ICS Newsletter - Spring 2015
islamic civilization and societies
George Washington University
Dorothy Ohl (BC ’09) recently returned from dissertation fieldwork in Jordan, where she will be returning in January. Her research seeks to explain variations in soldiers’ responses to domestic unrest, focusing on events in Jordan (1970), Iraq (1991), and Syria (2011). As an ICS and Political Science major at BC, she studied abroad in Egypt and Kuwait. After graduation, Dorothy continued studying Arabic in Jordan and conducted research on a Fulbright grant to Oman.
The distance from Irbid, Jordan to Daraa, Syria is less than 16 miles as the crow flies. It’s not surprising, then, that many of my interviews this summer with Syrian military defectors took place in this northern Jordanian city—which now hosts 143,009 Syrian refugees.
Stepping off the bus in Irbid for the first time, I had two mobile phone numbers and no interviews set up. I figured I would contact my two Syrian civil society leads and see if those conversations got me closer to finding men who had left their military service since the start of the uprising (now civil war) in 2011. My dissertation research is about how soldiers’ interests and constraints vary when a domestic crisis hits, and how that leads some soldiers to defect and others to remain loyal to the regime amid the crisis.
After a quick phone call, I was in a taxi heading to a Syrian-run human rights center. For more than an hour, I sat listening to the director describe the center’s activities—in beautiful fusha. My delight at understanding his every Modern Standard Arabic word, however, was crushed beneath the sobering banality of death and destruction his stories imparted. The center works to catalogue, investigate, and verify civilian causalities (martyrs, shuhada') in Syria, and our conversation frequently paused as women stopped into this one-room office, sat on the daybed, described their situation, and made a plan for returning to seek the center’s support. And, oh, yes, he also took time out of his day to refer me to a few military defectors who would be willing to describe their experience within Syria and during the defection process.
The next weekend I was back in Irbid, sitting on plastic patio chairs and drinking sweet tea with a former colonel. We had discussed his life in Syria, his experience in the military, the decision to defect, and his route out of the country. And then he said, in so many words: I had so many ambitions. I imagined my sons completing college and my daughters getting married. I imagined I would retire and maybe move to Europe, where I would have a garden with birds and the family would sit and drink coffee. Where did these ambitions go? Away goes the house. Away goes the garden. And nothing remains. I defected and they destroyed my home.
A few hours later and I was sitting in another defector's apartment. Legs crossed on the diwan cushions, I asked my next interviewee what I always ask these former soldiers first, simply: “How did you get here?” He told me his story, mixed with ingredients I had come to learn pepper most defectors’ experiences—injury, checkpoints, arrests, time in jail, a lucky break, and a final decision to leave. And then we shared a typical Syrian meal off dishes served on a living room floor mat.
I returned to Amman and continued my defector sessions. It was Ramadan, so 9pm was a typical interview start time. Chain smokers, energy drink and Mountain Dew consumers, informal sector workers, people who put the television and radio on when talking to tune out any listeners, men who unfolded maps of Syria and starred key positions in today’s civil war—these were my interview subjects.
This is the picture of a young academic embarking on dissertation research. After an ICS senior thesis, a Fulbright project, and the seeds of doctoral work, I've realized that life as an academic is closer to investigative journalism than anything else. Academic researchers thrive when tracking down new data to test and push back against our conventional wisdom. Doctoral programs give you the time and resources to elevate your skills—foreign language, statistical analysis, qualitative methods—to be a one-woman research show. Beyond the journalism parallel, political science academics also strive to connect what we witness in one place to what happens in another—as my own work compares the conditions of defection in Syria (2011) to those in Iraq (1991) and Jordan (1970). We enjoy interviewing the former Syrian special forces officer in Irbid, but what really fascinates us is how this sheds light on military decision-making in a broader set of domestic unrest cases.
In particular, my recent fieldwork dispelled three myths about academia that I myself—the self-identified perpetual student—had unwittingly bought into.
Myth #1: Academia means long hours in the library.
