Rethinking Mali’s Political Culture

by Alex Thurston The MNLA and Ansar al Din have dominated the headlines about Mali this spring and summer. But how have other Malian Muslims reacted to the crisis in the north, and to the partial “Islamization” of the conflict by Ansar al Din? Continue Reading →

Rethinking Mali's Political Culture

by Alex Thurston The MNLA and Ansar al Din have dominated the headlines about Mali this spring and summer. But how have other Malian Muslims reacted to the crisis in the north, and to the partial “Islamization” of the conflict by Ansar al Din? Continue Reading →

Schooling Muslims in Northern Nigeria: Politics, Policies and Conclusions

by Alex Thurston Government-run Islamic schools, then, are to be a source of “counter-radicalization” as well as a means of moving almajirai into more “productive” schools. But the policy is unlikely to succeed. Continue Reading →

Identity, Crisis: Shari'a Law in Nigerian Politics

by Alex Thurston

In 1999, Nigeria made global headlines when Northern states began re-implementing “full shari’a,” i.e. Islamic law codes that included criminal penalties for acts like theft, adultery, and drinking alcohol. The shari’a project in Northern Nigeria caused further controversy when shari’a courts sentenced two accused adulteresses to death by stoning – sentences that higher courts, under domestic and international pressure, later overturned.

As the rebel movement Boko Haram again puts Nigeria back in the headlines, the country’s relationship with shari’a is attracting new attention. Boko Haram’s overall platform remains vague. One of its few stated demands, however, is for broader and stronger shari’a not just in Northern states, but across all of Nigeria. What does this mean? And what historical factors have made shari’a loom so large in Northern Nigerian politics? Continue Reading →

Pictures at an Exhibition

By Abby Ohlheiser
Photos by Merel van Beeren

“Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life, and the Hartmanns perish??” –Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky

I was sitting in a French-style chain cafe (sorry America), finishing my croissant, talking to Merel, when we heard the opening notes of “The Star Spangled Banner.” It was a restrained, beautiful choral rendition, and we listened. It was all kind of a relief: we were just blocks from Ground Zero, at around 8:30 AM on the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001, but the only signs we’d seen of something solemn going on were the expressions on the cops’ faces as they watched us leave the subway at Fulton Street, as they told us to keep walking in a no-gawking zone, as they told confused spectators no, not that crosswalk, you have to go around the block. This moment, listening, would be the closest we would get to the ceremony at the memorial plaza finally established on top of the former World Trade Center site. Instead, we spent the day in the blocks around the site, in the throngs of tourists, New Yorkers, missionaries, and protestors. We watched as a block’s worth of people waited to move one block forward, in front of St. Paul’s.  Merel said, “I wonder what this would look like as painted by Norman Rockwell.”

Here is what I, and the rest of the crowd, saw on the outskirts of Ground Zero during the ceremony, on the other side of the police checkpoints and “you can’t go theres” between us and the heartbreaking, mourning substance of the official ceremony. Continue Reading →

Wiesenfeld’s Obsessions

Examine what is said, not him who speaks. – Arab Proverb

According to The Forward, it’s tough times for City University of New York trustee, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the man who opposed awarding winning playwright Tony Kusher an honorary degree last week.  But Wiesenfeld, a former FBI counterintelligence agent who grew up on the Bronx streets getting bullied by the Irish and Puerto Rican kids, is tough.  After much noise and embarrassment CUNY reversed their decision, though Wiesenfeld remains opposed.  “There are people who don’t like the fact that there are tough Jews,” says one of Wiesenfeld’s friends, Hank Sheinkopf, about the Kushner affair.

Another of Wiesenfeld’s recent shandas:  his service as chair of Stop the Madrassa:  A Community Coalition, a group formed to oppose a dual-language Arabic public school in New York.  “Taking the point of view that he was really anti-Arab is absurd and ridiculous. What he was opposed to was Shariah law,” Sheinkopf said. “He was opposed to the madrassas because he felt that Shariah law would be imposed.” Continue Reading →

Wiesenfeld’s Obsessions

Examine what is said, not him who speaks. – Arab Proverb

According to The Forward, it’s tough times for City University of New York trustee, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the man who opposed awarding winning playwright Tony Kusher an honorary degree last week.  But Wiesenfeld, a former FBI counterintelligence agent who grew up on the Bronx streets getting bullied by the Irish and Puerto Rican kids, is tough.  After much noise and embarrassment CUNY reversed their decision, though Wiesenfeld remains opposed.  “There are people who don’t like the fact that there are tough Jews,” says one of Wiesenfeld’s friends, Hank Sheinkopf, about the Kushner affair.

Another of Wiesenfeld’s recent shandas:  his service as chair of Stop the Madrassa:  A Community Coalition, a group formed to oppose a dual-language Arabic public school in New York.  “Taking the point of view that he was really anti-Arab is absurd and ridiculous. What he was opposed to was Shariah law,” Sheinkopf said. “He was opposed to the madrassas because he felt that Shariah law would be imposed.” Continue Reading →

Wiesenfeld's Obsessions

Examine what is said, not him who speaks. – Arab Proverb

According to The Forward, it’s tough times for City University of New York trustee, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the man who opposed awarding winning playwright Tony Kusher an honorary degree last week.  But Wiesenfeld, a former FBI counterintelligence agent who grew up on the Bronx streets getting bullied by the Irish and Puerto Rican kids, is tough.  After much noise and embarrassment CUNY reversed their decision, though Wiesenfeld remains opposed.  “There are people who don’t like the fact that there are tough Jews,” says one of Wiesenfeld’s friends, Hank Sheinkopf, about the Kushner affair.

Another of Wiesenfeld’s recent shandas:  his service as chair of Stop the Madrassa:  A Community Coalition, a group formed to oppose a dual-language Arabic public school in New York.  “Taking the point of view that he was really anti-Arab is absurd and ridiculous. What he was opposed to was Shariah law,” Sheinkopf said. “He was opposed to the madrassas because he felt that Shariah law would be imposed.” Continue Reading →

Shari'ah, Fearing the Unknown

In news story after news story, the fear of Islam — and specifically of “creeping” Shari’ah law —  is confirmed in headlines.  From the Oklahoma law passed during midterm elections that banned Shari’ah (and was later blocked by a state judge) to the protest of mosques (or mosque-like buildings!) under construction around the country, journalists have made clear that some Americans are afraid of the growth, practice and presence of one particular religious group. Continue Reading →