The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression and Reform

March 26, 2015

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill political science professor Andrew Reynolds has co-authored a book exploring the Arab Spring, a series of pro-democracy uprisings throughout the Arab world in 2011 and 2012. The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression and Reform (Oxford University Press, 2015) offers explanations for why regime change took place in only four countries and why fundamental democratic change has been so elusive in the countries that have attempted reforms.

Reynolds co-authored the book with Jason Brownlee, professor of government and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and Tarek Masoud, associate professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Reynolds has dedicated his career to researching emerging democracies throughout the world. He was the first international democracy expert to land in Tripoli, Libya, in September 2011 and was integrally involved in the tentative steps towards elections in Cairo, Egypt, after President Mubarak fell in the spring of 2011.

Most recently he has traveled to Sana’a, Yemen, to advise on the development of a new constitution. His last trip to Yemen required bodyguards, as the kidnapping of foreign aid workers and diplomats has become common in the escalating civil war.

As Reynolds and his co-authors researched for their book, they found that the ability of established regimes to survive was heavily contingent on their control of oil wealth and the kinship ties of families with roles in government, military and private leadership. Additionally, the military’s response after the fall of a regime determines the fate of fledgling democracies. Tunisia is one of the few governments the authors identify as a potential success.

Early reviews of the book, which has been published in the United Kingdom and will be released in the United States on April 26, have been outstanding.

Fareed Zakaria, foreign policy journalist and show host on CNN said, “This is quite simply the best analysis of the Arab Spring that I have read. It draws on a wealth of social science and comparative history to evaluate the various reasons for the many failures and few successes in the region’s recent political development.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Michael McFaul, professor of political science and director and senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Affairs at Stanford University, has said that the book is “the first definitive account of the Arab Spring, setting a high standard by which all future works will be compared.”

Stories with a Heartbeat in Jordan, Palestine, and Turkey

March 17, 2015

DSC_0706UNC alumni Will McInerney ’11 and Mike Mallah ’09 are currently working with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund and the Syrian American Medical Society on a creative storytelling project in Jordan, Palestine, and Turkey.

Their initiative, Stories with a Heartbeat, documents the experiences of medical professionals and their patients through creative, engaging, and dynamic storytelling.

McInerney and Mallah just wrapped up 10 days in Palestine where they documented a team of American surgeons working in collaboration with local Palestinian doctors, nurses, and medical staff in Jenin. They also visited Palestine’s only pediatric cancer center, the Huda Al Masri Pediatric Cancer Department in Beit Jala.

McInerney and Mallah have taken more than 1,000 photographs, recorded 10 hours of interviews, and witnessed countless stories of beauty, struggle, and resilience. All of their documentation efforts and creative products will be donated to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund to help them continue their work on the ground.

A story connecting voices in Palestine to the tragic shooting deaths in Chapel Hill last month recently aired on WUNC, North Carolina’s NPR affiliate. Click here to listen now.

McInerney and Mallah are currently on the Turkish-Syrian border and working with the Syrian American Medical Society to document stories from the newly named Deah, Yusor, and Razan Dental Clinic.



Visit the Stories with a Heartbeat Facebook page to view some of the powerful and inspiring stories they have gathered so far.

To learn more and support this project by making a donation, click here.


Anderson Wins 2015 Eleanor Tufts Book Award

February 21, 2015

IslamicVillaInEarlyMedievalIberiaGlaire D. Anderson’s The Islamic Villa in Early Medieval Iberia: Architecture and Court Culture in Umayyad Córdoba has won the 2015 Eleanor Tufts Book Award. Anderson is an associate professor of art history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Her book, which examines the aristocratic villas and court culture of Córdoba during the Umayyad dynasty, is unique in several respects. A deeply synthetic study, it draws on a wide range of material including – but not limited to – medieval Arabic texts, ivory carving, agricultural treatises, and archaeological findings to shed light on this important facet of Umayyad architectural patronage.