I love libraries (though, sigh, GWU’s Gelman Library ain’t got nothin’ on Bapst). And I logged many library hours completing my coursework, studying for comprehensive exams, and preparing my dissertation proposal. But the best academics are arguably those who get out into their field—whether that means traveling to Jordan, diving into Baath-era Iraq archives, or collecting survey data on U.S. public opinion of the Middle East. The most dynamic academics are known for their work outside the library. At BC, my strongest memories of professors were their activities outside of the books: my BC trip to Kuwait with Profs. Bailey and Deese, and memorable classroom seminars with Profs. Salameh and Banuazizi, to name just a few. Academia means long hours in the library, but much more.
Myth #2: You only succeed in academia when you focus on the esoteric.
The popular portrayal of an academic is not just a scholar holed up in a library, but one studying arcane phenomena. Since entering my PhD program, however, I’ve found that the research actually affecting the political science field is connected to big, eternal disciplinary questions: When should we expect regime change? Why does the quality of democratic governance vary? What are the effects of economic development? And so on. While our research questions are targeted, they speak to these broader themes of importance to the political science field.
Myth #3: If you want to have “impact,” back away from the Ivory Tower.
Which relates to the third myth: That academics speak to one another and publish manuscripts that are very good at populating libraries and collecting dust. From what I have seen, political scientists and especially Middle East academics have meaningful impact along multiple avenues. In my work, first as a teaching assistant and now as an instructor at GWU, I've mentored students as they refine their ability to think critically about the world around them. In addition, I’ve developed a research interest with direct relevance to U.S. foreign policy and political development in the Middle East. More advanced scholars routinely testify at Congressional hearings as subject-matter experts, write policy briefs for a decision-making audience, and publish analytical blog posts in outlets such as the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage. Impact relates to your interests, expertise, and communication abilities—not your career field.
I head back to Jordan this January for more tea, advanced Arabic electives, and insight into military decision-making in and outside the Middle East. In two years or so, I’ll have something in writing. Until then!
Tucked between the vast and unrelentingly barren Arabian Desert and the coast of the Persian Gulf, the once small local shipping port of Dubai has burgeoned into a conspicuous glittering cluster of the world’s nicest hotels, most expensive restaurants, and tallest buildings. Emiratis, who now constitute only nine percent of the UAE’s total population, appear to show little desire to confront the Western culture that has swept through Dubai since its development took off in the 1980s. Since then, Dubai has become a business center and a luxury playground of sorts for tourists. Moreover, the developing Emirate is clearly trying to draw the international community’s attention to its growing universities and its potential as a center for academic prestige.
The Dubai Women’s College (DWC) is a leader in these attempts. The DWC, part of the Higher Colleges of Technology-Dubai, hosts an annual conference for aspiring female leaders called Insight Dubai. The conference’s main objective is to bring together women from a wide array of countries to discuss pressing world issues. During its 2007 inaugural conference, the DWC invited local leaders to share their specific industry expertise in an effort to empower female college students. In addition to hosting these leaders, the six-day conference launched four “UN Simulations” meant to challenge its attendees to act on the discussions in which they were engaged.
In the seven years since its conception, the Insight Dubai conference has evolved. It still attracts a diverse group of speakers and lecturers, but now focuses less on the topic of empowering women and more on providing the skills women need to empower themselves; these include leadership qualities, strategic planning, and problem-solving.
Narintohn Luangrath (A&S ‘14) and I have had the opportunity to attend the conference; she went in 2013, and I attended in 2014. Narintohn noted that the conference gave her “the privilege of listening to speakers from diverse occupational backgrounds discussing topical issues concerning women’s leadership in government and non-governmental organizations in the Middle East, and human trafficking into the Gulf States.” Through discussions on these unique topics, professionals from around the world allow an equally international group of women to “develop a greater appreciation and more nuanced understanding” of politics in the region.
