam in the Modern World at University of Leiden); Inaugural Agha Khan Chair of Islamic Humanities at Brown University; Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies, University of Illinois. He has been named as Ford Foundation Fellow, MacArthur Fellow, Open Society Fellow, Guggenheim Fellow, and Wissenschaftskolleg Fellow, Berlin.
Public Talk by Professor Peyman Vahabzadeh, Department of Sociology, University of Victoria
Thursday, 2 November 2017, 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM | Room LEC 1, Humanities Center, University of Alberta
Abstract: In a world of corporate media, social networks, breaking (bad) news, the propagated images of “Muslim extremists” and their brutal atrocities serve the global powers in the West with facile justifications for military interventionism and regime changes. What is often missed in such a contrast is the way in which extremist violence in fact overshadows the structural, institutional, and hubristic forms of violence that define our globalized civilization defined by formal democracies, the upholding of human rights, and market rationality. My tripartite concept of violence is intended to bring to the light the endemic but silent violence that permeates every aspect of our civilizational lives. It exposes how we have internalized and accepted many forms of violence as necessary, inevitable, or even desirable.
Bio: Peyman Vahabzadeh is Professor of Sociology at University of Victoria, Canada. He is the author of Articulated Experiences: Toward a Radical Phenomenology of Contemporary Social Movements (2003), A Guerrilla Odyssey: Modernization, Secularism, Democracy and the Fadai Discourse of National Liberation in Iran, 1971-1979 (2010), Exilic Meditations: Essays on A Displaced Life (2012), Parviz Sadri: A Political Biography (2015), and Violence and Nonviolence: Conceptual Excursion into Phantom Opposites (2018), and the editor of Iran’s Struggles for Social Justice: Economics, Agency, Justice, Activism (2017).
Public talk by Dr Amyn B. Sajoo | Lecturer in history and global politics at Simon Fraser University
Thursday, 23 March 2017, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM | Room 129, Education Centre South (ED), University of Alberta
Will Kymlicka remarked in 2000 that a decade of “remarkable upsurge” in claims of minority rights was coupled with a passion for “democratic citizenship.” The contest was between the urge to belong of those who long felt excluded by the modern State, and the urge to guarantee the sense of belonging of all of society’s members. Universal rights and universal citizenship were the prize — but how you saw them depended on where you stood.
Today, the contest is very different. The “new global nationalism” is a populist war-cry to “take back” the State from Others. It has given us Brexit, Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Rodrigo Duterte, Narendra Modi … Its perceived Others include: science and public policy experts, migrants, Muslims, and the “liberal establishment” (including human rights advocates). Where does this leave Citizenship, an idea at the heart of Plato’s Republic? Can we envision a pluralist, cosmopolitan future for the Citizen, who has been called the most “dynamic social figure in modern history”?
Amyn B. Sajoo lectures in history and global politics at Simon Fraser University, where his research is at the interface of law, religion and public ethics. He is an International Fellow with the University of Alberta’s Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life. Dr. Sajoo was the 2010 Canada Department of Foreign Affairs Visiting Academic in the Middle East, which took him to Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Since 2009 he has served as the editor of the Muslim Heritage Series (UK), in which the fourth volume, The Shi’i World: Pathways in Tradition and Modernity, was published in 2015. Dr. Sajoo was previously affiliated with Cambridge and McGill universities, and the Institute of Ismaili Studies (London). Educated at King’s College London and McGill University, Montreal, his early career was with the Canadian departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs. He also served as a Canada-ASEAN Fellow in Southeast Asia, culminating in his monograph, Pluralism in Old Societies and New States (1994). Subsequent works include Muslim Modernities: Expressions of the Civil Imagination (ed. 2008), Muslim Ethics (2004), and Civil Society in the Muslim World (ed. 2002). A frequent contributor to the news media, his articles have appeared in The Guardian, Open Democracy, The Globe & Mail, Asian Wall Street Journal, and The Christian Science Monitor.
Public talk by Asma Afsaruddin, Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures in the School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.
Friday, 3 March 2017, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM | Room 150, Telus Centre, University of Alberta
Abstract: Beginning in the twentieth century, Muslim feminist scholars have started challenging culturally-derived attitudes that have shaped patriarchal societies in Muslim-majority countries.Their methodology, which undergirds Islamic Feminism, is to return to the Qur’anic text in order to retrieve what they believe to be the original egalitarian thrust of the central scripture of Islam. These women exegetes thereby offer critiques of traditional methodologies of engaging the Qur’an and provide “alternative” readings of verses that deal specifically with gendered relations, which will be the focus of this lecture.