As well as reconstructing the Islamic villa as an architectural entity, Anderson’s book presents it fully within a rich social and political context; considerations of decor, ceremony, and agricultural productivity are key to the study. Of particular importance is Anderson’s nuanced analysis of the villa’s patronage, which fell to members of the “unfree elite.” A major theme of the book is its recognition that the munyas of Umayyad Córdoba belong to the long tradition of Mediterranean villas which began in the Roman era and continued in Christian European and New World locales.

This publication met and surpassed the stipulated award criteria of “originality of conception, thoroughness of research, rigor of argument, brilliance of insight, significance of findings, and clarity of expression.”

Although the book will engage and satisfy specialists in Islamic art and architecture, Anderson’s clear prose makes it accessible and valuable to anyone with an interest in a host of related fields.

A Call For Unity

February 12, 2015

Two women watch speakers during a vigil following the deaths of students Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Two women watch speakers during a vigil following the deaths of students Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Sometimes tragedy brings out the best in people. At a vigil Feb. 11 for three students slain the night before, community leaders, friends and family members expressed the hope this would be the case now.

They called for unity and love in the wake of the tragic shooting deaths of Deah Barakat, 23; Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and Razan Abu-Salha, 19 – three young Muslims, a fact that attracted national and global media attention.

“Love is more divine than hatred,” said Imam Abdullah Antepli, Muslim chaplain at Duke University, to the estimated 2,000 people gathered at the Pit at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“I plead that you live in their legacy,” said Farris Barakat’s, Deah’s older brother. “Do not fight fire with fire. Do not reply to ignorance with ignorance.”


In Memory of Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Barakat, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha

February 11, 2015

10985591_10152877811348113_641759006349767681_nIt is with extreme sadness that we mourn the loss of three members of our community due to a tragic shooting in Chapel Hill Tuesday evening, February 10, 2015. The victims include Deah Shaddy Barakat, a second-year student in the UNC School of Dentistry, and his wife, Yusor Mohammad, who had planned to begin her dental studies here in the fall, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, a student at N.C. State University. On behalf of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations, we express our deepest condolences. Our thoughts are with their families, friends, professors, and peers.



February 11, 2015: The campus community is invited to a vigil this evening to honor the three young people who died yesterday evening. At 6:30 p.m. in the Pit, Triangle university and community leaders are coming together to remember the departed. Sadly, Deah Barakat, a student in the School of Dentistry, and his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, who had planned to begin her dental studies at Carolina next fall, were killed last night, along with Yusor’s sister, Razan Abu-Salha, an undergraduate at North Carolina State University.

The vigil is designed to celebrate and honor the lives of these three students and appeal to the communities for calm. Attendees will include Imam Abdullah Antepli, the Chief Representative of Muslim Affairs at Duke University, with Chancellor Carol L. Folt, N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson, N.C. Central Chancellor Debra Saunders-White, Duke University Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta, UNC President Tom Ross, School of Dentistry Dean Jane Weintraub and Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.

As a show of unity, students from N.C. State, N.C. Central and Duke universities have been invited and are expected to attend, along with the UNC-Chapel Hill community.

Before the vigil, at 6 p.m., a prayer service will be held in the Great Hall of the Carolina Union. Both Muslim and non-Muslim members of the community are invited (the event will be closed to the news media).

A separate event previously announced to be held at the Peace and Justice Plaza downtown (the old Chapel Hill Post Office) has been incorporated into the Pit event.

For parking information, please click here.

Update: There are various vigils scheduled to take place in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Greensboro for Deah, Yusor, and Razan:

  • Chapel Hill – Feb. 11
    6:30pm – The Pit, UNC-CH (details above)
  • Greensboro – Feb. 11
    5:30pm – EUC Lawn, UNC-Greensboro (details can be found here or you may contact Omar Ali at ohali@uncg.edu).
  • Raleigh – Feb. 12
    6:00pm – Brickyard in front of D.H. Hill Library, NCSU. For more information, please contact Anna Bigelow at abbigelo@ncsu.edu.