The most recent Insight Dubai conference covered a variety of topics. In one session, we focused on “Governance in the UAE,” visiting the Emirati Parliament in Abu Dhabi and listening to lectures from politically appointed Emirati officials. In another, we launched discussions on human trafficking, spending time engaging Emirati, American, Palestinian, Italian, Indian, Kazakh, and Mexican women (among other nationalities) on the issue. My team discussed possible policy resolutions to organ trafficking. It was refreshing to hear the perspectives of participants from China, Poland, Italy, Afghanistan, and other Arabian Gulf countries.
Every day we heard from a variety of female leaders; there were CEOs of media companies, novelists, politicians, and leaders in the hospitality industry and banking industry. When I tell people about the spectrum of topics we discussed, many say something along the lines of “this conference seems un-focused.” But what few realize is that while the subjects we discussed at the conference vary, the underlying theme was the same: enabling and empowering women through constructive opportunities to address problems in a variety of industries. Insight Dubai is distinct from the average conference because it stresses the idea of doing something about a problem beyond simply talking about it.
Insight Dubai’s real selling point is its ability to build a truly cohesive network among its participants. Half of the conference’s attendees are business majors in the DWC. These are Emirati women who are looking to carve their careers out of their blossoming emirate’s surge in business growth. In fact, conference organizers assign “buddies” to Emirati students to forge inter-cultural bonds. Eager to befriend international women, the DWC students engage willingly with visitors from outside the UAE.
During my experience, I became close friends with my “buddy,” Noora. By my third day in Dubai, she had already invited me to her family’s home to celebrate her cousin’s birthday. During my free time in Dubai, I found myself spending more time with Emirati locals than with any of the American participants. This was my second time visiting Dubai, but this experience felt so drastically different from my first. I “lived like the locals,” engaged in traditional customs, and was welcomed into the home of an Emirati family.
The conference offers an exceptional network but does have its drawbacks. The lack of financial aid available for conference travel and hotel expenses meant that the conference largely drew foreign students from affluent backgrounds. Although Narintohn was fortunate enough to have had her conference expenses covered by a generous grant from Boston College’s Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy, other students had to rely on their respective governments or universities for funding (which, upon discussion with other attendees, was often insufficient to cover all of the costs associated with attendance). Narintohn notes that dialogue on issues often impacting the most marginalized members of society – including human trafficking and restricted rights for certain minority groups – is undermined when the “cost of entry” for engaging in dialogue (in this case, attending the conference) is far too steep for the very people these issues pertain to the most. Ultimately, the conference is a good opportunity for elite, university-educated young women from around the world to engage in awareness-raising about a variety of problems facing the Gulf. However, unless that awareness is translated into efforts to combat the injustices discussed – both in the UAE and in participants’ home countries – the conference has little benefit outside of the Dubai Women’s College university environment.
Despite its drawbacks, there are few opportunities for collegiate women around the world to meet and discuss pressing global issues, and even fewer such opportunities in the Middle East. I am proud and lucky to have been part of a unique initiative that enables such a diverse group of women to discuss resolutions to real-world crises in an intensive and constructive environment. If Insight Dubai is an attempt by Dubai’s higher education system to promote itself as the next great academic center of the world, the conference is indeed among its most progressive efforts.
This article was written by Narintohn Luangrath (A&S 2014) and Diane Bernabei (A&S 2014).
Understanding the Islamic State by Analyzing its Gender Policies
The brutality and rapid advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, more commonly known as ISIL, has pushed this former al-Qaeda affiliated group into the highest levels of security discussions and struck fear into the hearts of the global community. ISIL straddles a curious line between traditional jihadist methods and state-building that invokes a generally mythical past. One moment the official ISIL Twitter accounts are showing videos of ruthless executions by its fighters; in another they are publicizing a children’s fair in al-Raqqa, the main ISIL hub in Syria. This September, the New York Times alleged that ISIL forces included at least 12,000 foreigners from over 50 countries, including many from the West.
