Stop Spreading Conspiracy Theories about the Chemical Attack in Syria! A Response to a Report from the Deutsche Welle

Fake news, fake news, fake news! They are everywhere, like swarms of locusts, devouring truth and infecting people’s minds. Mainstream media along with social media platforms are alarmed, mobilizing their resources to contain this epidemic. Numerous online resource centers and information pages have been set up to help people identify fake news and protect their minds from their toxicity. Yesterday, when I opened my Facebook page, I was greeted with a link to a page that lists 10 tips to spot false news. The website of the German news broadcaster tagesschau currently operates a project against fake news called Faktenfinder (Fact Finder) which is a resource center with basic information about hot topics in the form of questions and answers to help people avoid false information being spread about this topic.


“DW: Made for minds”, maybe not this time!

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From Hip Hop to Heavy Metal: A Story of Conversion

I wrote a draft of this post two years ago (March 2015) in my notebook, but only now that I have edited it and posted it online. I have avoided making any substantial changes, so that it remains true as much as possible to my thoughts back then.

Brother Ali

Album cover of Borther Ali’s Mourning in America: Dreaming in Color – one of my first favorite hip hop albums.

Those who know me personally or have read some of my posts here (Oriental(ist) Metal Music or “Is God really Dead?”) know me as a dedicated heavy metal fan. For 15 years, almost half my life, I listened almost exclusively to heavy metal music (along with few hard and progressive rock bands). I have also been a dedicated concert-goer, sometimes travelling to other countries just to attend a metal band I like. Heavy metal was in fact more than just music for me. It was, for most of these 15 years, an identity and an influence on the way I think and behave. I even wrote my MA thesis, back in 2010, about heavy metal in Syria and for a while I was thinking about doing a PhD in this field. As a faithful metalhead I looked down at all other styles of music, especially hip hop, and bragged how heavy metal surpassed it in sophistication, authenticity, anti-commercialism, and fan-dedication. In fact, two months ago, I would not have been able to name 10 hip hop songs, and if you asked my what was your favorite hip hop song, I would have said Gay Fish.

So after all that to turn to hip hop within less than two months came as a surprise to me personally before anyone else. So I have spent the past two weeks reflecting on this “radical” change and trying to understand how come it ever happened and why hip hop and not any other style of music. What has changed in my life or my environment that helped make this transformation? I will try in this post to give some answers to these questions.

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Two Christianities in Two Booklets: Impressions from a Visit to a Swedish Church

Earlier this year, on a cold January morning, I was walking around in the snowy streets of Stockholm, not sure how to spend the few hours before the departure of my bus on an 18-hour journey to the far north of Sweden, when I came across a big brown church in a side street near the main train station. Being interested in religion, I decided to walk in and have a look in order to get an impression of Swedish churches.

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Two different Christianities in two booklets

When I went in, which was few minutes after it had opened its doors to visitors, there were already 5 or 6 people inside. Some of them seemed to be homeless people who spent the night inside protected from the freezing cold. They wore rough clothes and had blankets and mats with them. There were also two people praying and another person sitting near the door, who, I assume, work for the church.

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ملاحظة مقتضبة عن ترجمة كلمة “علماني” إلى اللغة العربية في القرن التاسع عشر


غنيٌّ عن القول بأنّ العلمانية من المواضيع المثيرة للجدل في العالم العربي. ولكن الجدل لا يقتصر على العلمانية كفلسفة اجتماعية-سياسية، وإنما يمتد إلى المصطلح نفسه: فما هو أصل كلمة “علمانية”؟ وكيف درج استخدامها في اللغة العربية؟ وهل هي مشتقة من العِلم أم من العَالم؟ بلّ حتى لفظها مختلفٌ عليه: أهي بكسر العين أم فتحها؟

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“العلمانية والدين في العالم العربي” في معهد الدراسات الشرقية في جامعة لايبتزغ


المقالة التالية نشرت في شهر سبتمبر/أيلول 2017 في صحيفة أبواب الصادرة في ألمانيا، وتناولت السيمنار الذي قدمته في جامعة لايبتزغ عن الدين والعلمانية في العالم العربي. المقالة الأصلية تجدونها على الرابط التالي.


العلمانية والدين في العالم العربي” في معهد الدراسات الشرقية في جامعة لايبتزغ

نشرت بواسطة: محرر الموقع في باب شرقي 18 سبتمبر، 2017


 محمد الماغوط – في إطار الفصل الدراسي الصيفي لعام 2017، قدّم طلاب ماجستير الدراسات العربية والإسلامية في معهد الدراسات الشرقية في جامعة لايبتزغ حلقة بحث\سيمنار بعنوان “العلمانية والدين في العالم العربي،.

