International Affairs 6364

Religion and Society in the Middle East

Nathan J. Brown

Monday, 7:10-9:00 pm

Bell Hall, 106

Office Address: 1957 E Street, Suite 512

 REQUIREMENTS:  There are three requirements for the course. Each counts equally toward the final course grade.

Š      All students are expected to complete all of the required reading and come to class regularly, prepared to discuss the topic of the week. 

Š      For 8 weeks, students should submit a critical evaluation of the reading at least 24 hours before the class sessions.  Papers submitted less than 24 hours before class will be penalized; no papers will be accepted after the class session begins.  The papers should be sent to the instructor by email at nbrown at  They should be more than 500 words.

Š      All students must submit a short paper (about 10-15 double-spaced pages).   All papers should address a question regarding the role of religion in Middle Eastern societies. The questions should require an analytical answer (explaining a puzzle, advancing a causal explanation; exploring why something occurs) and not merely a descriptive one.  And they should require research in primary sources, preferably in a regional language.  By February 10, all students should have selected a question for research and submitted for it for approval by the instructor as well as a list of sources.  By April 7, all students should have completed the bulk of their research and submitted an outline.   A first draft is due by April 28.  A second draft, revised in light of the instructor’s comments, is due by May 9.  The second draft should include a brief statement of how the paper was revised.


Students should familiarize themselves with GW’s Code of Academic Integrity: (  The issue that has proven most problematic in my past courses has been plagiarism.  Students should therefore take particular note of the definition of plagiarism and the procedures for violation explicated in the Code.

Class Outline

January 13--Introduction to the Course

January 27—Islam, Society, and Politics: Early Formulations, Modern Problems

Š      Jonathan Brown, Muhammad (available for purchase)

Š      AfsaruddinFirst Muslims (available for purchase)

Š      Hallaq, “Juristic Authority vs. the State” (Blackboard)

February 3—Islam, Society, Law, and Politics: The Classical Tradition and its Relevance

Š      Kelsey, “Comparison and History” (Blackboard)

Š      Vogel, “Public and Private in Saudi Arabia Today” (Blackboard)

Š      Zaman, Modern Islamic Thought in a Radical Age  (available for purchase)

February 10—Shari‘a and Politics in Practice Today

Š      Hefner, Sharia Politics (available for purchase)

Š      J.N.D. Anderson, “Modern Trends in Islam” (Blackboard)

February 24—Islamist Movments: The Mainstream

Š      Wickham, Mobilizing Islam (available for purchase)

Š      Brown, When Victory is Not an Option, chapters (Blackboard)

March 3—Radicalism—Intellectual Approaches

Š      Students who have not read Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones should do so. (Link on Blackboard)

Š      Calvert. Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islam (available for purchase)

Š      Zelin, “Al-Farida al-Gha’iba” (Blackboard)

March 17—Salafism

Š      Meijer, Global salafism (available for purchase)

Š      Juynboll, “Dying the Hair” (Blackboard)

Š      International Crisis Group “Tunisia: Violence and the Salafist Challenge” (Blackboard)

March 24—Pietism

Š      Mahmood, Politics of Piety (available for purchase)

March 31—Everyday Life

Š      Agrama, Questioning Secularism (available for purchase)

Š      Hirschkind, “Experiments to Devotion Online” (Blackboard)

April 7—Education

Š      Doumato, Teaching Islam (available for purchase)

April 14—class cancelled

April 28—Judaism 

Š      Rubin, “Status of Religion” (Blackboard)

Š      Flores, “Judeophobia” (Blackboard)

Š      Aran and Hassner, “Religious Violence” (Blackboard)

April 29—MAKE UP SESSION  Christianity

Š      IJMES Roundtable (Blackboard)

Š      Guirguis, “Copts and the Egyptian Revolution” (Blackboard)

April 30—Future of Islamism

Š      Jadaliyya roundtable (link on Blackboard)