While international recruitment is not new to al-Qaeda or its offshoots, the advanced and strategic use of communication and social services by ISIL illustrate an evolution in Islamist terror techniques. Notably, ISIL social media indicates intentional communication policies that target women, especially women from English-speaking countries. Umm Layth, who is active on blogs and Twitter, frequently posts pictures of her baked goods complete with hashtags typical of many young women on social media today. But Umm Layth is far from a typical British woman. She, along with a growing number of foreigners, has chosen to move to Syria and Iraq to become the wife of ISIL fighters.
Currently, I am working jointly with the United Nations and Columbia University on a project that monitors and analyzes women like Umm Layth. Reading through the Twitter conversations (most of their accounts have since been deleted or made private) shows an uncomfortable dichotomy and insight into the lives and opinions of radicalized women. In many instances, Umm Layth’s social media is not too far from my own – she writes about hanging out with friends and enjoys good food. Yet, interspersed between Instagramed photos of Nutella, Umm Layth and her friends reveal the deeply disturbing existence under ISIL rule. One woman tweeted "praise to God" after seeing a man being crucified in the town center. Another expressed her hope that her husband would become a martyr because of the high honor. Reconciling this gap between the typical 20-something and the budding terrorist is the topic of significant study and concern today. In fact, during the United Nations General Assembly this past September, the Security Council passed a bill sponsored by President Obama to curb the recruitment and travel of foreign fighters seeking to engage with terrorist groups.
However, because women recruited from the West are only a tiny fraction of the women living in ISIL territory, ISIL gender policies expand far beyond recruitment in social media. In late July, ISIL announced the opening of their Marriage Bureau in the Syrian province of Aleppo. The Bureau is tasked with attracting women, either single or widowed, from the surrounding areas to marry ISIL fighters. Eligible women submit applications and then the Bureau matches them accordingly. Once the couple is married, they are able to honeymoon on the ISIL-sanctioned bus tour. This tour is complete with ISIL-inspired music and stops at ancient Sunni shrines in the ISIL-controlled territories.
ISIL policies like the Marriage Bureau reflect the state-building mentality of ISIL’s leadership and policy formation. They do not only want fighters; they want families and, consequently, need to provide incentives for families to move and remain in the Caliphate. A popular jihadist website dedicates an entire section, "Kalifah Today," to reporting on the social services provided by ISIL. One article discussed the construction of a new retirement home complete with smiling elderly couples. Another article wrote about the recent refrigerator and food distribution to the poor and widows in a small ISIL town. In order to pay for these social services, ISIL allegedly levies taxes, or zakat, on its "citizens" with an extra tax on the Christians who remain. ISIL’s English-language magazine, Dabiq, highlights these social services and includes descriptions for the future plans of ISIL rule.
Of course, the social media that discusses the flourishing bureaucracy and incentives for joining ISIL is dripping with propaganda. There is no way, as of now, for me to verify the success of the honeymoon bus tours or refrigerator distribution without stepping into murky water. Although unverified, this information offers vital insight into why people join ISIL, as well as how ISIL understands itself.
While I do believe that women like Umm Layth choose to see ISIL as a legitimate government providing services for the needy, underground groups and those fleeing ISIL control paint an alternative picture. In early August, ISIL forces flooded the Yazidi towns in Northern Iraq, systematically slaughtering the men and kidnapping the girls and young women. These women were taken to abandoned prisons and hotels to be forcefully converted to Islam and kept as "comfort women." In an interview, a defected ISIL fighter explained that ISIL leaders encourage and pressure lower-level fighters to rape and forcibly marry the Yazidis, claiming it as God’s will. He claimed that girls as young as 12 years old are forced into marriages, sometimes temporarily, with ISIL fighters. However, these non-Sunni kidnapped women and girls are only meant for the lower-level fighters, while the emirs, or ISIL leaders, claim the willingly recruited women like Umm Layth.
This "marriage" hierarchy needs much deeper analysis. How will the Yazidi women be integrated into ISIL’s state-building narrative, and how will they interact with the willingly recruited wives? Already, there are reports that the willingly recruited women are managing brothels as well as the trafficking of the Yazidi women and girls. ISIL fighters intentionally provide cell phones to their young wives; the husbands want them to tell the world about their lives under ISIL rule.
