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Book Reviews

Book Reviews

Religion, Civil Society and Peace in Northern Ireland, John D. Brewer, Gareth I. Higgins and Francis Teeney

The three authors of the sociological essay Religion, Civil Society and Peace in Northern Ireland are scholars who graduated from and/or taught at Queen's University Belfast and with a direct experience of the Northern Irish peace process. John D. Brewer has written extensively in the sociology of religion in Northern Ireland (The Mote and the Beam: Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland, with Gareth I. Higgins, 1998...) and on comparative peace processes (Peace processes: A Sociological Approach, 2010). Gareth I. Higgins is a Belfast-born sociologist and currently the manager of the American independent arts Wild Goose Festival. Francis Teeney is a social psychologist and teaches currently at Aberdeen University. This book was conceived by John D. Brewer as the third instalment of a trilogy on violence, peace and religion, after C. Wright Mills and the Ending of Violence and Peace Processes.[1]

Read more: Religion, Civil Society and Peace in Northern Ireland, John D. Brewer, Gareth I. Higgins and...

Reflections on the revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West

(UNE REVOLUTION SOUS NOS YEUX : COMMENT  L’ISLAM VA TRANSFORMER LA FRANCE ET L’EUROPE, 2011)

By Christopher Caldwell

We are going to present you our review of “Reflections on the revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West” written by Christopher Caldwell in 2009, a book which was recently translated in October 2011 into French by Johan Frederik Hel Guedj under the title “Une révolution sous nos yeux, Comment l’Islam va transformer la France et l’Europe”. Moreover, the French version of the book was prefaced by Mrs Michèle Tribalat, a famous French demographer working for the French National Institute of Demographic Studies. But contrary to what happened in Great Britain and in the USA in 2009, there has been almost no publicity about this book when it first appeared on the shelves of French bookshops last year, because the questions of Islam and immigration have become very sensitive issues in our country.

Read more: Reflections on the revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West

Blasphemy on trial: Church and Mosque united against freedom of speech?

Jean Boulègue was a historian and former scholar at the University of Panthéon Sorbonne. He specialized in the History of Africa, especially in the medieval and modern history of the great western African empires. He recently died, in March 2011. “Blasphemy on trial” (Le blasphème en procès) was published a year before , in January 2010.

 His book studies the recent history of a discrete, but constant and powerful action, led by religions against freedom of speech in religious matter. As a matter of fact, from 1984 to 2009, 20 lawsuits were filed in different courts of secular France, against speeches, written documents or images considered as insulting and defamatory toward a religion. In 18 cases Catholicism was in question, in the other two it was Islam. The first offensive was launched in 1984 by  catholic right-wing extremists, when a suit was brought under the aegis of Mgr. Lefebvre against a film poster. Then  fundamentalist associations were supported by the episcopate.  Muslim associations followed the movement and tried to influence the debate, and the culmination was reached with the open claim to the President of the Republic made by the French Council of the Muslim Faith to modify the French legislation to reestablish the offence of blasphemy.

Read more: Blasphemy on trial: Church and Mosque united against freedom of speech?

Youakim Moubarac, un homme d'exception

Pour la 18ème édition des Rencontres d'Averroès, un hommage est rendu à Louis Massignon, éminent islamologue français ; l'occasion pour nous de présenter l'oeuvre d'un de ses élèves les plus brillants : Youakim Moubarac. Cet auteur libanais nous invite à l'ouverture via un travail d'analyse historique et théologique rigoureux. Georges Corm, qui a choisi et rassemblé les textes de l'ouvrage en question, qualifie Moubarac de "cheville ouvrière du dialogue islamochrétien, un pacificateur de la scène libanaise durant les années sombres de violence, un défenseur inlassable des droits des Palestiniens", "à la pensée élégante et humaniste".