Biography: Asma Afsaruddin is Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures in the School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. She is the author and editor of seven books, including Contemporary Issues in Islam (Edinburgh University Press,2015); Striving in the Path of God: Jihad and Martyrdom in Islamic Thought (Oxford University Press, 2013) which won a World Book Award from the Iranian government in 2015 and was a runner-up for the 2014 British-Kuwaiti Friendship Society Book Prize; and The First Muslims: History and Memory (OneWorld Publications 2008), which was recently translated into Turkish. Her research has been funded by grants from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, among others.
Public talk by Mojtaba Mahdavi, ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies and Associate Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, University of Alberta
Friday, 3 February 2017, 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM | Room 134, Telus Centre, University of Alberta
What does a Trump presidency mean for the current crisis in the Middle East? Many in the world are anxious to learn about Trump’s policies on Syria, Iraq and ISIS, as well as his plans for addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Iran nuclear deal. This session will shed light on how US President Trump’s policies will affect Middle East, Muslims around the world, and those living in North America.
Public talk by Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies, Oxford University
Thursday, 19 January 2017, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM | Room 1-430, The Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS), University of Alberta
* Co-sponsored by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) and Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities (ECMC)
Professor Tariq Ramadan’s public talk will centre on the upheavals facing the Middle East and the West: the shifting alliances, the East-West perceptions, the international terrorism, the ongoing conflicts and the massive refugee movements.
Biography: Tariq Ramadan is currently a Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University, UK. Through his writings and lectures, Professor Ramadan has contributed to the debate on the issues of Muslims in the West, and Islamic movements in the Muslim world. He lectures extensively throughout the world on ethics, social justice, faith and ecology, and participates frequently in interfaith as well as intercultural dialogue. He is the author of numerous books and articles including: Western Muslims and the Future of Islam (2005); Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation (2008); Islam, the West and the Challenge of Modernity (2009); What I Believe (2009); In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad (2009); The Quest for Meaning: Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism (2012); The Arab Awakening: Islam and the New Middle East (2012); and To be a European Muslim (2013). For more information please visit his website.
Public talk by Khaled Abou El Fadl , the Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Friday, 25 November 2016, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM | Room 325, South Academic Building (SAB), University of Alberta
Abstract: This lecture builds upon the themes explored in my book Reasoning with God: Reclaiming Shari’ah in the Modern Age. The lecture will address the theological and historical place of Shari’ah within the Islamic faith. I will address the development of Shari’ah as a unifying and inspirational normative paradigm within the Muslim historical experience focusing on the epistemological and normative demands of an ever-changing sociological reality that delimits and deconstructs Shari’ah in the modern age. The path of any discourse on Shari’ah is fraught with potential and actual moral pitfalls and failures that challenge the very usefulness of the idea of Shari’ah to Islam and Muslims in a globalized and increasingly shared human experience. Nevertheless, I argue that Shari’ah remains a necessary and compelling concept for modern Muslims, and that the Shari’ah is rooted in a normative system that has an ongoing unspent and perhaps untapped potentiality and trajectory for Muslims today.
Biography: Professor Abou El Fadl is the Chair of Islamic Studies Interdepartmental Program at UCLA. He was awarded the University of Oslo Human Rights Award, the Leo and Lisl Eitinger Prize in 2007, and named Carnegie Scholar in Islamic Law in 2005. A prolific scholar and prominent public intellectual, Dr. Abou El Fadl is the author of 14 books (five forthcoming) and over 50 articles on various topics in Islam and Islamic law. His most recent works focus on authority, human rights, democracy and beauty in Islam and Islamic law. His book, The Great Theft, was the first work to delineate the key differences between moderate and extremist Muslims, and was named one of the Top 100 Books of the Year by Canada’s Globe and Mail. His book, The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of the Books, is a landmark work in modern Muslim literature.
I) Title: Can Non-Europeans Think?
Abstract: Philosophy claims to be the search for knowledge, unbound by any fetters. Yet even a cursory analysis of how it is conceived when it exists outside the European tradition reveals a troubling bias. While European philosophy, for example is simply known as “philosophy,” African philosophy is all too often dubbed “ethnophilosophy.” The Western philosophical tradition simply hasn’t acknowledged the vast amount of innovative thought that has flourished outside the European philosophical pedigree–and that has led to awkward, and damaging, failures to properly reckon with the ideas of people like Japan’s Kojin Karatani, Cuba’s Roberto Fernandez Retamar, or even America’s Cornel West. In Can Non-Europeans Think?, Hamid Dabashi brings together a unique group of historical and theoretical reflections on current affairs and the role of philosophy to argue that, in order to grapple with the problems of humanity today, we must eliminate the ethnographic gaze that infects philosophy and casts Arab and other non-Western thinkers as subordinates.