By analyzing the ISIL gender policies, you can begin to understand ISIL’s strategy on a macro-scale. They are not the underground, stealth groups that use the element of surprise to terrorize. Rather, they want the world to know about their successes, their brutality, and their strategies for the future. They want their Western wives to post on Reddit and Instagram. They want the Yazidi girls to tell their living nightmare to the world. They distribute a well-designed English-language magazine explaining their policies and goals. In fact, in 2007, ISIL’s former namesake, al-Qaeda of Iraq, published a book detailing the theories and strategy behind the creation of an Islamic State. This book is not too far from what we see today.
Yet, with all the information available, we as an international community have not been able to rescue the Yazidi girls and women, or put an end to international recruitment. I hope the airstrikes in Syria and Iraq by the U.S. and its coalition will lead to a more durable peace in two countries that have known conflict for too long. However, purely military tactics will not be enough. The ideology will not go away with drone strikes. Countering the ideology of violent extremism needs to be addressed with the same complexity and innovation that ISIL uses to recruit and radicalize. By exploring the gender policies of ISIL, we can better understand the various strategies used to both terrorize and state-build. In doing so, we can more effectively counter the ideology and end violent extremism.
Brooke Braswell is an alumna of Boston College and currently a Master of International Affairs candidate at Columbia University’s School of International Affairs. She works with the United Nations Office on Sexual Violence in Conflict and studies issues of gender in conflict in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Softball's Cooley Spends Month Studying in Kuwait
The sophomore outfielder used her "culture shock" to learn about a new culture and region
Rising sophomore Megan Cooley took time out of her summer to study abroad in Kuwait. She describes her four-week experience, as well as provides insight into another region of the world, below.
"Really?" My mother's face was full of confusion and worry as I told her for the first time that I was interested in studying abroad in the Gulf Region of the Middle East this summer. Despite her initial surprise, she and the rest of my family and friends became my biggest supporters as I set off on my newest adventure. With the help of the Boston College Athletics, I was fortunate enough to take a four-week summer abroad class entitled "Politics and Oil in the Gulf." The course was based in Kuwait City with side trips to Doha, Qatar and Dubai and was taught by distinguished Boston College political science professor Kathleen Bailey.
I had an amazing time; in fact, it was such a full and diverse class experience that I soon realized that the athletic department's request for a "short recap" would be more difficult than I had at first thought.
Our class liked to describe our experience in phases, which I have loosely classified below. First though, for those who are in the majority and unfamiliar with Kuwait, it is a small country in the Gulf Region that shares borders with the much larger Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Arabian Gulf. It is mainly flat and desert-like; it is the only country in the world with no naturally occurring bodies of water, and the temperature during the summer often exceeds 120 degrees. Sounds like a great place to vacation, right? In fact, Kuwaiti citizens are some of the most well off in the world - the country's immense oil wealth means that citizens are exempt from taxes and enjoy countless benefits. (Notably, expatriate workers, who make up two-thirds of the population, are excluded from these benefits.) Kuwait is also the only country in the Gulf that has a democratically elected parliament in addition to a constitutional monarchy. What this meant for those of us studying political science, international studies, and economics was throwing ourselves into a political, economic, and social system unlike any we had seen before.
Phase I: `Why are they dressed like that?'
Phase I can most accurately be described in one way: questions, and lots of them. What are they wearing? Where are we? Why is it so hot? Although most of us had studied the country and culture before, the use of the phrase "culture shock" would be an understatement. Not only do most people speak Arabic in addition to English, they also dress differently (many men don the traditional dishdasha and women the abaya) and live lifestyles that are completely dissimilar from the American norm. During our first week, we attended class at the American University of Kuwait (AUK) during the mornings and then filled the rest of the day with various activities exploring the culture of Kuwait and Kuwait City. We visited Souk Mubarakiya (the local market), the Grand Mosque, several international corporations, countless museums, Kuwait University, and we still had time to explore the area surrounding our hotel and make full use of the pool, café, and nearby waterfront. The Mosque in particular was incredible; the intricacy and grander of the entire compound was something I could not compare to anything I have seen. Yet, perhaps the most moving part of our visit was seeing one of our fellow students who is Muslim drop to his knees and pray to God next to our tour guide in one of the grandest places of worship in the world.