image_2Youakim Moubarac – Un homme d'exception is a collection of some of the author's works written between 1972 and 1993. It is in a tribute perspective to this “man of exception”, to his peaceful message and historical analysis, that Georges Corm undertook to gather together and to publish these texts which are still highly topical and relevant today.
Youakim Moubarac was a Maronite priest born in 1924 in Northern Lebanon. He studied theology, then left Lebanon for France in 1945 to complete his studies in Paris. He was to present his first thesis entitled Abraham in the Koran, in France where he settled. He was then to be recruited to the Centre national de la recherche scientifique. From 1950 to 1952 he handled Louis Massignon's secretariat and started his teaching career in 1959 at the Paris Catholic Institute where he taught Arabic ; he was to teach until his death in 1995.
Not only was he a great lover - and just as admirable a user - of the French language but also a remarkable islamologist and a widely acclaimed expert on monotheistic theology in its Jewish, Christian and Muslim versions. Youakim Moubarac was also a great historian of the Maronite Church and managed to highlight its Antiochian roots.

Since no official translation of the texts was available, the quotations are mine.

Read more: Youakim Moubarac, un homme d'exception

"What terrorists want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat"

what-terrorists-want-louise-richardson-paperback-cover-art

Book review: "What terrorists want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat" (2007)

By Louise Richardson

Résumé :

Dans cet ouvrage, la politologue et universitaire Louise Richardson propose une approche originale de l'étude du terrorisme, dans un contexte où la littérature sur ce sujet avait tendance -5 ans après les attentats du 11 Septembre 2001- à présenter ce phénomène de manière choc et parfois simpliste. Au-delà des clichés, l'auteure tente, sans le légitimer, de comprendre et de faire comprendre ce qui peut pousser des individus à se tourner vers ce mode de lutte radical, et propose alors des solutions qui permettraient de rendre la lutte contre le terrorisme plus efficace, à savoir associer à la répression une recherche des racines profondes de ce phénomène pour pouvoir l'enrayer à la base.

Abstract:

In this book, the political analyst Louise Richardson proposes an interesting approach of the study of terrorism, in a context in which the bulk of the literature on this subject tended - 5 years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 - to present this phenomenon in quite a simplistic way. Beyond the clichés, the author tries, without legitimizing it, to understand and to make people aware of the reasons which could lead an individual to choose this radical way of acting, and she proposes several solutions which could improve counter-terrorism; thus she advocates the use of repression linked with a research of the deep roots of terrorism, so as to try to stop it at the beginning of its complex process.

Read more: "What terrorists want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat"

“What I Believe” by Tariq Ramadan

A "controversial" scholar

Despite the clarity of his book, Tariq Ramadan still remains a complex figure to identify and present. In the introductive remarks of "What I Believe", Mr. Ramadan warns us not to go searching for his biography on the Internet where the "so-called free virtual encyclopedias (...) are in fact so biased".

Nonetheless, through research and comparison of different sources the basic facts of his biography were defined. Who is Tariq Ramadan? As for his ideological stance, the answer to this question remains a debatable issue. What can be said is that he is a leading Islamic thinker born and raised in Switzerland. He is a philosopher and Islamic theoretician.

Tariq Ramadan began his studies at the University of Geneva, where he majored in French literature and Western philosophy (his main field of study was Nietzsche). Later on, after 10 years of teaching and working as a high school teacher and dean in Geneva, Mr. Ramadan decided to quit his job to go follow an intensive course on Islamic Studies at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.

Read more: “What I Believe” by Tariq Ramadan

A Clash between East and West? Deadly Standoffs

A review of  "Orient-occident, le choc?  les impasses meurtrières," [Orient-Occident, the Clash? Murder by Deadlock] by Antoine Sfeir and Christian Chesnot

Antoine Sfeir is a journalist and a French-Lebanese professor of International Relations at the CELSA. He is also the director of Les Cahiers de l'orient and presides over the studies and reflections center relating to the Middle East. Christian Chesnot is a French journalist who works at France Inter. He has also collaborated with La Tribune de Genève and Radio France Internationale. In spite of a lurid and somewhat market orientated title, the book is really a complete analysis of the Arab world at present. The authors have attempted to provide answers to such vital, but difficult questions as:

  • Why is there so little democracy in the Middle East?
  • Is Islam compatible with democracy?
  • Why, despite its geostrategic, economic, and cultural assets, is the Arab world continually mired in crisis?

