If you want to know why thousands of Iraqi soldiers fled the advance of hundreds of ISIS fighters in Ramadi last year, see Norvell B. De Atkine's article below.
PHILADELPHIA – February 24, 2016 – Since its inaugural issue in 1994, the Middle East Quarterly has featured a diverse array of academics, policymakers, journalists, and other specialists offering insights critical to understanding the Middle East and Islam.
Below are the ten Middle East Quarterly articles most frequently viewed on MEForum.org, in ascending order. None are very recent (newer articles haven't had as much time to rack up visits) and some widely read articles from MEQ's print-only days didn't make the list (not having received a proper online roll-out), but the following selections have stood the test of time in shedding light on events of today.
10. Francis M. Deng, "Sudan - Civil War and Genocide," Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2001, pp. 13-21.
Francis M. Deng, the author or editor of more than three dozen books on conflict resolution and human rights, now serving as South Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations, wrote this article at the peak of the Sudanese civil war. In it, he argues that "religion is the pivotal factor in the conflict" between the North, where Islam predominates, and the South, which "has unequivocally identified itself with Christianity." For Sudan to remain united, "religious pluralism will have to be accommodated" (it wasn't, and Sudan didn't).
Rachel Sharon-Krespin, director of the Turkish Media Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), profiles the "shadowy" Turkish Islamist sect led by Fethullah Gülen, who resides in voluntary exile in eastern Pennsylvania. The Gülen movement's vast empire of media outlets, financial institutions, schools, and foundations was at that time a critical base of support for Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP), though it has since run afoul of the AKP.
8. Michel Gurfinkiel, "Islam in France: The French Way of Life Is in Danger," Middle East Quarterly, March 1997, pp. 19-29.
In this extraordinarily prescient article, Michel Gurfinkiel, then-editor-in-chief of the conservative French weekly Valeurs Actuelles and now a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum, observes a "gradual shift among French Muslims toward increased identification with religion and a more rigorous practice of the faith," exhibited by increased face-veiling among women and other practices. Noting the rapid growth rate of the Muslim community (from around 100,000 in 1945 to 3 million in 1997), Gurfinkiel suggested that the "French way of life, with its emphasis on individual freedom and secularism," was being slowly eroded as France grew more multiconfessional.
7. Phyllis Chesler, "Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?" Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2009, pp. 61-69.
Phyllis Chesler, emerita professor of psychology and women's studies at the City University of New York and now a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum, refutes the argument, common among Muslim advocacy organizations, that honor killings are "ordinary" Western-style incidents of domestic violence; rather, they are family-of-origin conspiracies which result in murder or femicide.
6. Thomas von der Osten-Sacken and Thomas Uwer, "Is Female Genital Mutilation an Islamic Problem?" Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2007, pp. 29-36.
Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, general manager of the German-Iraqi NGO Wadi, and Thomas Uwer, a Wadi board member, point to growing evidence that, contrary to then-prevailing assumptions, female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced by Muslims "widely in regions outside Africa." While many Islamic scholars say FGM is not obligatory for women, most consider it allowable and few explicitly disallow it, which serves to "aid and abet the mutilation."
Firsthand medical records confirming FGM in many eastern Islamic countries are absent not because the practice is absent, but because "the societies are not free enough to permit formal study of societal problems." The New York Times reported on February 5 that a "new global assessment documents for the first time that [FGM] is widespread in one of the most populous countries in Asia: Indonesia," underscoring the authors' claim that lack of reporting on the problem in a given country is not evidence that it doesn't exist.
5. Raymond Ibrahim, "Are Judaism and Christianity as Violent as Islam?" Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2009.
Raymond Ibrahim, a Judith Friedman Rosen fellow at the Middle East Forum, challenges the claim of Islamism apologists that the Bible is more violent than the Qur'an. Such claims, typically drawn from counting the number of killings and other violent acts mentioned in these texts, ignore context. "Judeo-Christian history—which is violent—is being conflated with Islamic theology—which commands violence," he writes. "The words and deeds of the patriarchs, though described in the Old Testament, never went on to prescribe Jewish law."
4. Phyllis Chesler, "Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings," Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2010, pp. 3-11.
Phyllis Chesler (see above), examines statistics on honor killings around the world. Most significantly, she finds that there are two different kinds of honor killing victims, "one made up of female children and young women whose average age is seventeen," the other "composed of women whose average age is thirty-six." Muslims commit most of the honor killings in the West.
3. Timothy R. Furnish, "Beheading in the Name of Islam," Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2005, pp. 51-57.
Writing during the infancy of what has since become a staple of the global Sunni jihadist movement, Timothy R. Furnish contests Western academics' "denial of any religious roots to the recent spate of decapitation." In fact, some Qur'anic verses (e.g., "When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks") appear to sanction and glorify beheadings. More importantly, "beheading of captives is a recurring theme" throughout 1,400 years of Islamic history extending back to the Prophet Muhammad himself, providing ample legitimation of the practice.
2. Khaleel Mohammed, "Assessing English Translations of the Qur'an," Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2005, pp. 58-71.
Khaleel Mohammed examines the accuracy and biases of different translations of the Qur'an into English. Some are simply poor translations, while others display sectarian and political biases. For example, the widely known translation of Indian scholar Muhammad Ali reflects the teachings of his Lahore Ahmadiyya movement (e.g., by eschewing references to miracles). The translation of Muhammad Taqi al-Din al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan, financed and widely distributed by the Saudi government, "reads more like a supremacist Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian polemic than a rendition of the Islamic scripture" – unfortunate, as it is the most prevalent in Sunni mosques throughout the English-speaking world.
1. Norvell B. De Atkine, "Why Arabs Lose Wars," Middle East Quarterly, December 1999.
In this highly influential article, retired U.S. Army colonel Norvell B. De Atkine culls his many years of experience observing the training of Arab militaries to explain why they performed so badly in the field.
The reasons, according to De Atkine, are almost entirely socio-cultural and political. For example, Arab educational systems, which privilege rote memorization and discourage thinking outside of the box, account for officers with a "diminished ability to reason or engage in analysis based upon general principles." Arab aversion to public humiliation inhibits constructive interaction between teachers and students (he advises American military instructors in the region to "ensure that, before directing any question to a student in a classroom situation, particularly if he is an officer, the student does possess the correct answer").
The high degree of social stratification in the Arab world, particularly between enlisted soldiers and officers (who treat the former "like sub-humans" and are generally indifferent to their safety), and lack of strong overarching national identities greatly weaken the cohesion of units, which "tend to disintegrate in the stress of combat." Lack of broad-based societal trust inhibits cross-training within units.
Pervasive authoritarianism in the Arab world has led rulers to marginalize (or worse) "officers with initiative and a predilection for unilateral action" who might pose threats to their regimes, prohibit lateral communication between units, and avoid combined arms training – all deeply injurious to the battlefield performance of their armies.