Ignatius Talks Foreign Affairs, Global Insights

February 10, 2015

David Ignatius speaks at UNC.

David Ignatius speaks at UNC.

David Ignatius doesn’t know how to fix the world.

But when he stepped to the podium to give the annual Weatherspoon Lecture at UNC Kenan-Flagler Jan. 29, the veteran journalist faced an audience that expected him to tell them how to do just that.

“Someone with a sense of humor – someone who was not me – produced the title of my remarks,” he said with a laugh, referencing the speech entitled “Foreign Affairs: How to Fix the World.”

The name of the talk, Ignatius said, illustrated the uniquely American belief that “anything is soluble with the right documentation.”

Ignatius laced his speech with insights and lessons from his 40-year career as a reporter, columnist and best-selling novelist – “a few observations,” he called them, “about how we got here and about how, over time, we can get out.”

He focused largely on the Middle East, an area he has covered for more than 25 years as a journalist. It’s a region, he said, that is not merely in a state of crisis but rather one of disintegration.

“It’s in freefall,” he said. “People have a sense of vertigo.”

Read more>>

Report Shows Most Muslim-American Terrorism Cases Last Year Involved Fighters Going to Syria

February 9, 2015

Charles Kurzman

Charles Kurzman

A new report issued this week by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security shows that terrorist plots involving Muslim-Americans accounted for only a small fraction of the threats to public safety in the United States.

The center publishes its report annually to offer systematic evidence on the pressing issues of terrorism and homeland security. Data from past reports has been cited in Congressional testimony, White House policy documents, national and international media, and scholarly work on these subjects.

The 2014 report shows that growth in terrorism cases involving Muslim-Americans can be attributed to individuals seeking to join revolutionary groups in Syria. Of the 25 Muslim-Americans associated with terrorism in 2014, six plotted or engaged in violence in the United States. This number equals the lowest total since 2008.

“That’s far less than one would guess from media coverage and government resources devoted to this concern,’’ said Charles Kurzman, a professor of sociology in UNC-Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences and author of the report. “Despite concern about the radicalizing effect of the civil wars in Syria and elsewhere, violent extremism continued to attract a miniscule number of adherents among Muslim-Americans in 2014.”


Duke Professor’s “Crude Extractions” Lecture Aims to Challenge and Inform

February 8, 2015

the-daily-tar-heelFor many, movies can be a distraction. But film can offer more than mere entertainment value. Movies can challenge a viewer’s assumptions and morals, provoke critical thought and introduce novel ideas.

For these reasons, movies are invaluable instructive devices, capable of presenting complex concepts in an accessible way. It is this versatility that brings Duke University literature and women’s studies professor Negar Mottahedeh to campus tonight for a lecture titled “Crude Extractions: the Quest for Oil and the Construction of an Imaginary Modernity in Iranian Cinema.”

“Film has the capacity to change our minds,” said Mottahedeh, cultural critic and film theorist who focuses on Iranian film. “For me, that’s the most important part of my job — to question hardened perceptions.”

Mottahedeh’s lecture — which will be held at the FedEx Global Education Center — focuses on the development of Iranian film throughout the twentieth century, and how the film industry complements and critiques aspects of life not associated with film.


Q&A with Asian Studies Chairwoman Nadia Yaqub

January 14, 2015

the-daily-tar-heelGunmen attacked the headquarters of French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7 after the magazine published cartoons satirizing the Prophet Mohammad, killing 12 people and injuring others.

Daily Tar Heel staff writer Marisa Bakker interviewed Nadia Yaqub, chairwoman of UNC’s Department of Asian Studies and coordinator of the Arabic program, about the tension between the western free press and Islamic extremism, which could have led to the Charlie Hebdo attack.


Journalism School Deans Respond to the Charlie Hebdo Attack

January 8, 2015

jesuischarlieVisit Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy site to read the Carnegie-Knight Consortium of journalism school deans’ (including UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication Dean Susan King) response to the Charlie Hebdo attack.