To provide answers to these questions, the authors have examined both historical and contemporary factors underlying the situation in the region and as well as the main actors. They identify several explanatory factors. However, they also refer to the current situation.

Read more: A Clash between East and West? Deadly Standoffs

Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny by Amartya Sen.

as3Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny by Amartya Sen

Amartya Sen is an Indian economist who was born in the region of Bengal . He was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his contribution to development in poor countries and for creating the HDI (Human Development Index). He always tried to give a more qualifying approach in economics and also developed the idea that social capital, freedom and human capabilities are major factors in helping developing countries to improve their situation. He is currently the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University. He is also a senior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he previously served as a Master from 1998 to 2004.He is the first Asian and the first Indian academic to head an Oxbridge college.

Read more: Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny by Amartya Sen.

Abd al Malik: La guerre des banlieues n'aura pas lieu (The Ghetto's not for burning)

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Abd al Malik is a prominent French rapper. When he was a child, Abd al Malik moved from the Congo to France with his family. When his parents got divorced, his mother had to bring up her six children alone in a council flat located in a suburb of Strasbourg where they had settled. Abd al Malik soon became engaged in criminal behaviour. In his first book Qu'Allah bénisse la France[1], he explained that he led a "double life". In fact, he was a brilliant student, eager for knowledge. He attended a private secondary school thanks to one of his teachers while he was making a living as a young boy, stealing and dealing drugs.

This somewhat schizophrenic behaviour came to an end when he discovered Islam thanks to his brother. Born to a Catholic family, he converted to Islam when he was 15 and chose his current name. He then joined the Muslim Brotherhood. He endeavoured to spread his new faith in his "cité"[2], thinking, as he says, that he had found the truth. He began despising non-Muslim people. At the same time, he was studying literature and philosophy at the University of Strasburg. The rap music band he had formed with one of his brothers, a cousin and friends, was becoming famous. They dealt with issues ranging from violence to racism they had to face in their everyday life.

Read more: Abd al Malik: La guerre des banlieues n'aura pas lieu (The Ghetto's not for burning)

Robert Fisk and the Great War for Civilization - The Conquest of the Middle East

Robert Fisk, longtime Middle East correspondent for what seems like much of the English-speaking world, has been on-call in the region for over 30 years. First as overseas reporter for The Times, and, since the late 1980s, for the London Independent, Fisk has acquired a wide and perceptive knowledge of the area. He is one of the few international correspondents to actually live there on a permanent basis (Beirut), and one of the fewer still who has learned to speak Arabic.

The author started off journalistic life serving as The Times' Northern Ireland correspondent from 1969-1975 where he reported on the burgeoning ethno-political conflict (later writing two books on the subject), before moving briefly to Portugal to report on the post-Salazar changeover to democracy. He decamped to Lebanon in 1976, where he remains to this day.

Read more: Robert Fisk and the Great War for Civilization - The Conquest of the Middle East

A very different Pakistan

Daniyal Mueenuddin, South Punjab, Pakistan, April 2009 - Zackary Canepari/The New York Times/ReduxThis is an article by Caleb Crain published in the pages of the New York Review of Books, on recent fiction from Pakistan - basically reviewing three books by three different contemporary Pakistani authors. So first of all, a few facts must be established concerning the authors, and in particular, the most important literary figure under review here, Danyial Mueenuddin.
This writer, whose fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Zoetrope, and elsewhere, spent his early childhood in Pakistan and then lived in the United States. Mueenuddin attended Dartmouth College and Yale Law School. Then, for a few years, he worked as a lawyer in New York City. In 1987, at the request of his father, he moved to the family property in southern Punjab to learn the farming business and try to keep the land from slipping out of the family's hands. Although he didn't begin writing fiction until much later, his experiences during those years on the farm form the basis of his short stories. Seven years later, he returned to the United States and practiced law in New York. He now lives on a farm in Pakistan's southern Punjab.

Read more: A very different Pakistan

In Praise of Creoleness, a book by Jean Barnabé, Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphael Confiant

creolityIn Praise of Creoleness (Eloge de la créolité), Jean BARNABE, Patrick CHEMOISEAU and Raphael CONFIANT, Gallimard, Paris, 127 p.