As beautiful as this moment was, I got a small taste of what it is like to be a woman in the Muslim world a few days later. Some of my male classmates and I were playing soccer on the public beach near our hotel when two young expatriates began to approach as if they wanted to join. I happened to score and when I looked again the young men had veered off in another direction. With my hair pulled back in a bun and wearing nothing but a t-shirt and shorts, I could have easily been mistaken for a boy from a distance. Seeing me score, one of my classmates pointed out, was probably not only off-putting but probably intimidating, and they most likely decided that they did not want to play when they realized I was present. This incident and my other observations throughout the trip actually inspired my research project, which will analyze the justice with which women in Kuwait and the other Gulf States are treated. I will turn in a full research paper on this topic by the end of this summer.
Phase II: All in the course of a weekend
Miraculously, we soon settled into a type of routine: Class or activities in the morning, a break in the afternoon where we would usually swim or work out (don't worry Coach, I was still getting better!), and then grab some lunch and do reading or research. My 20th birthday also happened to fall on the Sunday of our weekend trip to Doha, Qatar. It was a full day that began with a cross-cultural dialogue on Arab and Western perceptions at Qatar University. We then visited the Emir of Qatar's collections of horses and horse-racing facilities, tried on traditional Kuwaiti dresses made by a friend of Professor Bailey, and then met back up with some of the Qatar University students we had met earlier at their local souk before heading back to the hotel and celebrating. Although we only spent one night with them, I made the assessment that these girls were some of the nicest people I have ever met. We talked about school, boys, and their families, despite the differences in how we spoke and dressed. I would include a picture with them (we took several) but they requested that no pictures of them be put online or on social media.
The next weekend we travelled to Dubai, the trip that I had been most excited about. Following the trend of the entire trip, it was incredibly busy. We hit the Dubai Mall soon after stepping off the plane, visited the beach, drove on a safari through the Desert of Dubai, sandboarded, and visited Burj Khalifa, which is currently the tallest structure in the world (all in the course of a weekend). We also found time to take advantage of the great area near our hotel during the evening. It was during this downtime I was able to get to know all of the truly awesome people that were on this trip with me.
Phase III: Overdrive
When we returned from Dubai it was with the unwelcome realization that we only had one week left in this place that we had begun to call our home. Days turned into marathons, bucket lists came out, and phrases like "Last week = no sleep!" ruled the day. We were incredibly busy for most of the days and nights with planned events or our new Kuwaiti friends. We watched a session of Parliament, visited the Kuwait Stock Exchange, climbed Al Hambra Tower, and were invited to one of Professor Bailey's friend's beach shalet (beach house). Whatever breaks we had were spent on our research proposals that we turned in that Thursday. When the last couple days had arrived, it was noticeable that each experience and conversation became some of our last. Soon it was time to say "goodbye" and everyone took their separate flights home (mine was actually to Dublin, where I met up with my friend and continued traveling). Before we knew it, it was over.
When I was asked at the end of the trip what my biggest takeaway from the entire experience was, I couldn't exactly answer, but I think now I can. Of course I gained an appreciation for different cultures and an expanded perception of the world that I plan to bring back to BC. More than that, however, I was struck through countless personal conversations by the fact that people everywhere share so many of the same concerns and in many cases simply lack the education, means, or incentive to address those concerns. From disenchantment with the political system to dealing with sexuality, or even which filter to choose for Instagram, the human element is constant.
- Jessica Sobrino returned from Brookings Institution, Doha and is currently an M.A. student at SAIS, Johns Hopkins
- Ryan Folio is completing his Masters in Arab Studies and will attend Harvard Law School
- Brooke Braswell graduated from Columbia University and is now working for Foucier Consulting in Cairo, Egypt
- Frank Dimora is Senior Analyst, Extractive Industries at Development Alternatives Incorporated, an international development company
- Matt DiMaio and Ray Kim finished up their Fulbright year and are currently working and teaching in Jordan. They joined Professor Bailey and the Kuwait group in Dubai in June.
