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Muslim Minorities and Citizenship: Authority, Communities and Islamic Law

In her comparative study, Ghoncheh Tazmini investigates the Russian revolution of 1917 and the 1979 Iranian revolution to identify patterns of continuity and change, including attempts at reform. At first, both revolutions might appear entirely different. In Russia, the Tsarist monarchy was replaced by socialism, whereas in Iran political Islam prevailed. However, Tazmini convincingly shows that both revolutions had related roots: the people’s opposition to Western-inspired, autocratically enforced modernization that was endorsed by the Russian Tsars and Iranian Shahs. Moreover, in Vladimir Putin and Mohammad Khatami, she argues, both countries saw reformers with a similar outlook. By adopting beneficial Western practices without ‘Westernizing’ their countries, Putin and Khatami overcame the “antinomies of the past.” 

 

It was autumn 1990 and Saddam Hussein had occupied Kuwait and taken western hostages, whom he called guests, to prevent retaliation. It was a stalemate, the allies could not free Kuwait due to the hostages in Iraq and Hussein refused to withdraw his troops. Then one of our professors wrote an article in the local newspaper, where he compared Hussein’s tactic to the Battle of the Ditch (al-Khandaq) in 627 AD. The Muslims dug a ditch around Medina that prevented the enemies from entering the town. This battle reinforced the strength that the Muslims had lost at Uhud in 625 AD, when the Meccan army and their Bedouin allies were demoralized and their alliance dissolved. This ‘theologicentered’ interpretation of contemporary happenings in the Muslim world was typical at the time. In most western universities, ‘Islamic Studies’ was a tiny part of the much bigger subject of ‘Religious Studies.’ Professors in the field were mainly Protestant Theologians who tended to regard Muslim contemporary actions and behavior in terms of Islamic sources, history, and theology.

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