"The deepest desire of any man, any people, any community whoever and whatever, is to be free, to see its genius overabound in its own place and thus be connected to the world." Patrick Chamoiseau - Liberation - November 27, 1999

BIOGRAPHY

Patrick Chamoiseau is very representative of contemporary Caribbean literature He has experimented with many genres: the novel, theatre, essays ...- stylistically, he subtly blends old French with the dialect of former slaves. In 1992, he won the Goncourt Prize (equivalent to the Booker Prize in Great Britain) for his novel "TEXACO, in which the author Chamoiseau records the struggles, emotions and exuberance of Martinique. He is also engaged in conducting a political and literary battle in favor of "creoleness" (Cultural hybridization), exploring the foundations of his own culture and praising the varied and flamboyant recombinations of the populations of his island

Read more: In Praise of Creoleness, a book by Jean Barnabé, Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphael Confiant

L'intraitable beauté du monde, Obama and the Indomitable Beauty of the World, a book by Edouard Glissant and Patrick Chamoiseau

intraitableObama and the Indomitable Beauty of the World (L'intraitable beauté du monde, adresse à Barack Obama), Edouard GLISSANT and Patrick CHAMOISEAU, Galaade Editions, 2009, 64 p.

Two major Caribbean authors, one who had a hand in  "In Praise of Creoleness" and the other of the closely interrelated "When the Walls Come Down" were so immediately fired by Barack Obama's epoch-making victory in the US Presidential elections last year that they sat down together to write a searingly visionary open letter to America's first Black President, which is both a polemical call to action and a new highly inspirational political/poetical manifesto for today's  inescapably intercultural, growingly multipolar, ever more globalised world. This pamphlet again displays that this group of major Francophonic West Indian writers is among the most significant and politically potent forces of literature at work in the world today.

Read more: L'intraitable beauté du monde, Obama and the Indomitable Beauty of the World, a book by Edouard...

Faith Makes Us Live, Surviving and Thriving in Haitian Diaspora, a book by Margarita A. Mooney

mooney_bookFaith Makes Us Live, Surviving and Thriving in Haitian Diaspora, Margarita A. MOONEY, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2009, 300 p.

The cataclysmic January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, one of the poorest countries of Central America, has again focused worldwide attention on the political, social and economic situation of the "First Black Republic", founded after a bloody Independence struggle against European colonial rule in 1804. Ever since then a chequered history of long-lived dictatorship and perpetual economic difficulties have contributed to the massive emigration of Haitian residents to the Eastern part of the Island of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic) first, and to the United States, Canada and France subsequently, along with other countries.

In her essential book, Margarita Mooney highlights the Haitian Diaspora towards the three main countries which have since received ‘massive' immigration from Haiti in the late 1970's, and especially towards the cities of Miami, Montréal and Paris.

Read more: Faith Makes Us Live, Surviving and Thriving in Haitian Diaspora, a book by Margarita A. Mooney

Murderous Identities, a book by Amin Maalouf

imamLes identités meurtrières (Murderous Identities), Amin MAALOUF, Grasset, Paris, 1998, 189 p.

Amin Maalouf was born in Beirut in 1949 and went into exile in France in 1976, at the age of 26, in order to flee the Lebanese civil war. After studiying economics and sociology, he began to work in journalism and was special correspondent for twelve years, carrying out missions in more than sixty countries. Former chief editor of the magazine Jeune Afrique, he now spends most of his time writing books.

Getting to know his personal history is essential to understanding why identity, diversity and minorities are his favourite topics: of resolutely catholic stock on the maternal side, his father is a Protestant Arab. The community to which he belongs, called melkite or Greek-catholic, is thus a minority in Lebanon, and he himself, a Christian Arab, is in a rather singular situation, experiencing the feeling, acquired since childhood, of being irremediably a member of a minority, irremediably foreign, wherever he may be.

Read more: Murderous Identities, a book by Amin Maalouf

Unchosen: the Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels, a book by Hella Winston

Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic RebelsBeacon Press, Boston, 2006, 190 p.

