he argument of this lecture runs against the widely accepted apocalyptic portrayal of the Middle East as “disintegrating” according to which the rise of politicized Islam is either a manifestation or a cause. A closer look shows that despite the bloody conflicts in three major countries in the region, more than ten other countries, including those lying in the vicinity of the war theaters have kept their political and societal fabric relatively stable.
What we are witnessing today is rather a bloody round of negotiation reflecting the changing power relations among the major actors within the respective societies with the aim of reestablishing and configuring their states that have hitherto drawn their legitimization from the concept of ethnic nationalism. Politicizing religion has been part and parcel of the processes of nation-formation in most of Europe and the United States and politicizing Islam today seems no exception. Apart from the Kurds’ long time aspiration to establish their own independent state in Iraq and an autonomous entity in Syria, the warring parties are striving to lay hand on the central power rather than carving out mini-states of their own.
After 2011, Syria witnessed the splintering of armed groups into a collection of private local militias, armed opposition groups, official armed forces, and other state-sponsored but semi-official paramilitary factions. This atrophy of the monopoly of violence coupled with the devolution of state functions to new actors indicate a drastic breakaway from the preexisting social order, especially at the local level. Local methods of public administration reveal a pattern of reconfiguration and utilization of religious organizational arrangements as a framework for local governance. Hence, the seminar focused on Islamic and non-Islamic groups in Syria that rely on the institutional domain of religion as an organizational framework after 2011. This newly emerging condition of religion as a dominant institutional domain was being compared to pre-2011 conditions to reveal a preexisting process of growing religious institutional autonomy vis-à-vis the state.
The seminar focused on Shi’i clerical authority in Iraq and its transformations in relation to the state weakness and transnational dynamics. In the pre-modern Iraq, Shi’i clerical authority has evolved as a largely autonomous tradition that played several roles associated with the social and political orders. Modernization and secularization have influenced those roles and generated new dynamics both within this authority and in terms of its relationship with society. In the last four decades, there were two major transformations that have deeply re-shaped clerical authority and clerical politics in Shi’ism: the Islamic revolution in Iran and the occupation of Iraq. The seminar offered some explanations on those dynamics and the future trajectories in the sociopolitical roles of Shi’i clerical authority in Iraq.
Legislation has been introduced in Hungary's National Assembly (Országgyűlés) that specifically targets Central European University, one of the most prestigious universities in Central and Eastern Europe.
The 2016 Arab Opinion Index is the fifth in a series of yearly public opinion surveys across the Arab world. The first survey was conducted in 2011, with following surveys in 2012/2013 and 2014. The 2016 Arab Opinion Index is based on face-to-face interviews conducted with 18,310 individual respondents in 12 separate Arab countries.
The lecture thought about the fracturing forces in the Middle East in the light of an earlier anthropology of state collapse and social fragmentation in Africa and elsewhere. What has spectacular violence in the West African rainforest and the East African savannah's to teach us in relation to the cauldron in Syria and Iraq? What can we learn from the indigenous mobilizations in the Andes?
The lecture discussed the historical evolution of the India-Pakistan border, the various formal and informal management practices (or the lack thereof) adopted by the two sides to manage a partly-contentious border, and the patterns of conflict along the border. The lecture attempted to show that conflict escalation and military standoff between India and Pakistan, both nuclear weapon states, is triggered by local level military factors far more often than generally acknowledged. These local level factors include military one-upmanship, lack of standard operating procedures, and organizational culture, among others.
The Syrian conflict was the first to capture the imagination of the Southeast Asian Muslim community, said Sidney Jones, George Soros Visiting Practitioner Chair of the School of Public Policy at Central European University, in her talk on Southeast Asians and the Syrian Conflict, which was our kick-off event on February 9, 2017.
Ardeshir Mehrdad. Thank you professor Aziz Al Azmeh for agreeing to this interview. Our world is entering a grave crisis. War and terrorism feed off escalating poverty, with a backdrop of accelerating environmental destruction; resistance is hampered by the shattering of human solidarity, exacerbated by national, religious and ethnic conservatism. The Middle East is the clearest expression of this crisis, so it’s apt to start our dialogue here.