ASMEA 2008 Conference Paper Summaries

ASMEA is pleased to announce that several of the papers presented at our inaugural conference have been published by Praeger Security International in a collected volume entitled, Political Islam from Muhammad to Ahmadinejad: Defenders, Detractors, and Definitions.  The book compiles papers presented at ASMEA’s conference along with new research by the Association’s scholars.  The papers—presented by a diverse array of academics and policy analysts—focus on the profound Islamic influence in these regions and include analysis of: theological and practical traditions of Islamic politics and culture; the meaning of war in Islam; Jihad and terrorism in Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Tunisia and Somalia; the concept of feminism in Islam and the Middle East; and the practice of martyrdom in Palestinian culture, among others.

Below you will find a complete listing of the papers presented at ASMEA’s 2008 conference.

Panel #1
Islamic Politics, Philosophy and Culture: Theological and Practical Traditions


The Tribal Foundations of Middle Eastern Islamic Culture

Dr. Philip Carl Salzman, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology at McGill University in Montreal, QC
Summary: By analyzing the tribal framework as the cultural foundation upon which Islam was built, Dr. Salzman compares how honor and reward are provided for attacking and overcoming opposition in both the tribal system and the umma.

Why did Muhammad Attack the Byzantines? A Re-examination of Quran sura 30:1-2

Dr. David Cook, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University in Texas
Summary: Dr. Cook examines early Muslim attitudes towards Christianity, the Byzantines and the cross in light of Quran 30:1-2.

Hermeneutics and Human Rights: Liberal Democracy, Islam and Catholicism

Dr. Edward Barrett, Ph.D., Research Fellow at the United States Naval Academy
Summary: After exploring Islamic and Catholic responses to liberal democracy, Dr. Barrett’s paper concludes that Catholicism’s nuanced pro-liberal shift allowed Catholics to reconcile their traditions with liberal democracy, whereas Islamic liberals efforts have been hindered by interpretation-limiting theological notions.

The Agreement of Divine Law and Philosophy in Averroes’ The Book of the Decisive Treatise

Terence J. Kleven, Ph.D.,Professor of Religion at Central College in Iowa
Summary: Through a careful exposition of The Book of the Decisive Treatise, Dr. Kleven asserts that the writings and teachings of Ibn Rushd (Averroes) could provide a key source for intellectual revival in the Islamic world.



Panel #2
Religious Obligation, Political Expression, or Post-Modern Development: The New Jihad


The Origins and Roots of Islamists’ Political Concepts

Mr. Sherko Kirmanj, Doctorial candidate at the University of South Australia’s School of International Studies
Summary: In this paper, Mr. Kirmanj asserts that Islam is not, by nature, a political religion, but it was politicized over time and he examines the concepts Islamists have used as a basis for politicizing their Faith.

War and Peace: Negotiating Meaning in Islam

Dr. Robert Barnidge, Ph.D., Lecturer at the University of Reading School of Law
Summary: Dr. Barnidge’s paper seeks to provide a framework for negotiating meaning in Islam on issues of war and peace, and for understanding whether violence is inherent in the religion itself or if the teachings being misused by militants to justify their actions.

Gen. S.K. Malik’s The Quranic Concept of War and Today’s Jihadism

LTC Joe Meyers, Doctorial Candidate at Auburn University in Alabama
Summary: LTC Meyers analyzes the writings of late Pakistani Army Gen. S.K. Malik and finds they suggest that Quranic military doctrine is actually a divinely revealed theory. Ergo, strategic comprehension of the military efforts of the Jihadists who rely on the Quran for their future vision of the world is critical.



Panel #3
Current Trends in the Middle East and Africa: Regional Case Studies


Legal Terrorism in the Name of Islamic Justice: The Case of Iran

Dr. Hamid Kusha, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at East Carolina University in North Carolina & Dr. Mark Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Criminal Justice at East Carolina University in North Carolina
Summary: In this paper, Drs. Kusha & Jones explore the use of the justice system in Iran to enforce the will of the state through state terror.

Reading Tehran in Washington: The Problems of Defining the Fundamentalist Regime in Iran and Prospects for Political Change
Dr. Ofira Seliktar, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science at Gratz College and Adjunct Professor at Temple University in Pennsylvania.
Summary: Dr. Seliktar applies Weber’s concept of legitimacy to the regime in Tehran to argue that the Iranian clerics have evolved a unique hybrid political system that borrows from European elements and is highly resistant to political change.

Jihadist Approaches to Jurisprudence Viewed Through the Lens of the Egyptian “Revisions” Movement

Mr. Daniel Lav, graduate student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the field of Islamic and Middle East Studies and Director of the Middle East and North Africa Reform Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Summary: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Jihad organization both renounced jihad against the regime but both were the source of current global jihad ideology and Al-Qaeda. Mr. Lav’s paper studies the two organizations’ “revisions” made public in statements in Arabic.



