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  • Author: Theresa Reidy
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In 2015, Ireland became the first country in the world to introduce same-sex marriage through a national referendum vote. The decision to introduce equal marriage received a great deal of attention, and not just because it was the first positive referendum decision on this issue; the vote was also preceded by a citizens’ assembly which recommended the referendum and endorsed a “yes” vote. The resounding victory for the liberal position provided definitive evidence of Ireland’s shift from a conservative, inward-looking European periphery state to a modern, liberal, and inclusive republic.
  • Topic: Religion, Culture, Domestic politics, LGBT+
  • Political Geography: Europe, Ireland, European Union
  • Author: Scott M. Thomas, Anthony O'Mahony
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: In February 2019, Pope Francis became the first pope to visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Like John-Paul II before him, he has also visited Egypt, and he went to Morocco in March 2019. The pope participated in a colloquium on “human fraternity” and interreligious dialogue sponsored by the UAE-based Muslim Council of Elders—the brain-child of Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the most important Sunni Muslim university in the world. The Council of Elders sponsors initiatives to engage young Muslims on Islamist ideology by promoting a more “authentic” interpretation of Islam. Islamist violence—with its beheadings and mass executions—has provoked disgust across the Muslim world and is causing young Muslims to become more distant from their imams and mosques. It is becoming clear to many Muslim intellectuals in Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon that, in order to defeat Islamism, there needs to be greater dialogue and coexistence with Christians. Pope Francis is attempting to lead the way, extending his “culture of encounter.”
  • Topic: Islam, Religion, Culture, Violence, Catholic Church
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, United Arab Emirates, Vatican city
  • Author: Mehdi Khalaji
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: The clergy’s ambitions for global Shia revolution made the city of Qom uniquely vulnerable to the disease, and their resistance to modern medical science weakened the state’s ability to combat its spread. On February 19, two days before the Iranian government officially announced the arrival of coronavirus, an infected businessman who had recently returned from China to Qom passed away. The location and timing of his death illustrate how the Shia holy city and the religious leaders and institutions who call it home have played an outsize role in the disease’s disproportionately rapid spread inside Iran compared to other countries. How did this situation come to pass, and what does it say about the current state of the clerical establishment, its relationship with the regime, and its alienation from large swaths of Iranian society? (Part 2 of this PolicyWatch discusses the regime's role in the outbreak and its resiliency to such crises.)
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Health, Religion, Shia, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Iran, Middle East, Global Focus, United States of America
  • Author: Michelle Nicholasen
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Centerpiece
  • Institution: Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Abstract: From civil strife in Syria to the war in Yemen to US-Iran tensions, Shi'a groups are emerging as major players on the geopolitical landscape. The 200 million Shi'as around the world comprise 15–20 percent of all Muslims, yet little is understood about their culture, historical legacy, and political dynamics. Shi’as are the majority sect in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain, and comprise substantial minority groups in Africa, South and Central Asia, and countries throughout the Middle East. Last fall, the Weatherhead Center launched the Project on Shi’ism and Global Affairs to support advanced research on the diverse manifestations of Shi’ism, and to encourage rigorous scholarship on the political dynamics of its role in the Middle East. The project supports scholarship that increases understanding of the intersection between religion and politics in Islam by engaging political scientists, historians, policy makers, religious leaders, and other specializations at the WCFIA. It was a busy first year, replete with talks on important events in Islamic history, the geopolitics of Iraq, the US-Iran confrontation, and more. The project launched the online platform Visions, which offers advanced commentary on all aspects of Shi’a thought, politics, and society. Additionally, project members have travelled to Baghdad and Erbil in Iraq for field work and academic conferences, as well as to the United Kingdom to present research and conduct outreach. Team members have also travelled to various cities across the United States to give presentations and interactive workshops—including to Muslim-American communities in Dearborn, Michigan (home to the largest Arab-American population in North America) and Orlando, Florida—on the topic of religious pluralism, youth activism, Islamic thought, and civil society. Directed by Payam Mohseni, lecturer at Harvard University, the project is funded in part by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. We asked Payam Mohseni and project chairs Melani Cammett and Ali Asani about the motivations behind the Project on Shi’ism and Global Affairs.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Civil War, Religion, Military Strategy, Political Activism, Domestic politics, Pluralism
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ladan Boroumand
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Democracy
  • Institution: National Endowment for Democracy
  • Abstract: The Islamic Republic of Iran is confronted with an unprecedented legitimacy crisis. This article, highlighting the heterodox character of Iran’s theocratic ideology, stresses the tectonic social and cultural changes that have resulted in society’s estrangement from the state over the past forty years in a reaction against this ideology. The nature and depth of these social and cultural changes point to a historic process that is taking Iran toward becoming the first Muslim-majority society to weave into its spiritual, social, and intellectual fabric the principled separation of religion and the state characteristic of the liberal-democratic worldview.