The Hassidic movement was founded three hundred years ago in the Ukraine by the rabbi Israel ben Eliezer; also known as the Baal Shem Tov (master of the good name).

It started as a radical movement against the rabbis of the times who enforced the study of the torah as essential to religious life and their persecution of the lower cast Jewry. The movement provided poor and illiterate Jews a way to have a relationship with God without the study of the torah being a necessary element. Therefore, they attached much importance to dance and song; believing that they were a way to become closer to God, in the same manner as studying the holy texts.

 

Read more: Unchosen: the Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels, a book by Hella Winston

Holy War, Jihad, Crusade: Violence and religion in Christianity and Islam, a book by Jean Flori

fiori_2Holy War, Jihad, Crusade: Violence and religion in Christianity and Islam (Guerre sainte, jihad, croisade : Violence et religion dans le christianisme et l'islam), Jean FLORI, Seuil, Paris, 2002, 332 p.

Jean Flori is a contemporary French medieval historian. He is a senior researcher at the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research). His specialties are: the ideologies of warriors and religious mentalities in France and Western Europe in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The theme of his PhD was the requalification of knighthood and chivalry, and he has since published several books concerning this theme in the Middle Ages. This book we are reviewing was published in June 2002.
The aim of the book is mainly to demonstrate how the armed struggles between Christianity and the Muslim world led to a binary cristallisation of the doctrine of "Jihad" in Islam and of the idea of the Crusade among Christians. The author focuses on the deep origins of these concepts, tracking them back to sources to be found in the Gospel and the Koran, providing a historical background for the elaboration of such ideologies.

Read more: Holy War, Jihad, Crusade: Violence and religion in Christianity and Islam, a book by Jean Flori

Maternal empowerment in the Mediterranean space. Myths and representations

puissance maternelle en mediterranéeMaternal empowerment in the Mediterranean space. Myths and representations, Geneviève DERMANJIAN (dir.), Actes Sud, Arles, 2008, 168 p.

It is widely held, in matters concerning women's studies or gender studies, that France is far behind North America, from which it even borrowed the term "gender studies", awkwardly translated into Etudes de genre in French. Various historical, structural and ideological reasons explain the different development of gender studies and theories on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet, with the growing visibility of articles and publications on gender issues and the multiplication of researchers investing this field, France seems to be catching up on its delay. Indeed, researchers from lots of different disciplines -mainly History, Sociology and Anthropology- are today increasingly exploring the domain. La puissance maternelle en Méditerranée. Mythes et représentation (Maternal empowerment in the Mediterranean space. Myths and representations) is an interesting contribution to this fast developing area of research.

Read more: Maternal empowerment in the Mediterranean space. Myths and representations

Le mystérieux monument Joseph Sec à Aix-en-Provence, a book by Michel Vovelle and Pierre Donaint

sec_5Le mystérieux monument Joseph Sec à Aix-en-Provence, Michel VOVELLE and Pierre DONAINT, Éditions Barthélemy, Institut européen Séguier, 2009.

In a way that might seem thoroughly paradoxical to many modern french 'secularists' ('Laïques'), a highly original monument from the Revolutionary period, erected in Aix-en-Provence by someone who was successively - and even perhaps simultaneously - a lay friar, a Freemason and a Jacobin, as his own cenotaph and left as a permanent ideological legacy to his town, definitely does not establish such a clear-cut frontier between the religious, the masonic and the politically revolutionary that later secularist discourse has tended to impose. So this facinating monument, long abandonned and neglected, ultimately  raises the question of whether French 'laïcisme' is not in mourning for a lost 'New  Religious Dispensation', or religious revolution, meant to complete and subsume all pre-existing faiths.

Le mystérieux monument Joseph Sec à Aix-en-Provence is a French-language book published in 2009.by the great historian of the French Revolution Michel Vovelle On reading this lavishly illustrated book, one soon comes to the conclusion that it comprises two very important complimentary aspects; on the one hand, the written text, on the other, its iconography.