II) Title: Muslims, Coexistence and Cosmopolitanism in the Emerging North American Political Landscape
Biography: Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in the City of New York. He has written over twenty five books, edited four, and contributed chapters to many more. He is also the author of over 100 essays, articles and book reviews in major scholarly and peer reviewed journals on subjects ranging from Iranian Studies, medieval and modern Islam, comparative literature, world cinema, and the philosophy of art (trans-aesthetics). His books and articles have been translated into numerous languages, including Japanese, German, French, Spanish, Danish, Russian, Hebrew, Italian, Arabic, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Polish, Turkish, Urdu and Catalan. A selected sample of his writing is co-edited by Andrew Davison and Himadeep Muppidi, The World is my Home: A Hamid Dabashi Reader (2010). His Most recent work includes Being A Muslim in the World (Palgrave 2013), Can Non-Europeans Think? (Zed, 2015), Persophilia: Persian Culture on the Global Scene (Harvard University Press, 2015), Iran Without Borders: Towards a Critique of the Postcolonial Nation (Verso, 2016).
Public talk by John Esposito, University Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University.
Wednesday, 09 March 2016; 6:00 PM – 9:30 PM | Room 150, TELUS Centre, University of Alberta
Biography: University Professor as well as Professor of Religion and International Affairs and of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, John L. Esposito is Founding Director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding in the Walsh School of Foreign Service. Previously, he was Loyola Professor of Middle East Studies, College of the Holy Cross. Past President of the American Academy of Religion and Middle East Studies Association of North America, Esposito has served as consultant to the U.S. Department of State and other agencies, European and Asian governments, corporations, universities, and media worldwide and ambassador for the UN Alliance of Civilizations and was a member of the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100 Leaders and E. C. European Network of Experts on De-Radicalization.
He has received honorary doctorates from St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, the University of Sarajevo, University of Florida and Immaculata University as well as the American Academy of Religion’s Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion, Pakistan’s Quaid-i-Azzam Award for Outstanding Contributions in Islamic Studies, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service Outstanding Teacher Award and Georgetown’s Career Research Achievement Award.
His more than 45 books include: Islam and Democracy After the Arab Spring (with Tamara Sonn, and John O. Voll); The Future of Islam, Islamophobia and the Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st Century; Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (with Dalia Mogahed); Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam; The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?; Islam and Politics; Makers of Contemporary Islam and Islam and Democracy (with John O. Voll), What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam; Asian Islam in the 21st Century (with John Voll & Osman Bakar); World Religions Today and Religion and Globalization (with D. Fasching & T. Lewis); Geography of Religion: Where God Lives, Where Pilgrims Walk (with S. Hitchcock); Islam: The Straight Path; Islam and Democracy and Makers of Contemporary Islam (with J. Voll); Modernizing Islam (with F. Burgat); Political Islam: Revolution, Radicalism or Reform?; Religion and Global Order (with M. Watson); Islam and Secularism in the Middle East (with A. Tamimi); Iran at the Crossroads (with R.K. Ramazani); Islam, Gender, and Social Change and Muslims on the Americanization Path and Daughters of Abraham (with Y. Haddad); and Women in Muslim Family Law.
Esposito’s books and articles have been translated into more than 35 languages. Editor- in-Chief of Oxford Islamic Studies Online and Series Editor of The Oxford Library of Islamic Studies, he served as Editor-in-Chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World (6 vols.); The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World (4 vols.), The Oxford History of Islam, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, and The Islamic World: Past and Present (3 vols.). Esposito’s interviews and articles with newspapers, magazines, and the media in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Middle East: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Guardian, The Times of London, CNN, ABC Nightline, CBS, NBC, and the BBC. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he currently resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife, Dr. Jeanette P. Esposito.
Public Talk by Fawaz Gerges, Professor of International Relations at The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), UK
Thursday, 3 March 2016, 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM | B-45 Henry Marshall Tory Building, University of Alberta
Abstract: In early 2011, millions of Arabs across the Middle East and North Africa burst out onto the streets and called for social justice, freedom and a life of dignity. They not only defied prevalent conceptions of the region as being “dormant”, but also debunked Salafi- jihadists’ depiction of acts of civil resistance as weak, ineffective and hopeless. Yet both Al Qaeda’s supporters and detractors have attempted to establish a link between the revolutionary moments that erupted in 2011.