وقدم السيمينار لمحة عامة عن نشوء العلمانية وتطورها في العالم العربي -بوصفه حالةً اجتماعية وفكراً سياسياً وفلسفياً أيضاً- على مدى القرنين الماضيين، وعلاقتها بمختلف التيارات الدينية والسياسية والاجتماعية الأخرى. وتوجه إلى الطلاب المهتمّين بموضوعات من قبيل نشوء الدول، التطورات الاجتماعية، والصراعات الأيديولوجية، وتحديداً تلك المتعلّقة بدور الدين في المجال العام في سياق عربي-إسلامي.

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Conference Report: Third Conference of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences

This is a conference report that I wrote for the website of The Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities” at the University of Leipzig, where I currently work. Here is the link for the original post.

Between 10 and 12 March 2017, the Third Conference of the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (ACSS) took place in Beirut, Lebanon under the title: State, Sovereignty and Social Space in the Arab Region: Emerging Historical and Theoretical Approaches. The ACSS was established in 2008 to promote social scientific research and knowledge production in the Arab world, enhance the role of social science in Arab public life, and inform public policy in the region. The conference took place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and consisted of 38 panels in addition to four roundtable discussions, a keynote, and a number of presentations. Lectures and discussions were conducted in three languages (Arabic, English, and French) with simultaneous interpretation available for every session. The papers presented by around 200 active participants covered a wide variety of themes in political science, anthropology, and sociology.

The volatile conditions in many Arab countries—ranging from terrorism, through civil strife, to authoritarian repression (including the curtailment of academic freedoms*)—cast their shadow over discussions in the conference. There was an aura of pessimism but at the same time a sense of urgency for social scientists in the Arab region to employ their knowledge to observe and contribute positively to social change in their countries. While the conference was not concerned with religion per se, there have been some papers and sessions that dealt with religion from various perspectives. In a roundtable discussion chaired by Professor Aziz al-Azmeh from the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, a new research project under the title “Striking from the Margins: Religion, State and Disintegration in the Middle East” was introduced. The project, which is hosted by the Center for Religious Studies at the CEU, aims at developing a new analytical framework to study the processes whereby forces that used to be marginal have been moving to the center of power in some Arab countries, especially Syria and Iraq. It examines, in particular, how certain religious movements are contributing to the explosion of violence as well as social and political disintegration by imposing a puritanical form of religion, not as a social sphere that is distinct from or embedded in society, but as an alternative to society itself. The second speaker in this session, Harith al-Qarawee, presented his research project, in which he investigates how neo-patrimonialism, among other factors, weakened the Iraqi post-colonial state and contributed to its withdrawal (institutionally and ideologically) from society, which allowed for Islamist movements (both Shi’i and Sunni) to move from the margins to fill the void. Harout Akdedian, on his part, is examining how the expansion of religious charities under Bashar al-Assad played a significant role in the rise of armed Islamist opposition after the eruption of the civil war in Syria.

Other papers dealing with religion came mostly from Morocco and Algeria. Rachid Saadi from the Centre regional des mètiers et de la formation (Morocco) analyzed tensions between the “authority of collective religiosity” and “personal liberties” in the case of a protest group calling for eating in public during fasting in Ramadan, in defiance of social taboos and a law that criminalizes such activity. Another presenter from Morocco, Abdelhakim Aboullouz (Ait Melloul University Campus), traced the evolution of Salafism in the country over the past five decades. He maintained that after the protests of February 2011, Salafism has transformed from a collection of marginal quietist “sects” that were used by the state to counter the influence of both socialist and Islamist oppositions to social movements that are actively engaged in politics. Mustapha Mujahidi (National Observatory of Education and Training) and Djilali El-Mestari (National Institute for Research in Education) in Algeria presented two papers about the religious field in the city of Ghardaia, where an ethno-religious Muslim community, the Mozabite Ibadis, coexist with Sunni Muslims.

The conference also included a number of presentations about projects run by the ACSS. Among them is the Arab Social Science Monitor, which is an observatory dedicated to surveying and assessing social scientific research in Arab countries and tracking its agendas and themes. Another noteworthy project, about which a short film was presented, aims at raising awareness among young people in the Arab world of the importance and prospects of studying social sciences.

Reported by Mohammad Magout

*Emad al-Din Shahin—a Professor of public policy at the American University of Cairo—was sentenced by the Egyptian regime to death in absentia in 2015.