Read more: Le mystérieux monument Joseph Sec à Aix-en-Provence, a book by Michel Vovelle and Pierre Donaint

Georges Bataille and the Sacred Sociology of the Contemporary World

acephaleIn spring 2001, long after the Complete Works by Georges Bataille (1897-1962) had first started being published in France by Gallimard (First volume, 1970), a conference by the author was discovered in the "Bataille" file at the National Library, Paris (BNF). The conference, delivered on April the 2nd, 1938, was a contribution to the proceedings of the renowned "Collège de Sociologie" (College of Sociology) created by a powerful group of French intellectuals like Georges Bataille, Michel Leiris, Roger Caillois... This College, to be understood as a group of intellectuals holding conferences and organising discussions, first convened in 1937, whereas the Second World War was to bring it abruptly to an end in 1939. Originally, in 1979 only the first five pages of this conference were to be published, the other 49 pages being supposed irretrievably lost.

In 2005, shortly before the publication of the first Bataille volume in the prestigious "Pleiade" Collection (Gallimard), a very slim volume (48 pages long), presented by Simonetta Falasca Zamponi, revealed to the public the (almost) integral text of the conference, entitled "La sociologie sacrée du monde contemporain" (The Sacred Sociology of the Contemporary World). Only one page, the last, is missing, and the text abruptly ends in the middle of a sentence, in the course of what is supposed to be the last paragraph.

 

Read more: Georges Bataille and the Sacred Sociology of the Contemporary World

This immoral trade, Slavery in the 21st Century, by Baroness Caroline Cox and Dr John Marks

slaves_in_chains...Tears flowing down the cheeks of a boy and he fastened his eyes on somewhere. One of the photographs on the book’s cover caught my attention, so I was prompted to take it into my hands. The book’s title: “This immoral trade, Slavery in the 21st Century”, by Baroness Caroline Cox and Dr John Marks. Baroness Cox is a former Deputy Speaker of Great Britain’s House of Lords, and is a notable advocate of human rights around the world. Her co-author and colleague, Dr. John Marks OBE, was formerly an Administrator of the National Council for Educational Standards (NCES), and is today a researcher and campaigner in the field of human rights, with a particular expertise in modern Islam. “The West, Islam and Islamism: Is ideological Islam compatible with liberal democracy?” is also one of their co-publications.

 

Read more: This immoral trade, Slavery in the 21st Century, by Baroness Caroline Cox and Dr John Marks

A Common Faith, by John Dewey, A Great American Liberal Progressive

john_deweyJohn Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer born in 1859 and who died in 1952. He is considered, alongside C.S.Peirce and William James, as one of the founding fathers of the philosophical trend called "Pragmatism", and he was also the founder of the New School for Social Research (with the historian Charles Beard and the economists Veblen and Robinson). His main books and his approach, dealing with a wide range of subjects extending from education (which made his reputation) and psychology, to others like aesthetics or democracy, were influenced simultaneously by empiricism, utilitarianism and functionalism. His subjects of study were so numerous (but all important) that the Stanford University Encyclopedia article devoted to him states: "He is probably the only philosopher in this Encyclopedia to have published both on the Treaty of Versailles and on the value of displaying art in post offices!".

Read more: A Common Faith, by John Dewey, A Great American Liberal Progressive

Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism... The dissident views of a great living historian, Eric Hobsbawm

globalisation_democracy_terrorismPublished in 2007, Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism is one of the most recent books by Eric HOBSBAWM, a British Marxist historian. Published after "the Age of ..." series (1962, 1975, 1987 and 1994) and On the Edge of the New Century (2000), this book continues to explore the beginning of our new century, of this new age in which many authors currently see a qualitative change compared with preceding centuries. The tremendous gap left by the collapse of the USSR thus gave rise to Samuel P. HUNTINGTON's conceptions concerning The Clash of Civilizations (1996), following Francis FUKUYAMA's The End of History (1989)... Eric Hobsbawm, through agreeing on the idea of something terminal, describes humanity's entry into a new kind of history: "When the Berlin Wall fell, an incautious American announced the end of history, so I hesitate to use a phrase so patently discredited. Nevertheless, in the middle of the last century we entered a new phase in the world which has brought to an end history as we have known it over the past ten thousand years (...)." Our new century is not an era of civilisation clash, nor an era of an-historic civilisation. It is a time of rhetoric, of word abuse, of political bargaining. His whole book is a reflection on Democracy, Empire, Hegemony, Terror, History, etc... And on words, concepts, and conditions at the beginning of this new century.