  • Topic: Religion, Culture, Democracy, Protests
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Aleksandre Kvakhadze
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: Since declaring its independence, the Georgian state has been struggling with the integration of its ethnic minorities. The regions densely populated by ethnic Azerbaijanis and Armenians have been passively involved in the social and political processes in Georgia. The combination of the legacy of Soviet ‘national policy,’ an ineffective educational system and socio-economic problems hinder the integration of these regions. This paper will be devoted to the Gardabani municipality, an administrative entity with a significant Azerbaijani population. Several factors have determined the choice of this region for this study. Firstly, geographically speaking, the region represents a suburban area of the cities of Tbilisi and Rustavi. It can be considered as a part of ‘greater Tbilisi/Rustavi’ or a ‘Tbilisi-Rustavi agglomeration.’ Secondly, despite its proximity to Georgia’s political and economic center, the Azerbaijani community in this region has been leading a parallel life and is disconnected from the country’s social and political dynamics. Simultaneously, very little is known about this region and very little research has been carried out on its multi-ethnic population. Unlike the neighboring Marneuli municipality, which has been receiving increasing attention from academia, the media and the non-governmental sector, the Azerbaijani population in Garbadani remains neglected by academic and non-governmental bodies. For instance, there is no comprehensive academic research on the linguistic, historical, ethnologic, social and religious parameters of Azerbaijanis in Gardabani. The absence of reliable works leads to myths and uncertainties regarding Georgia’s Azerbaijanis. Thirdly, the Gardabani municipality has been an artificially fabricated landmass with at least two culturally and geographically unrelated regions which leads to the lack of interaction between the ethnic Georgian and the Azerbaijani population. Nevertheless, the Gardabani municipality has a significant potential due its strategic geographic location. Several strategic pipelines and the Georgian railway cross the region. In addition to infrastructural and economic development, using the potential of human resources is crucial in regional development. Incorporating the Azerbaijani population of the region in Georgia’s domestic socio-political dynamics and removing the ethnic boundaries will reinforce the development of the region. This paper will discuss the economy, religion, education, women’s rights, organized crime, politics and inter-ethnic relationships in the Gardabani municipality. This paper is a first endeavor to describe this region’s Azerbaijani population. I hope that this paper will become a source of guidance for practitioners, scholars, journalists and NGO activists and assist them to implement their projects in this region. I also hope that it will lead to more comprehensive research on this region.
  • Topic: Education, Religion, Governance, Minorities, Women, Economic Development
  • Political Geography: Eurasia, Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Georgia
  • Author: Anna Getmansky, Konstantinos Matakos, Tolga Sinmazdemir
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Empirical Studies of Conflict Project (ESOC)
  • Abstract: How can refugees overcome barriers to integration in the host country? Refugees often face economic, social, and political discrimination by the local population. Ethnicity, religion, and refugees' past involvement in political violence can further exacerbate these biases. We examine whether host country's citizens reduce anti-refugee attitudes if they know that refugees have made proactive effort to integrate by forging social ties with the locals and learning the local language. Unlike most of the previous studies, we examine a non-Western country-Turkey-that hosts the highest number of Syrian refugees (3.6 million). We field a conjoint survey experiment-a method previously applied to study migration attitudes in the West-to 2,362 respondents in Turkey, presenting them with profiles of Syrian refugees that vary by demographics, ethnicity, religion, and involvement in the Syrian civil war. Respondents rank each profile in order of support for social, economic and political integration. We find that although Turkey is a Muslim country hosting predominantly co-religious refugees, not all refugees are perceived equally. There is a significant bias against Arabs and Kurds compared to Turkomans, and against former pro-regime fighters. Although information on refugees' effort strengthens support for their integration, not all disadvantaged groups benefit equally from it. Such information has a more robust effect on boosting support for Kurdish refugees, and has a limited effect on support for integration of Arabs and former pro-regime fighters. Importantly, information on proactive effort also strengthens support for groups that experience less discrimination (Turkomans and non-fighters), thereby potentially exacerbating inequalities among the refugees.
  • Topic: Religion, Refugee Issues, Refugees, Refugee Crisis, Discrimination, Identities
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Syria
  • Author: Anne C. Schenderlein
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Book
  • Institution: Berghahn Books
  • Abstract: Throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, approximately ninety thousand German Jews fled their homeland and settled in the United States, prior to that nation closing its borders to Jewish refugees. And even though many of them wanted little to do with Germany, the circumstances of the Second World War and the postwar era meant that engagement of some kind was unavoidable—whether direct or indirect, initiated within the community itself or by political actors and the broader German public. This book carefully traces these entangled histories on both sides of the Atlantic, demonstrating the remarkable extent to which German Jews and their former fellow citizens helped to shape developments from the Allied war effort to the course of West German democratization.
  • Topic: Migration, Religion, Refugees, Holocaust, Anti-Semitism
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Germany, North America
  • Author: Madeleine Olson
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA)
  • Abstract: As AMLO faces pressure to enact his campaign promises, he increasingly turns to his religious base.
  • Topic: Religion, Democracy, Christianity, Catholic Church, Nation-State
  • Political Geography: Central America, Mexico
  • Author: Joy Schulz
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Toynbee Prize Foundation
  • Abstract: With young activists like Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, and Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez coming to the fore of headlines and social movements, the present has proven itself to be an opportune moment to reassess the role of youths in historical change. In this vein, Dr. Joy Schulz's book Hawaiian By Birth: Missionary Children, Bicultural Identity, and U.S. Colonialism in the Pacific (2017) stands out as crucial reading. Emphasizing the centrality of American missionary children in the domination of the Hawaiian Islands during the second half of nineteenth century, Schulz's analysis exposes the potency of youth power through a series of chapters that trace the development of these young evangelists into colonizers and revolutionaries. In the process, she draws attention to the complexities born at the intersections of childhood and empire and underscores the capacity of children to record their own histories in ways that may complement or complicate adult ambitions. Dr. Schulz and I discuss these themes, and the challenges and opportunities that children present as the subjects of transnational histories.
  • Topic: Religion, Political Activism, Children, Colonialism, Youth, Empire
  • Political Geography: Asia-Pacific, Global Focus