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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Issue 1820

Political Theology in the Greater Middle East
Introduction
Introduction

Navigating The Realm Of Political Theology In The Greater Middle East

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Thursday, November 29, 2018

The modern world—or the era we blithely have been calling “modern”—has defined itself against religion. The Treaty of Westphalia, which inaugurated today’s international state system, pushed religion to diplomacy’s margins to avoid, it was hoped, further wars of religion as had propelled the Thirty Years’ War from 1618-1648.

Featured Analysis
Featured Analysis

The Legacy Of Saddam’s Islam

by Samuel Helfontvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Anyone examining Islam in Saddam’s Iraq (1979-2003) and the legacy of that period today is quickly confronted with a tangled web of problematic definitions and eclectic ideologies. Untangling this web is essential for identifying what really drives Iraqi politics, and doing so provides one with some hope that sectarian differences can still be overcome.  Paradoxically, it also does not augur well for the chances for stability in the country anytime soon. 

Featured Analysis

Contradictions Of The Faith

by Sanam Vakilvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

On February 11, 2019 Iran will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Iranian revolution and the creation of Iran’s Islamic government guided by a clerical leader known as the vali-e-faqih.  This anniversary is important for numerous reasons including that the Islamic Republic, having survived many political storms, has outlasted the expectations of many. Under renewed political and economic pressure from US sanctions and Washington’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Iran nuclear agreement, this anniversary has added symbolism for Tehran. 

Featured Analysis

Restoring Religion’s Role In Foreign And Domestic Policy In Erdogan’s Turkey

by Henri J. Barkeyvia The Caravan
Thursday, December 6, 2018

“Turkey is the only country that can lead the Muslim World,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently claimed. This simple sentence contains not only the ambitions and contradictions of Turkey’s current Islamist leadership but also the distance it has traveled back to its foundational stance. Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party, AKP, emerged from the bosom of the hardline Islamist leader Necmettin Erbakan and his Muslim Brotherhood inspired movement and political party of the 1970s. 

Featured Analysis

Religion And Politics In Israel

by Itamar Rabinovichvia The Caravan
Thursday, December 6, 2018

A complex relationship between religion and politics is inherent in Israel’s character as a Jewish state. The term Jewish denotes both a religion and an ethnicity, and, for the past seventy years, Israel’s leaders have had to deal with a host of issues regarding religion’s role in the life and politics of the Jewish state.

Featured Analysis

Religion And Politics In Lebanon: The Case Of A Christian ‘Alliance’ With Hezbollah

by Habib Malikvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 11, 2018

It may be somewhat inconvenient for the secular Western mind to acknowledge the fact that ultimate identity on both the personal and group levels in a place like the Middle East remains conceived primarily in religious terms.  If this is indeed a given, then it should hardly be surprising that religion and politics become intricately intertwined within and across both communities and states in the region.

Featured Analysis

Democracy, Populism, And Polytheism: Islam In India

by Aishwary Kumarvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Extreme fascination with idols, statues, and names is widespread across South Asia and the ritualistic violence that accompanies such practices is neither modern nor singular to India, the region’s most doggedly democratic and unequivocally polytheistic country. In fact, until this past November, when the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled India’s colossal 182-meter high Statue of Unity, which now stands as the world’s highest monument to a revisionist history of nationalism, the record for height belonged to a more modest Buddhist statue in China, shorter than Modi’s populist gift to India by more than 100 feet.

Featured Analysis

Erdogan The Nationalist Vs Erdogan The Islamist

by Asli Aydintasbasvia The Caravan
Thursday, December 13, 2018

One of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s pet projects is the promotion of “imam-hatip” schools within the Turkish education system with the hope that it would help create his desire for a “pious generation.” Originally designed to educate young imams and preachers, the schools follow the standard curriculum of Turkey’s ministry of education, but also offer additional courses in Arabic, Islamic law and the Quran. Erdogan – himself a graduate – wants Turkey’s imam-hatip schools to be the centerpiece of the country’s educational system and its graduates to be the next generation’s leaders, undoing nearly a hundred years of secular dominance.

