Near & Middle East
Qutb's Communism

Qutb’s Communism

For all his shortcomings, I find Sayyid Qutb to be treated somewhat unfairly. This was probably inevitable. After all, Qutb’s prison writings as a disenchanted member of the Muslim Brotherhood helped inspire two of the region’s most fear-inducing ideologies: Islamism, and Salafi jihadism. More»

Muhammad the Anti-Capitalist

Muhammad the Anti-Capitalist

Would the Prophet Muhammad have been anti-capitalist?  Obviously, we cannot know. The Prophet’s experiences with mystical poetry, called “Revelation” by believing Muslims, are firmly grounded in their historical setting. They cannot offer direct insight on capitalism any more than they can provide a critique of Italian Futurism More»

Imperial Disappointments

Imperial Disappointments

Noam Chomsky, the celebrated academic and political commentator, is perhaps the most famous left-wing public intellectual alive. Since rising to widespread prominence as a fierce critic of the Vietnam War, he has developed into something of an American Solzhenitsyn: a dissident bitterly denounced at home, but admired internationally (thankfully without the gulags.) More»

Scarlet Jihad

Scarlet Jihad

Jihad is not just an obsession in my country of Pakistan. The entire region has become enamoured with the idea, even as it rejects Salafi jihadist groups such as Al-Qaida and the Taliban. It is not because of a debate between liberalism and conservatism, or whether or not Islam is compatible with Enlightenment values. It is because for many Muslims, Islamism is the new post-Soviet Marxism.  More»

Towards Interstellar Islam

Towards Interstellar Islam

What will Islam look like in five billion years? It is our responsibility as Muslims to find an answer. Readers may scoff at the inquiry as childish, but if humanity really does survive that long (and what’s the point if we assume that it won’t?) then we have to grapple with the question of how our faith will look in the distant future.   More»

Ratchet Islam

Ratchet Islam

The term ratchet, which comes to us from African-American Vernacular English, is obviously derogatory. It’s several kinds of derogatory though: being called a ratchet is an insult to class, status, and racial standing. The word is an indictment of the coarseness that supposedly defines plebeiean femininity in America. More»

Marxism and Shi'ism

Marxism and Shi’ism

Ali Shariati was one of the most important Muslim intellectuals of the 20th century. It’s impossible to discuss left-wing formulations of Islam without him, as well as revolutionary Islamism more broadly. As a sociologist of religion, Shariati grappled with many important issues facing social transformation in the Muslim world. More»

Red Islam

Red Islam

For decades, there have been calls for a Protestant Reformation in the Muslim world. There’s something to it. Unfortunately, most press for a vaguely defined liberal secularism against an equally unclear Islamic backwardness. This can be particularly sinister when Muslims do it, since it contributes to a senseless dichotomy between secular elites and religious extremists that paralyzes the Islamic world. More»

Leaving Yemen

Leaving Yemen

The world ended on December 27th. Or so it seemed. My visa sponsor at Yemen College of Middle Eastern Studies sat me down and told me that I had to leave the country by the end of the weekend. Defeated, I began packing my belongings, and walked around Sana’a with the knowledge that I may never see it again. I arrived in Berlin on New Year’s Day. More»

Learning From Syria

Learning From Syria

76 people had been killed during a Syrian assault on Aleppo. 28 of the casualties were said to be children. Despite the high death toll, I was pessimistic that the West would take notice. “It seems few care about Syrian lives, unless they’re killed by a chemical weapon,” I angrily tweeted. My despair reflected a decline in public interest in Syria’s civil war. Yes, the attack made the news, but it elicited no outcry. More»

Do the Rabia

Do the Rabia

Never mind the quenelle. There’s a new hand sign in Egypt. The Rabia, as it is called, consists of holding up four fingers, with the thumb tucked in, as a protest against military rule. The gesture is Islamist, and refers to the massacre of supporters of deposed president Morsi, which took place in Cairo’s Rabia al-Adawiya Square on August 14th, 2013. More»

Hadramawt Rising

Hadramawt Rising

We’re a week into a major tribal war in Yemen’s Hadramawt province. Since there has been a media blackout in the area, and even Yemeni journalists are not being allowed in, core facts about the uprising remain unknown. What we do know is that there is a powerful new tribal confederation, the Hadramawt Tribes Alliance, which has led large rallies and armed clashes throughout the province. More»