Read more: Globalisation, Democracy and Terrorism... The dissident views of a great living historian, Eric...

"The Decay of Lying", by Oscar Wilde

oscar_wilde"The decay of lying" is a text by Oscar Wilde, published for the first time in the newspaper Nineteenth Century in 1889. It was published in another version in the book Intentions in 1891.

Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854 and died in 1900. He was a famous writer, poet and playwright. His father was a renowned surgeon, and his mother a successful writer and an Irish nationalist.

After studies in Dublin, he went up to Oxford where he met John Ruskin, a professor, who belonged to the Aesthete movement. Wilde became one of the leaders of this movement which promoted "art for art's sake" and considered that art ought just to be the quest for the Beautiful, without any moral or social concerns.

He travelled in Europe and the United States to deliver lectures, and settled in Paris where he met some important French writers of the century: Verlaine, Mallarmé, Zola, Daudet, and Hugo. Back in London in 1884, he married Constance Lloyd and had two sons: Cyril and Vivian, like the two characters of The decay of lying. He had an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas and was imprisoned for 2 years hard labour for homosexuality in Reading jail. Then, in 1897, he went into exile in France and died alone in Paris in 1900.

Read more: "The Decay of Lying", by Oscar Wilde

Scripted in Advance? "Acts of Agression, Policing Rogue States", by Noam Chomsky, Edward Said

Before analysing « Acts of aggression », a prescient volume published in 1998, a brief muster of facts concerning its two famous authors, Noam Chomsky and Edward W. Said, is required. Indeed, the book is divided into two separate parts: « Apocalypse now » by E. Said, and « Rogue states » by N. Chomsky.

Edward W. Said, was born in Jerusalem, Palestine and attended schools both there and later in Cairo, Egypt. He was to become Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. He is the author of Orientalism, Covering Islam, After the Last Sky,Culture and Imperialism, and many other major works of cultural and political anthropology. He was formerly a member of the Palestine National Council.

Noam Chomsky is an activist, writer, great linguist and professor of linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught since1955. He is famous for his theory on ‘Generative Grammar' and ‘Cartesian Linguistics' and his criticism of US foreign policy.

Read more: Scripted in Advance? "Acts of Agression, Policing Rogue States", by Noam Chomsky, Edward Said

Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau

thoreaustamp

Henry David Thoreau was an American author, born on the July 12, 1817 in Concord Massachusetts where he lived most of his life and where he died on May 6, 1862. He studied at Harvard, like his maternal grandfather, who was the leader of the Butter revolution in 1766. After a rather inconclusive attempt at becoming a teacher, he met Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson became his master and introduced him to local writers and thinkers such as Ellery Channing, Margaret Fuller, and Bronson Alcott. Thanks to Emerson's quarterly periodical The Dial, Thoreau was able to publish several essays. During his life Thoreau participated in different movements like Transcendentalism, led by his master Emerson, but Thoreau was also a very plural man, alternatively considered as:

  • An abolitionist, delivering lectures attacked the fugitive slave law
  • A naturalist, all his writings show him to be a precursor of modern movements,such as environmentalism and ecology.

Thoreau had influenced and still influences a lot of people through his two most well known books.

  • Walden: was a short biography of Thoreau describing him getting closer to nature and trying to transcend himself with the intention of getting back to original nature. Today Walden is still considered to be a masterpiece of the ideology of environmentalism/environmental thought.
  • And civil disobedience, which influenced Mahatma Gandhi - who built his peaceable revolution through the ideas developed by Thoreau on civil disobedience, Gandhi took the name of his movement from this essay. And a lot of other people were strongly affected by his work I might quote Leon Tolstoy, John Fitzgerald Kennedy or Martin Luther king.

