"The Impact of Russia's Annexation of the Crimea on the Central Eurasian Islamic World" with Charles Weller
March 19, 2015. Dr. Weller's talk focused on four main, interrelated dimensions of the impact of the Crimean and Ukrainian Crises on the Central Eurasian Islamic World: (1) The response of the Crimean Tatar community and impact on Russo-Tatar relations within the Crimea religiously, socially, and politically; (2) Responses among related Turkic Muslim groups of Central Eurasia, particularly the Turks of Turkey, the Volga Tatars within the Russian Federation, and the Kazakh Muslims of Kazakhstan, with related reflections upon the impact of the crises upon Russo-Turkish relations politically, Russo-Volga Tatar relations socially and politically within Tatarstan, and Russo-Kazakh relations socially and politically within Kazakhstan; (3) the (potential) impact upon Russo-Chinese relations politically in connection with the Uighur independence movement; and (4) Responses from across the broader Muslim world, particularly the Middle Eastern and Western worlds. The presentation argued that the Crimean and Ukrainian crises have provoked and, if maintained, will continue to provoke a predominantly negative reaction against not only Russia and Russian expatriates living in Central Eurasian states which are significantly populated by Muslims, but will serve to reinforce Muslim views of ‘The (Christian) West’ as imperialist and exploitative world powers, in spite of condemnation of the action by a large number of Western powers internationally, since Western condemnation is concerned primarily with safeguarding Ukraine as a pro-Westernizing force (and not the Crimean Tatar cause). This study drew primarily from scholarly works on historical and historiographical issues pertaining to Ukraine and the Crimea as well as published newspaper, magazine, and journal articles in Turkish, Tatar, Kazakh, and English which have appeared in response/relation to the issue.
Book Talk: "Answering the Call: Popular Islamic Activism in Sadat’s Egypt" with Abdullah Al-Arian
February 26, 2015. In this talk, Professor Al-Arian explored the causes for the re-emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood following its two-decade absence from Egyptian society. The decade of the 1970s was a vibrant era that saw the rise of a dynamic student movement in Egypt. Coupled with Sadat’s release of veteran Muslim Brotherhood figures from prison, the opportunity arose for a renewed Islamic movement to take root within an increasingly fraught political atmosphere. By the end of the Sadat era, the Muslim Brotherhood was reconstituted in large part due to the ability of the leadership to incorporate a broad segment of the student activist movement into its ranks. Professor Al-Arian concluded by discussing the role that this generation has played in Egyptian society and politics in the decades since, including during the 2011 uprising and its aftermath.
"Caste Consciousness Among Muslims in North India and Pakistan" with Sara Singha
February 25, 2015. The caste system is the Indian hierarchical classification of people into ranked groups called varnas. There are four varnas in the caste system, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras that are organized by occupation and maintained through endogamy. While discussions of caste are primarily rooted within a Hindu framework, ‘caste consciousness’ is also noticeable among Indian Muslims. There are three distinct Muslim castes in India: the Ashraf (the noble), the Ajlaf (the lowly), and the Arzal (Dalit). While the Ashraf claim Arab or Persian ancestry, the Ajlaf and Arzal are largely low-caste and Dalit converts to Islam. Relationships between the Ashraf and Dalit Muslims are strained through endogamy and punctuated by commensal segregation. These ‘caste’ divisions create multiple theological, social, and political fissures in the Indian Muslim community as the Ashraf consider Dalit Muslims inherently inferior and ‘polluted.’
While caste is often considered an Indian phenomenon, it has also seeped across the border to Pakistan where it manifests in multiple ways. Though not as pronounced as in India, ‘caste consciousness’ in Pakistan is observable through an awareness of purity and pollution (pak and na-pak) and through endogamy within a particular biradari (brotherhood). Such occurrences of ‘caste consciousness’ in Pakistan highlight intra-Muslim divisions that are exacerbated by ethnic, linguistic, and tribal distinctions.
"Yemen - If this is a policy success, what does failure look like?" with Amb. Barbara K. Bodine
February 3, 2015. Cosponsored with the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy. Last September, in announcing military operations against ISIS/ISIL, President Obama referred to Yemen as a US policy success, to the bafflement of many within and outside the country at the time. The jury was still out on our drone-dependent security/CT operations, the economy was in disarray and the political transition - a relative bright spot - was dimming. Recent events call the September judgment into even more question. What is really happening, and what does it mean for the US, the region, and the Yemenis?
“Canaries in a Coal Mine: How Islamophobia Threatens Us All”
On November 12, 2014 the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) co-hosted an event with the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) to discuss Islamophobia in the context of an increasingly diverse America. The event highlighted ISPU's latest research on anti-Muslim prejudice and its connection to bigotry targeting other communities. The event also featured four panelists who are experts and advocates on issues affecting African-American, American Muslim, and Workers' Rights communities.
ACMCU book talk: "Iran Divided" with Shireen Hunter
November 5, 2014. Iranian politics has been marked by sharp ideological divisions and infighting. These divides, kept largely out of public view until the 1990s, came to greater light with the contested 2009 presidential elections. To explain the diverse and complex forces that led to this event and that animate Iran’s current fractured society and polity, author Shireen T. Hunter looks beyond the battle between the forces of reform and reaction, democracy and dictatorship, and considers the historic forces that created the conditions faced by Iran since the revolution. Iran Divided: The Historical Roots of Iranian Debates on Identity, Culture, and Governance in the 21st Century explains historical and political factors and their relevance to Iran today, shedding light on the forces behind Iranian politics and society.