- Matt will be a Masters candidate at SOAS in the fall
- Ray will be a doctoral candidate in Theology at Boston College or Georgetown in the fall.
- Sandy Williams is Curatorial Fellow in the Art of the Middle East Department, Los Angeles Museum of Art
- Jeff Skowera is Project manager, GRDF Global, focusing on Department of Defense work for Iraqi and Afghani bio-scientists
- Jim Murphy is working at the State Department as Lebanon Desk Officer
- Kate Leuba is working for Development Alternative Institute, responsible for MENA/Afghanistan
- Michael Weston-Murphy (recently returned from his honeymoon) is MPA candidate and Lisa Goldberg Fellow, Wagner School of Public Service, NYU
- Christopher Maroshegyi (Fletcher School) received the Robert & Patricia Switzer Foundation Award, Natural Resources and International Environmental Policy
- Recipient of a major grant from the Boston College Institute for Liberal Arts to organize a conference on the Future of Afghanistan. The conference is scheduled for April 24, 2015, and will include panels on the themes of security; media and youth; women, health and education; regional issues. Conference proceedings will be published.
- Recipient of the OIP/McGillycuddy-Logue Center award for Outstanding Faculty Member, given to a faculty member who has exhibited deep and continued commitment to fostering global programming on campus.
- Editor-in-chief for Central Asia and Afghanistan, Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam.
- Two book manuscripts were completed during Summer 2014 and are presently under review at Cambridge University Press.
- Alfarabi and the Starting Point of Islamic Philosophy: A Study of the Kitab al-Jadal (Book of Dialectic)
- A super-commentary on Alfarabi's study of Aristotle's Topics, including first English translation of the entire Arabic text.
- An Introduction to Alfarabi's Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle
- First line-by-line commentary on Alfarabi's foundational philosophical text, with revisions to standard Mahdi (Cornell) translation based on new manuscript sources.
- Alfarabi and the Starting Point of Islamic Philosophy: A Study of the Kitab al-Jadal (Book of Dialectic)
- “Averroes: Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmed ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd.” Published in The Encyclopedia of Political Thought (ed. Michael T. Gibbons [Wiley-Blackwell]: 2014).
- “Averroes and the Politics of Health and Sickness in The Decisive Treatise.” Completed this summer and submitted toThe Review of Politics.
- “Charles Butterworth on the Political Significance of Averroes’ Rhetoric.” Manuscript completed this summer. To be included in forthcoming Festschrift in honor of Charles E. Butterworth.
- “The Place of Human Beings in Roger Bacon’s De multiplicatione specierum: A Chapter on the Optics of Latin Averroism.” Manuscript largely completed this summer; for spring 2015 submission.
- “The Structure of Success: How the Internal Distribution of Power Drives Armed Group Behavior and National Movement Effectiveness,” International Security, Vol. 38, No. 3 (Winter 2014), 72-116
- Podcast with MIT Press, www.mitpressjournals.org (January 17, 2014)
- “Power, Violence, and the Outcomes of National and Insurgent Movements,” blog post in Political Violence @ a Glance (March 5, 2014)
- “The ‘Price’ of Radical Flanks and the Conflict in Gaza,” with Ehud Eiran, Washington Post, Monkey Cage, July 11, 2014
- Research Fellow, International Security Program, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, 2014-2015
- “Syria and U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East,” The Chilton Club, September 2014
- “The Algerian National Movement: Struggling to Hegemony,” Northeast Middle East Politics Workshop, University of Vermont, April 2014
- “The Crisis in Syria: War, Politics, and Confusion,” Middle East and Islamic Studies Students Association, January 2014
Slavic & Eastern Languages and Literatures
- The Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa, October 30-November 1, 2014. The Beirut Jewish Community and Early Twentieth Century Lebanese Nationalism (based on a current book project examining the Jews of Lebanon).