Read more: Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau

John Locke's "Letter on Toleration"

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John Locke (1632-1704) was one of the major English thinkers of the XVIIth century. He was the son of landed English gentry and studied classical literature, which destined him, first to a teaching post at the university and later, to ordination in the Church of England. To flee from that fate, Locke studied medicine and philosophy but the socio-political events in England at the time led him on to political interest. He acquired his political education when he worked for the first Earl of Shaftesbury, a powerful figure of the political scene in England. Locke was his medical advisor and became a permanent member of the household. Together with the Earl of Shaftesbury, he was exiled to Holland and returned to England after the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

In Locke's time, England was in a state of socio-political chaos in which political and religious matters were closely meshed. England was Christian, but no longer Catholic, and in this part of Christendom, there existed, besides the Church of England, many dissenting churches in conflict. After the bloody dictatorship of Cromwell (died 1658), Locke had witnessed the reign of the Stuart dynasty, Charles II (1660-1685) and James II (1685-1688). These two kings were absolutist, secretly Catholic and tried indirectly to favour the return of their church.

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"KADDISH", a great poem by Allen Ginsberg

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« Kaddish for Naomi Ginsberg 1894-1956 » is a poem by Allen Ginsberg written in1959 and first published inKaddish and other poems by City Lights Books in 1961.

Allen Ginsberg (3 June 1926-6 Apr. 1997) was an American Jewish poet born in Newark, New Jersey. He was the younger son of Louis Ginsberg, a high school English teacher and poet, and Naomi Levy Ginsberg. Ginsberg grew up with his older brother Eugene in a household shadowed by his mother's mental illness. Naomi Ginsberg suffered from recurrent epileptic seizures and paranoia. Both of his parents spoke Yiddish and Russian and shared progressist ideas. Naomi was an active member of the Communist Party-USA, and took her sons to meetings of the radical left dedicated to the cause of international Communism during the Great Depression of the 1930s. She spent most of her last fifteen years in mental hospitals, enduring electroshock treatments and a lobotomy before her death at Pilgrim State Hospital in 1956. Witnessing his mother's mental illness had a traumatic effect on Ginsberg, who wrote poetry about her unstable condition for the rest of his life.

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"Le rendez-vous des civilisations" by E.TODD and Y.COURBAGE

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This academic essay was written in 2007 by two French demographers who believe that literacy and a decline in birth rates will lead the Islamic world into modernity - and away from religion. With their analyses they have added a new dimension to the ongoing debate over the clash of civilisations. "There will be no clash of civilisations" is the most important message they try to convey.

The two authors want to prove that the Islamic world is in the midst of radical change that will eventually bring modernity to the seemingly entrenched societies of the Islamic world.

This book by Todd and Courbage adds a new and interesting approach to the discussion and they focus their attention on the potential commonalities between the Islamic world and the Occident rather than on differences, in contradistincton with the essay of American political scientist Samuel L. Huntington.

The original French title expresses this even more strongly: "Rendez-vous des civilisations" - in other words, a meeting and not a clash of civilisations as the theory suggested by political scientist Samuel P Huntington claims, given that, according to this theory, people's cultural and religious identities are allegedly the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world.

 

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Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree (1992), by Tariq Ali

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Tariq Ali is a prolific British-Pakistani writer, a political journalist and an activist from the New Left. He has written dozens of books, both historical novels and essays.

(For more about Tariq Ali, please consult the article:  ‘Pakistan at Sixty' - Tariq Ali denounces the corruption and lies behind a religious war")

 

Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree is the first volume in a quintet of historical novels about the encounter and the confrontation between Islamic and Christian civilisations. This series also includes The Book of Saladin (1998), a fictional memoir of Saladin, the Kurdish liberator of Jerusalem in the 12th century. The third novel The Stone Woman (2000) focuses on the decline of the Ottoman Empire at the close of the 19th century. The last volume is A Sultan in Palermo (2005).

Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree tells the saga of a Moorish family, called the Banu Hudayl, facing the brutality of the Spanish Reconquest after the fall of Muslim Granada to Christendom, at the end of the fifteenth century.

Read more: Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree (1992), by Tariq Ali