Exploring the Eclipse of Equality

Archive for the ‘Guest Blogger’ Category

Eclipse Passes Through The Page 99 Test

In Guest Blogger, Media and Politics, Reviews on May 2, 2013 at 9:55 am

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Today’s post will be a bit different. I was contacted by the author of the official blog of the Campaign for the American Reader, who asked me to put The Eclipse of Equality through the Page 99 test. The idea is that if you take a random page from the book from a section that is not overworked and through through, you can judge the quality of the whole for yourself. I had a lot of fun playing this game, and I think the test basically works. You can read for yourself over at Marshal Zeringue’s blog.

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Just what is Islamic Democracy? A discussion among emerging Muslim scholars

In Guest Blogger, Religious Conflict on June 3, 2010 at 10:36 am

Among the core challenges of our era is the need we have to reconcile (at least to the point of coexistence) Western notions of sovereignty and democracy with the indigenous theories and habits of political culture in the Muslim world. It takes little to recognize that we face this challenge as the now clichéd phrases war on terror and clash of civilizations will attest.

Raised in the context of a creaky democratic political culture with roots planted centuries ago, most Americans treat ideas like democracy at face value, as if there were a single face to be evaluated. Our institutions (party system, divisions of government, legal norms, points of participation etc.) are often taken as the very embodiment of democracy itself, but in practice, democracy takes myriad forms. In fact, comparisons in the degree to which a political system approximates a democratic ideal are quite difficult to make in practice.

Even so, we have examples of such comparative enterprises, such as Monty Marshall’s Polity IV project, and when we examine these data, the news is not particularly good for the Muslim world. Islamic states are disproportionately classified as autocracies, if they are not outright failed or occupied. What would it take to move toward a fourth wave of democratization in the Muslim world and what will Democracy look like there once we find it?

For historical and political reasons, much of this conversation must take place in dialogue with the United States, even though most Americans are not in a good position to engage the necessarily syncretic process through which to reach a rapprochement between Western models and Islamic ideals. In order to contribute to that process, I have asked a few of our local Muslim scholars to react to the question: Is there such a thing as a specifically Islamic Democracy, and how does this compare to the seemingly secular forms that are recognized in the West (if indeed these models can be thought of without reference to their origins in a Christian context)?

To anchor the conversation and to make it more explicit, I have asked Saira Yamin, a Pakistani scholar and advanced graduate student at ICAR, to answer in the context of an excerpt I came across on Meet the Press in which the new dictator Zia-ul-Haq introduced the concept of Islamic Democracy to an unsuspecting American audience Read the rest of this entry »

‘Muslims’, ‘Islamists’, and ‘Islamics’: The Dilemma of ‘Sacred’ Interpretation

In Guest Blogger, Intellectual History on May 21, 2010 at 2:23 pm


Here is a belated (on my part) post form our own Mohammed Cherkaoui, who returns to Confrontations with another fascinating piece on an important Arab thinker, this one more recently departed. Mohammed’s object in this essay is the  Mohamed Abed Al-jabri who passed away earlier this month. In Mohammed’s care, we see Al-Jabri as a careful and forward looking thinker who recognized the inherent dangers that come with a modernizing Islam, but who tried to forge a path toward a coherent future.

There is surely much for you to debate in Cherkaoui’s argument and his use of evocative phrases like “Salafists with liberal tendencies” and “a scientific critique of Arab reason by renouncing the traditional understanding of tradition” should get you thinking and curious about this intriguing figure that Mohammed introduces to us here.

From my vantage at Confrontations, I see this as a great moment to think about how the imagery of the “West against the Rest”can be set aside for support for engagement with the indigenous development of alternative modernities around the world. If Mohammed is right, then we should use the occasion of Al-Jabri’s passing to explore his answers to the questions that we all face.

While mourning the death of the Moroccan philosopher Mohamed Abed Al-jabri (May 3, 2010), one commentator said the loss of Al-jabri was also a “farewell to the reason and the philosophy of religions”, in recognition of his advocacy of innovative and modern thinking. Read the rest of this entry »

Conflict Resolution à la Asabiyyah: Ibn Khaldun is back

In Guest Blogger, Intellectual History on April 15, 2010 at 9:14 am

This is a special day here at Confrontations. We have the first example of a guest contributor who is using this platform to publish scholarly ideas from his own research about conflict. Today, Mohammed Cherkaoui has provided us with a précis of his exciting arguments about a social science concept that is sorely overlooked in our Europhile culture from the great historian and philosopher Ibn Khaldun. The concept, Asabiyyah, is not what one would call forgotten, but it has certainly been underexploited given our current fascination with identity formation and ethnic conflict. What excites me about the idea is that it has a vector quality–it goes somewhere–and as Richard Rubenstein has said, it helps us to understand how identities bring people together rather than simply tear them apart. Before we become starry eyed with the idea, we should remember that Ibn Khaldun was prompted in his efforts to understand the era of the Arab Conquests, which were anything but peaceful. Even still, it is exciting to place this classic idea back in play where it belongs. If one can cite Plato, Hobbes and Rousseau in one’s work, why not Ibn Khaldun? Let this serve as an invitation offered to us by soon to be Doctor Cherkaoui.

What drives social change toward conflict? This is probably the main challenge in addressing what nurtures intra-state conflicts, and why sub-groups rebel Read the rest of this entry »

Suicide as Confrontation: Inside the Telangana statehood movement

In Guest Blogger on April 2, 2010 at 11:35 am

Here is the first in a future series of guest blogs from members of the Confrontations community. The post was written by a student of mine, Tejaswini Madabhushi, who has personal experience with the region in which a recent and arresting New York Times article on student suicide in the cause of Intra-national statehood in India was set. She has graciously agreed to share her thoughts with the Confrontations audience to give us a brief look into the context where such fascinating political behavior is taking place.

This article in New York times points out an important issue in India and specially in Telangana. I agree with Sudhir Kakar’s analysis that youth look at suicide as a process of finding meaning. But there are surely more socio- cultural reasons that could be provided in the analysis behind this trend.

The demand for a separate state for Telangana has been active for past 50 years from all sections primarily for the lack of economic development and political representation in the area. More recently, the onus of the movement has shifted from a broad base to Osmania students—who have been participating in large numbers in the protests to make their voice heard. The major political parties have  repeatedly campaigned on the promise to carve out a new state for Telangana Read the rest of this entry »