Essays and Opinion Editorials
- “The Lebanese Prophecy,” al-Majalla, July 2014
- “Trampled in Abraham’s Dust; The Destruction of Near Eastern Christianity,” The Jerusalem Post, July 25, 2014
- “The Lights are Dimmer over Middle East Studies Tonight,”, The Jerusalem Post, June 25, 2014
- "How Arabic’s Three Dozen Dialects Help (And Hinder) Middle East Peace," the University of Oklahoma Public Radio, September 5, 2014
Visiting Professorships and Public Lectures/Workshops
- Istanbul, Uskudar University (TURKADD), May 29-31, 2015. International Symposium on the Teachings of Kenan Rifai. Public lecture: tba.
- San Francisco University, April 10-11, 2015. National Conference on Teaching of Islam at U.S. Jesuit Colleges and Universities. Public lecture: The Central Role of Study Abroad in Religious Studies: Possibilities and Challenges
- Sufi Cultural Festival, Abode of the Message, New Lebanon, NY, November 15-16, 2014. Public lecture and workshop: Meditation and Interreligious Understanding: Pir Vilayat’s Contributions.
- New York, Sufi Books, October 25, 2014. Public lecture and workshop: Dream, Sleepwalking and Awakenings: Ibn ‘Arabi on the Mysteries of Divine “Cinema” and Its Human Reflections.
- Visiting Professor, Gadjah Mada University, Jogjakarta, Indonesia, June-July 2014. Intensive semester graduate seminar in Center for Inter-Cultural and Inter-Faith Studies (CSRC) and ICRS: “The Challenges of Spiritual Learning, Communication, and Creativity in an Interfaith Perspective.”
- Iranian Cultural Institute, Sadra Philosophical Institute (Jakarta) and Gadjah Mada University (UGM), Yogyakarta, Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS), June 16, 2014. Colloquium on Eschatology and Contemporary Issues in the Christianity and Islam. Public Lecture: The “Rapture” and the “Second Coming”: Apocalypse and Messianism in American Religious Culture, 19th Century to the Present.
- National Islamic University (UIN) Sunan Kalijaga and American Institute for Indonesian Studies, Jogjakarta, Indonesia, June 19, 2014. Public Lecture and faculty seminar: "Rethinking the Interface between Islamic Learning and Society: Educating for Lifelong Creativity.”
- Muhammadiyya University and American Institute for Indonesian Studies, Jogjakarta, Indonesia, June 17, 2014. Public lecture and faculty seminar: “Religion and the Challenges of Globalization: Constructive Perspectives.”
- NYC, SUNY Global Center and Nour Foundation, January-May 2014. Bi-weekly Saturday seminar and workshop on our forthcoming translation of Ostad Elahi’s “Exposition of the Truth” (Burhān al-Haqq).
- Ankara, Turkey, Research Institute for the Philosophical Foundation of Disciplines, Second International Symposium on Rethinking the Qur’an, May 10-11, 2014. Public lecture: Toward a Collective Scientific Study Version of the Qur’an: Challenges of Cooperation and Translation.
- Bursa, Turkey, TURKADD (Women’s Sufi Organization) and Bursa Municipality, international conference on Hazrat-e Uftadeh, April 18-20, 2014. Public lecture: “Meeting Uftādeh: The Intertwined Mysteries of Walaya and Ziyara.”
- IBAFF (Ibn ‘Arabi Film Festival) and Ibn ‘Arabi Society-Latina, Murcia, Spain, March 4-7, 2014: “Ibn ‘Arabi-viaje y creacion/Symbol and Creative Imagination.” Public lecture: “Life is But a Dream”: Creation as Divine “Cinema” and the Shadow-Theater of Existence, from Plato to Ibn ‘Arabi. (Award ceremony for Tercuman Prize, for contributions to Akbari studies).
- New York, Cerrahi Sufi Cultural Center, February 15, 2014. Public lecture and workshop: Sohbet: Sharing, Intimacy and the Mysteries of Spiritual Realization.