الجلسة الثانية عشرة (والأخيرة) – الربيع العربي وما بعد الإسلاموية


تتناول هذه الجلسة طرح “ما بعد الإسلاموية” القائل بأن المجتمعات الإسلامية (بما فيها التيارات الإسلاموية) تشهد تحولاً نحو تبنّي قيم الديمقراطية والتعدّدية السياسية. اكتسب هذا الطرح زخماً بعيد انطلاق ثورات الربيع العربي، والتي اعتبرت تأكيداً له. الجلسة ناقشت ثلاث نصوص: الأول لأوليفيه روا، أحد أهم من تبنّى هذا المفهوم وطبّقه في حالة الربيع العربي؛ فيما يحاول النص الثاني تجاوز بعض عيوب “ما بعد الإسلاموية” من خلال تدعيمه بنظرية الحقل الاجتماعي لبيير بوردو؛ أما النص الأخير فيقدم لمحة موجزة عن الجدل حول مفهوم “المجتمع المدني” في مصر وتونس.

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الجلسة الحادية عشرة – الإسلام والليبرالية الجديدة

تناولت هذه الجلسة كيف تشّربت تيارات ومجتمعات إسلامية عديدة في العالم العربي مبادئ ومظاهر الرأسمالية، حتى بأكثر أشكالها استهلاكية واستغلالية وغربية (كالنيوليبرالية أو الليبرالية الجديدة). الجلسة عالجت عدة مواضيع منها ظاهرة الدعاة الجدد ومشاريعهم التنموية (كعمرو خالد ومشروعه “صنّاع الحياة”) والتي بات يشار لها بـ النيوليبرالية المتدينة أو التقيّة pious Neoliberalism؛ وانتشار أنماط الحياة الاستهلاكية في العالم العربي جنباً إلى جنب مع التدين؛ وأخيراً موضوع القداسة في ظل التغيرات العمرانية الهائلة في مكة المكرمة، والمتمثلة ببناء أبراج ومراكز تسوق حول الحرم المكي وفوق أنقاض أبنية المدينة التاريخية.

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الجلسة العاشرة – النقد الفكري-الديني في العالم العربي

عالجت هذه الجلسة أشكالاً مختلفة من النقد الفكري-الديني في العالم العربي من خلال تناول نصّين: الأول مأخوذ من كتاب للمؤلفة اللبنانية إليزابيث سوزان كسّاب (حالياً رئيسة برنامج الفلسفة في معهد الدوحة للدراسات العليا) يحمل عنوان الفكر العربي المعاصر: دراسة في النقد الثقافي المقارن (صدر الكتاب بالإنجليزية عام 2010 وبنسخته العربية[1] عام 2012)، ويتناول أمثلة عديدة على الفكر النقدي الديني في العالم العربي (كمحمد أركون، نصر حامد أبو زيد، حسن حنفي، وغيرهم)؛ فيما النص الثاني يعود للكاتب الفلسطيني إبراهيم أبو ربيع (توفي عام 2011) ويتناول تحديداً مراجعات راشد الغنوشي (مؤسس حركة النهضة التونسية) للفكر الإسلامي السياسي.

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الجلسة التاسعة – الجهاد بين الإسلام والهندسة

هذه الجلسة ناقشت  أحد أهم أدبيات الجماعات الجهادية التي برزت في السبعينيات من القرن الماضي، وهو كتيب الفريضة الغائبة للمهندس الكهربائي المصري محمد عبد السلام فرج، والذي أَعدم عام 1982 بتهمة كونه منظّر المجموعة الجهادية التي قامت باغتيال الرئيس المصري الأسبق أنور السادات. الجلسة ناقشت أيضاً الصلة بين التطرف الجهادي وبعض التخصصات الجامعية كالهندسة. فبحسب إحدى الدراسات، يبلغ احتمال أن يلتحق خريج هندسة بجماعة جهادية 17 ضعف المعدل المتوسط. الجلسة تناولت إلى جانب ذلك تنظيم حزب الله الذي جمع بين الجهاد والنشاط السياسي والاجتماعي، كما تناولت أيضاً أدوار الدول الغربية والأنظمة العربية في دعم الجماعات الجهادية بشكل مباشر أو غير مباشر. أخيراً عرضت الجلسة أحد التفسيرات المنتشرة في الغرب لظهور التطرف الجهادي، ألا وهي نظرية “صدام الحضارات” التي جاء بها المستشرق المعروف برنارد لويس.

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