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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.

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Featured Analysis

Social Media: A Shaping Force Of Identity And Action – The Palestinian Case

by Harel Chorevvia The Caravan
Thursday, June 8, 2017

The global expansion of social media over the past decade has sparked a vibrant debate about its role in mobilizing political protest movements worldwide, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. Clay Shirky was among the first to claim that social media can serve as a tool for bolstering civil society and the public sphere. Others, like Larry Diamond and Marc Plattner, took this further and defined social media as a ‟liberation technology” with the power to expedite democratization processes. A counter-argument to these so-called “cyber optimists” came from thinkers like Malcolm Gladwell and Evgeny Morozov. These and other “cyber pessimists” argued that the impact of social media on the political arena is limited, and cautioned that repressive authorities might exploit it to suppress opponents. 

Featured Analysis

Social Media And The Gulf States: A Revolution That Is Not Revolutionary

by Afshin Molavivia The Caravan
Wednesday, June 7, 2017

“One of the startling discoveries of our time,” the author and social philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote nearly half a century ago, “is that revolutions are not revolutionary.” Hoffer’s insight has aged well. All across our world, particularly in the emerging world over the past three decades, we have been witnessing quiet revolutions that are “not revolutionary” driven by urbanization, growing middle classes, and increasing access to information coupled with the rocket fuel of rising aspirations. 

Introduction

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

via The Caravan
Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How has the development of social media and new communications technology influenced the political landscape in the Middle East? Has social media been used by a new generation as a force for democratization? As a force for radicalization by Islamists? Have repressive regimes within the region manipulated this internet phenomenon to monitor and hunt down those who seek change and modernization? There is a conflict inherent in social media - it is used for good and for evil depending on whose hands are at the controls. How can we harness this means of communication to help in the spread of democracy while at the same time attempting to lessen its power when used by radicals and tyrants?

Featured Analysis

Social Media, New Technologies and the Middle East

by Russell A. Bermanvia Caravan
Tuesday, June 6, 2017

It is a global story, a new industrial revolution. The spread of the internet and the proliferation of social media have led to dramatic changes with salutary results: greater access to more diverse information, gateways to goods and services that have transformed the retail experience, and opportunities to engage and network with expanded communities, while still staying in touch with friends and family, all thanks to the blessings of these new technologies.

Featured Analysis

Does Egypt Still Matter?

by Samuel Tadrosvia The Caravan
Wednesday, March 15, 2017

For a man who has challenged almost all conventional wisdom in U.S. foreign policy, President Trump’s first phone call to his Egyptian counterpart after taking office could have been copied from any of his predecessors since the late 70’s. Stressing the importance of the strategic partnership between the two countries, he affirmed his commitment to deepening a relationship “which has helped both countries overcome challenges in the region for decades.”

Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia And Egypt: An Uneasy Relationship

by Bernard Haykelvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Any observer of the relationship between Egypt and Saudi Arabia over the last few months will have noticed considerable tensions.  This is unexpected since Riyadh had strongly backed President Sisi’s government after the 2013 military coup, offering tens of billions of dollars in aid and fuel supplies, and Cairo in return had pledged its full diplomatic, political and military support for the kingdom. 

Mousque of Al-aqsa in Old Town - Jerusalem, Israel
Featured Analysis

Egypt’s Role In The Middle East: The View From Jerusalem

by Itamar Rabinovichvia The Caravan
Monday, March 13, 2017

During the past sixty years, Israel’s relationship with Egypt completed a full cycle. In the late 1950’s in the aftermath of two wars with Egypt and Gamal Abdel Nasser leading the revolutionary pan Arab camp, it was Israel’s most formidable and implacable Arab enemy. Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion, saw no hope of breaking the wall of Arab hostility led by Egypt and decided to leap frog over it by formulating and implementing a policy known as “the alliance with the periphery.” 

Featured Analysis

The Future Of Egyptian Islamism

by Mokhtar Awadvia The Caravan
Friday, March 10, 2017

The thousands of Egyptian mourners greeting the body of Omar Abdel Rahman, the “Blind Sheikh,” alarmed many of their countrymen who had hoped the elderly Jihadist cleric had become irrelevant. Abdel Rahman’s funeral sent a signal that although Islamists may be a numerical minority—and are for the time being politically defeated—their ideas still very much resonate with a sizeable cross section of this country of 90 million. 

Featured Analysis

The United States And The Future Of Egyptian-Russian Relations

by Michael Wahid Hanna via The Caravan
Thursday, March 9, 2017

As U.S.-Egypt relations have come under significant strain in the post-Mubarak era, Egypt has sought to rebalance its international relations and has begun hedging through an assiduous focus on ties with Russia. For the United States, this hedging behavior should be cause for moderate concern and vigilance but not alarm.

Featured Analysis

Sisi’s Domesticated Foreign Policy

by Eric Tragervia The Caravan
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

When then-Defense Minister Abdel Fatah el-Sisi responded to mass protests in July 2013 by ousting the country’s first elected president, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi, Cairo’s Gulf allies rushed to keep Egypt afloat economically.  Within months, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait sent approximately $7 billion in aid, and they pledged an additional $12 billion in aid after Sisi won the barely contested May 2014 presidential elections. 

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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.