Featured Analysis

Pragmatism And Profits Drive Islamic Finance Industry

by Afshin Molavivia The Caravan
Thursday, December 13, 2018

A curious Islamic scholarly ruling emerged this month from a group of scholars associated with the Shariyah Review Bureau, an independent consultancy licensed by the Central Bank of Bahrain. The scholars granted a Swiss-based cryptocurrency, X8, a coveted sharia-compliant certificate, noting that its currency would be permissible under Islamic law. Pious Muslims interested in cryptocurrency can now trade the X8C StableCoin as it is called, citing the Shariya Review Board’s ruling as justification.

Featured Analysis

The Middle Eastern Christian Dilemma

by Samuel Tadrosvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Writing in his famous book, What Went Wrong, the Middle East’s eminent historian, Bernard Lewis remarked that “according to Islamic law and tradition, there were three groups of people who did not benefit from the general Muslim principle of legal and religious equality – unbelievers, slaves, and women …. the rise of Western power and the spread of Western influence brought important changes to all three groups.” But while the drive for the emancipation of the three groups elicited fierce opposition, the reason was hardly the same. 

Featured Analysis

Our Political Theologies

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 18, 2018

It has been seventeen years since the September 11 attacks, a defining moment not only for America but for our allies as well, and the response of one of them can help understand some of the underlying cultural aspects of contemporary political debate.  When the news reports spread through Paris, the initial reaction of profound shock quickly gave way to vigorous expressions of solidarity with the United States. “We are now all Americans” Le Monde declared famously. France, itself so often scarred by terrorism from the Middle East since the Algerian War, felt threatened as well, as painful national memories reemerged. 

E.g., 2 / 21 / 2019
E.g., 2 / 21 / 2019
Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Issue 1612

Strategic Considerations in the Greater Middle East
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Issue 1611

How should Europe respond to Islamism? What are the consequences of the flood refugees? What strategy should America pursue in the face of the European crisis?
Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Issue 1610

How do you understand shifting Saudi strategy and what is its significance for broader Middle East policy?

Introduction

by Hoover Institution Tuesday, February 9, 2016
article

Featured Analysis

by Russell A. Berman Tuesday, February 9, 2016
article
by David Schenker Wednesday, February 10, 2016
article
by Jane Kinninmont Thursday, February 11, 2016
article
by Reuel Marc Gerecht Friday, February 12, 2016
article
by Simon Henderson Tuesday, February 16, 2016
article
by Abbas Milani Wednesday, February 17, 2016
article
by Toby C. Jones Thursday, February 18, 2016
article
by Karen Elliott House Friday, February 19, 2016
article
by Toby Matthiesen Monday, February 22, 2016
article
by Charles Hill Monday, February 22, 2016
article
Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Issue 1509

How should the US meet the ISIS challenge more successfully?

Introduction

by Hoover Institution Tuesday, December 1, 2015
article

Featured Analysis

by Russell A. Berman Tuesday, December 1, 2015
article
by Daniel Kurtzer Wednesday, December 2, 2015
article
by Nibras Kazimi Thursday, December 3, 2015
article
by Josef Joffe Friday, December 4, 2015
article
by Reuel Marc Gerecht Monday, December 7, 2015
article
by Camille Pecastaing Tuesday, December 8, 2015
article
by Samuel Tadros Wednesday, December 9, 2015
article
by Kori Schake Thursday, December 10, 2015
article
by Robert Satloff Friday, December 11, 2015
article

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Introduction

Are We Witnessing 'Peak China'?

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Is there anything more to be said about China? If the twentieth century was "The American Century," then this twenty-first century, by general acclamation, has been assigned to The People's Republic of China. What more needs to be said?

Featured Analysis

Turning A Blind Eye: Why Are Muslim Governments Around The World Keeping Silent About China’s Human Rights Violations Against The Uyghurs?

by Kelly A. Hammond via The Caravan
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Since 2009, the Chinese Party-state has increasingly suppressed the Uyghur community in its northwest province of Xinjiang. However, in the last year, three new concurrent trends have emerged: the situation for Uyghurs both in Xinjiang and for the Uyghurs living abroad has gotten much worse; academics and journalists have been working extremely hard to document and expose the human rights violations against the Uyghurs; and, the international community has finally started to take notice of the abuses inflicted on a Muslim minority population by the Chinese Party-state in a remote region of the People’s Republic of China. 

Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia Or Iran In US Strategy

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Effective US policy toward Saudi Arabia requires familiarity with the intricacies of its history and society, of course. The legacies of the foundation of the state, the traditional collaboration of political and religious leadership and the burdensome privileges of the extended royal family still weigh on the Saudi present, even as new circumstances develop, especially the ambitions of the young generation, eager for the reforms promised by the bold leadership of the Crown Prince.

Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia At A Crossroads

by Elham Maneavia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Saudi Arabia, a kingdom grounded in a dynastic religious alliance, stands at a crossroads. Some observers and journalists, both Western and Arab, eyeing the new assertive leadership of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (henceforth MbS) and his promised economic and social reforms, have rushed to declare him a ‘reformer’.

Featured Analysis

Saudi Reform: Essential But Perilous

by Ali Shihabivia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Saudi Arabia is undergoing a perilous, but essential transformation. Those wishing to safeguard one of the last bastions of Middle East stability should support Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s (MBS) dramatic socioeconomic reforms and also appreciate the challenges, resistance, and limitations amid which he is forced to operate. As rapid reform risks destabilizing the kingdom’s broad and deeply divided political base, rule by consensus will not work. Only a strong hand can balance Saudi Arabia’s competing constituencies.

Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia, The United States And The Anti-Iran Front In The Middle East

by F. Gregory Gause, IIIvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Though he fancies unpredictability a useful negotiating tool, President Trump has been remarkably consistent about the Middle East. He campaigned against the Iran nuclear deal and in May 2018 withdrew the United States from it. He promised, as most presidential candidates have done, to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Unlike any other successful candidate, he actually did it, also in May 2018.

Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia And The Electric Car Revolution

by Afshin Molavivia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

“Everyone has a plan,” the great American boxer Mike Tyson once quipped, “that is, until you get punched in the face.” Saudi Arabia, as the world knows by now, has a plan. In fact, the Saudi Vision 2030, unveiled in dramatic fashion in April 2016 with a roll-out similar to the launch of a new iPhone, has become one of the most well-known national transformation plans in the world. It has become almost a by-word for the changes dawning in the Kingdom, and the calling card for the reformist credentials of the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Featured Analysis

Social Reform In The Kingdom: Between “Westernizers” And “Guardians Of Virtue”

by Cole Bunzelvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

“These astonishing things that have been happening in the Land of the Two Holy Places … if King Abd al-Aziz were to come out of his grave and witness them, he would not believe that this is his kingdom that he worked so hard to establish and unite.” So lamented Abd al-Muhsin al-‘Abbad, an outspoken Wahhabi cleric, in a late 2017 assessment of the social reforms being implemented in Saudi Arabia. The king in question was the founder of the modern realm, Abd al-Aziz ibn Sa‘ud (d. 1953), who is also the father of the present king, Salman, and grandfather of the new crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman (MbS).

Featured Analysis

Saudi Reform And Security Through A Gulf Lens

by Lori Plotkin Boghardtvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The arrest of several of the kingdom’s most prominent women’s rights activists six weeks before the date when women would be allowed to drive came as a shock to everyone.  After news of the detentions spread through informal channels, an official announcement on May 19 referred ambiguously to the detention of individuals seeking “to undermine the security and stability of the kingdom” and erode “national unity” through various activities.  Local news outlets quickly vilified the activists – some well-known abroad as peaceful advocates – and branded them “traitors.” 

Featured Analysis

Bin Salman And The Promise (Or Peril) Of Reform

by Nadav Saminvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A mass drugging is how one young Saudi man in Riyadh described to me Mohammad Bin Salman’s Vision 2030, eight months after its ostentatious launch in April 2016.  Smoke and mirrors, he meant.  Since then, the energetic and youthful Saudi crown prince has surprised his critics by upending a number of his country’s political, economic, and cultural norms.  But can he safely deliver more change to an already rapidly changing society?  How much tinkering can one do with a fragile polity before it cracks under the pressure?

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The Caravan is envisaged as a periodic symposium on the contemporary dilemmas of the Greater Middle East. It will be a free and candid exchange of opinions. We shall not lack for topics of debate, for that arc of geography has contentions aplenty. It is our intention to come back with urgent topics that engage us. Caravans are full of life and animated companionship. Hence the name we chose for this endeavor.

We will draw on the membership of Hoover's Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order, and on colleagues elsewhere who work that same political and cultural landscape. Russell Berman and Charlie Hill cochair the project from which this effort originates.