Al Qaeda’s black flags remained notably absent in the Arab streets in 2011. However, Salafi-jihadists did benefit from the post-Arab Spring chaos that erupted as a result of the collusion between counter-revolutionary forces at home and abroad. As a subversive social movement, Al Qaeda feeds on mayhem and breeds in conflict zones. The rallying cries of the Arab Spring uprisings fell on deaf ears. In Libya, Yemen and Syria, and to a lesser extent in Iraq, the brutal suppression of protesters militarized the largely peaceful uprisings and caused a breakdown of state institutions. Al Qaeda Central and like-minded local factions found a receptive home among disaffected local Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria, gradually replacing peaceful collective action with an armed collective insurgency.
The Arab Spring uprisings did not occur in a vacuum. The Arab state system had broken down long before the uprisings. Thus it would be misleading to blame foreign conspiracies for the ruptures that have shaken the old regimes to their foundation. Equally important, these narratives confuse cause and effect; they entangle an emancipatory moment with still-unfolding contentious and violent transition. They project a vision of change as linear and straightforward, excluding constitutive elements of change such as violence, chaos and digressions. It is too early to pass an indictment on the Arab Spring because such historical developments cannot be measured in a short time span. In reality, the Arab Spring was sabotaged by a multitude of actors, including autocratic rulers and their regional allies, the military-security apparatus in each of the countries, al- fulul (elements of the old regime), as well as Salafi-jihadists of the ISIS variety.
Neither ISIS nor Al Qaeda in Syria (Jabhat al-Nusra) could have surged without the spectacular cooperation between authoritarian Arab rulers and their regional and global patrons to maintain the status quo at all costs. A regional war-by-proxy is a Godsend to Jabhat al-Nusra, ISIS and other Al Qaeda local factions. From the very beginning of the hostilities in Syria and Iraq, Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS indirectly obtained finance, arms, and a religious cover from neighbouring Sunni states. This precious social and material capital was decisive in the growth and success of these Salafi-jihadi organisations.
Biography: Fawaz A. Gerges is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and holder of the Emirates Professorship in Contemporary Middle East Studies. Professor Gerges was the Inaugural Director of the LSE Middle East Centre (2010-13) and Christian A. Johnson Chair in Middle Eastern Studies and International Affairs at Sarah Lawrence College, New York. He has been the recipient of MacArthur, Fulbright and Carnegie Fellowships. Professor Gerges’ most recent books are The New Middle East: Protest and Revolution in the Arab World; Obama and the Middle East: The End of America’s Moment? The Rise and Fall of Al Qaeda; ISIS: A Short History (forthcoming); The Struggle for the Arab World: The Nationalist-Islamist Long War (forthcoming); and Contentious Politics in the Middle East: Popular Resistance and Marginalised Activism beyond the Arab Uprisings (forthcoming).
Panel Organized by Global Education- University of Alberta International, and the collaboration of MEIS:
Thursday, January 28, 7:00 – 9:00 pm | Telus Centre 150
* Dr. Yasmeen Abu-Laban, Professor, Dept. of Political Science
* Kathryn Friesen, Program Manager, Immigration and Settlement Service, Catholic Social Services
* Dr. Tom Keating, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Political Science
* Dr. Mojtaba Mahdavi, ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies and Associate Professor, Dept. of Political Science
* Masood Peracha, Chair, Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities
* Moderated by Doug Weir, Executive Director, Student Programs and Services, University of Alberta International
The Canadian government supports the multinational coalition fighting ISIS, provides humanitarian assistance to refugees in Iraq and Syria, is working to reduce ISIS recruitment and has opened its borders to 25,000 Syrian refugees. Join this panel for an assessment of the situation in the Middle East and the effectiveness of Canada’s response. Learn what further actions the Canadian government could take and the response of the general public to the crisis. Find out what is happening to settle Syrian refugees in Edmonton and what each of us can do to counter fear and assist in refugee resettlement.
Public Talk by Abdulkarim Soroush, a leading Muslim reformist public intellectual, a Rumi scholar, and a former professor of philosophy at the University of Tehran, Iran.