Panel #4
Current Trends in the Middle East and Africa: Regional Case Studies


Al-Qaida’s Greatest Defeat: Uncovering Algeria’s Civil War

Dr. John Schindler, Ph.D., Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College
Summary: Al Qaeda has been in Algeria since the early 1990s and merged with local jihadis to overthrow the military government in the Algerian civil war resulting in 200,000 dead and the defeat of al-Qaeda. In Dr. Schindler’s paper, he analyzes how the Algerian military achieved such a decisive.

The Modern Impact of Mahdism and the Case of Iraq

Dr. Timothy Furnish, Ph.D.
Summary: Messianic movements have presented problems for rulers throughout history and continue to today in Iraq. Dr. Furnish compares the current crop of Mahdi movements (Islamic belief in a global caliph) in Iraq to Mahdi movements that have taken place throughout history in occupied Muslim-majority nations.

Mad Mullahs and the Pax Britannica: Islam as a Factor in Somali Resistance to British Colonial Rule

Dr. George L. Simpson, Professor of History at High Point University in North Carolina
Summary: Dr. Simpson examines Somali resistance movements to British colonialism between 1900-1920, focusing on two jihads in particular, in an effort to gain a broader understanding of how indigenous and sociological factors can provide a barrier to the transmission of radical strains of Islam.



Panel #5
Mediating and Other Influences in Societies Influenced by Islam


Mitigating the e-Jihad: Engaging the Umma through Global Communications and Multiple Nationalisms

Dr. Liora Lukitz, Ph.D., Visiting Professor at the Lipinski Institute at San Diego State University in California
Summary: Dr. Lukitz examines how technology is creating a virtual umma and reshaping old concepts such as nationalism, ethnicity and religion in the Middle East. Her paper centers on the need to use new communication in appeasing tribal, ethnic, sectarian conflicts and examine how the access to information could channel a constructive national discourse that would ‘contain diversity’ and promote the idea of modern citizenship.

Economic Justice in the Middle East: A Bad Idea, Badly Done

Dr. Patrick Clawson, Ph.D., Deputy Director for Research at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington, D.C.
Summary: Political Islamists have resurrected the old socialist ways in the pursuit of “justice.” In his paper, Mr. Clawson argues that such Nasser-style economics only slows down economic expansion in a region that should be well-placed for rapid growth.

Islamic Feminism: Influence and Political Constraints

Ms. Sara-Jane Chehab, Doctorial candidate and Instructor at the University of Delaware
Summary: Ms. Chehab’s paper examines the role and limitation of Islamic feminism as an engine of modernity and change in the Muslim world stating that the movement has paid little attention to the political arena despite success elsewhere including women’s rights within the context of the family. Her paper assesses the writings of many Islamic feminists and critiques the movement in its effort to de-legitimize the Islamic religious interpretations that have been used to keep them in second class status.

From Malika al-Fassi to Nadya Yassin and Maggui Cacoun: Moroccan Women and Political Change

Ms. Dalit Atrakchi, Doctorial candidate at Bar Ilan University in Israel
Summary: The last 20 years have seen a big change in terms of women’s rights and political involvement in Morocco including more political participation, and modification of the code of family law. Ms. Atrakchi’s paper aims to show that, in reality, women in Morocco were working towards this goal within the educational and family spheres long before the latest developments in favor of women’s rights. Her paper highlights the efforts of several Moroccan women who helped usher in this later period of liberalization.



Panel #6
Current Trends in the Middle East and Africa: Regional Case Studies


The Palestinian Culture of Martyrdom and Shahid: Providing the Model for 21st Century Islamist Terrorism

Mr. Benjamin Acosta, Master of Arts degrees in National Security Studies from California State University-San Bernardino in California and in Middle East Studies from Ben-Gurion University in Israel.
Summary: Mr. Acosta’s paper contends that modern suicide terrorism in the Sunni world is derived from the Palestinian terror movements’ example and was transformed by al-Qaeda, into a part of a global, Sunni culture, inspiring more Sunnis to carry out such acts.

Jihad as a Progressive Concept: The Case of the Tunisian Islamic Movement “Al-Nahda”

Ms. Maryam Ben Salem, Doctorial candidate at the Sorbonne in France
Summary: Founded in 1970, the Movement of the Islamic Tendency in Tunisia was Islamic fundamentalist group with little political activity. In 1979, the group was inspired by the Iranian Revolution and became violent until it was crushed in the early 1990s. Through interviews with several active members of the Movement (later renamed al-Nahda), Ms. Ben Salem’s study seeks to determine how these individuals were recruited, acquired politico-religious military skills and how they survived repression.