Wednesday, 18 November 2015, 6-8 pm | Room 150, TELUS Centre, University of Alberta
Abstract: All Abrahamic religions employed language of obligations whereas we live in an era whose language is the language of rights. Does this paradigmatic shift mean that a religious reform is incumbent, how and why? Moreover, does Islam, as a great religion, lend itself to such a reform, if yes what are the achievements of Muslim reformers in this turbulent field and what remains to be done in future?
Biography: Abdulkarim Soroush is a leading Muslim reformist public intellectual, a Rumi scholar, and a former professor of philosophy at the University of Tehran, Iran. He is named by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2005 and by Prospect magazine as one of the most influential intellectuals in the world in 2008. Soroush’s ideas prompted both supporters and critics to compare his role in reforming Islam to that of Martin Luther in reforming Christianity.
He is the author of many books and essays in Farsi including The Theoretical Contraction and Expansion of Religion: The Theory of Evolution of Religious Knowledge (1994); The definitive edition of Rumi’s Mathnavi (1996); Tolerance and Governance (1997); Straight Paths, An Essay on Religious Pluralism (1998); and Expansion of Prophetic Experience (1999).
Soroush has been a visiting scholar at a number of academic institutions, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, University of Maryland in College Park, the Leiden-based International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM), and the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin.
Presentation by Emrah Keskin (Phd Student, Department of Political Science)
Thursday, October 29th, 3:45pm | 10-04 Henry Marshall Tory Building, University of Alberta
Abstract: Amid failure to form a government following the June 7 elections, the citizens of Turkey are heading to the ballot once again on November 1st. The early election will be taking place amidst major social and political turmoil in the country. In the face of the renewed violence between Turkey and Kurdish insurgents, President Erdogan’s desire to establish executive presidency and the civil war in Syria, the outcome of Turkey’s elections will have a major impact not just in Turkey but also around the Middle East. In this event we will consider the changing political dynamics in Turkey and their implications for the future.
Biography: Emrah Keskin is a PhD student at the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta. He holds an MA from New York University, a BA from Sabanci University in Istanbul and has previously worked as a journalist for Radikal and Haberturk in Turkey.
Public lecture by Kent Roach (Professor of Law and Prichard-Wilson Chair of Law and Public Policy at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law)
October 23 7:00-9:00 | Ross October 23 7:00-9:00 | Ross Hall, Faculty of Law (with the Centre for Constitutional Studies)
National security expert Kent Roach looks at how Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, affects security and rights – and what it reveals about Canada’s dysfunctional policy processes and security systems. For more information about the talk please click here.
Mojtaba Mahdavi | September 22, 2015
Five years after the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, the region remains in a deep and profound crisis. The rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the breakout of proxy war in Yemen and Syria, the chaos and collapse of the Libyan polity, the failure of Islamists in power and the subsequent return of a military regime in Egypt, and the survival of autocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia and other Arab monarchies have largely contributed to the revival of an old and naive cliché about the Middle East. This cliché suggests the violent culture of the Middle East exceptionally resists democratic ideals and institutions. We often hear this line of argument, known as the “Middle East Exceptionalism,” in the media. However, this is a very simplistic reading of the current events in the region. Here is the counterargument: The people and their civil rights movements are victims of local extremists, regional proxy wars and global politics of domination.
In 2010-11, millions of ordinary people – men and women, young and old, religious and secular, Muslims and non-Muslims – came to the streets of the region and demanded Hurriyya (freedom), ‘Adāla ijtimā‘iyya (social justice), and Karāmā (dignity). They wanted to overthrow the dominant regimes. Their slogans were indicative of a quest for democracy and social justice. There was no demand for Islamic state; there was no indication of the “clash of civilizations” between the West and the Middle East. There was nothing exceptional to the Middle Eastern culture and values. Read More …
International Conference | University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada | September 25-27, 2015
Four years after the recent revolutions/social movements (2011-12) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the crisis in the region is evident. The MENA region after the Arab Spring is caught between a number of rocks and many hard places. The rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the return of a military regime in Egypt, the breakout of proxy/civil war in Syria and Yemen, and the chaos and collapse of the Libyan polity have largely replaced hope with despair, and excitement with resentment. Is the Middle East exceptionally immune to democratic movements, values and institutions?
This international conference is an attempt to examine why and how the MENA region is not immune to democratic social movements. We propose that these revolutions were indicative of deep-rooted socio-cultural and structural transformations in contemporary MENA; they symbolized a popular quest for human dignity, social justice and freedom. The genie is out of the bottle and more progressive changes have yet to come. The contemporary social movements in MENA are open-ended and unfinished projects. Read More …