Religion and Politics in the Middle East, October 29-30, Hood College

Religion and Politics in the Middle East, October 29-30, Hood College

Tuesday October 29th

10:00               Welcome from President Ronald Volpe

10:15               Welcome from Dr. Kate Conway-Turner, Dean of Faculty, Hood College

10:30-11:00     Dr. Donald Wright, Director of Middle Eastern Studies, Hood College

Introduction “Disappearing Diversity in the Middle East”

This presentation will explore the complex cultural mosaic that makes up the region referred to as the Middle East.  As much as from a Western viewpoint the Middle East seems a homogenous agglomeration of a just a few groups, the reality is that this is a misconception about a very culturally and ethnically diverse region.

11:00-11:30     Dr. Maximilian Felsch, Director of Political Science, Haigazian University

“The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Lebanon”

With the rise of militant Islamism and the influx of Syrian refugees, many Christians in Lebanon feel culturally and politically dominated by Muslims. The lecture will examine how Christian politicians try to take advantage of these fears and how the politics of Christian nationalism jeopardizes Lebanon’s formula of confessional coexistence.

11:30-12:00     Dr. Didier Course, Professor of French, Hood College

Anticlericalism is not a product for exportation”:  French nuns in the Middle East

From 1834 to the 1970’s the French language was prominent among the social elite in the Middle East.  This paper will explore the political and cultural impact of French and Catholic education on the social fabric that formed the postcolonial mosaic of the region.

12:00-2:00       Break for lunch           

2:00-2:30         Bethany Johnson, Honors Student, Hood College

“A Girl, a Book, and a Prophet.”

This paper investigates the practice of child marriage in Yemen and seeks to identify the social causes and motivations behind it. Examining how economics and religion affect marital legislation is particularly important for understanding how culture can drastically change a society’s perception of what is acceptable regarding its children. Lastly, this presentation will address recent changes in Yemen and the ongoing struggle between secularism and religion.

2:30-3:00         Dr. Purnima Bhatt, Professor of History, Hood College

“Women in Islam:  Between Tradition and Modernity”

This presentation will focus on the roles and responsibilities of women in Islam.  It will include a discussion of the challenges they face in the 21st century and their efforts to counter patriarchal Islam and orthodoxy through a reinterpretation and redefinition of Islam’s sacred texts and traditions.  This striving to empower themselves will, however, take place in the form of change within tradition.

3:00-3:30         Dr. Joseph al-Agha, Haigazian University

“Islam and Liberalization Processes in the MENA Region”

Did the Arab uprisings fail? Is the problem in the transition from autocracy to democratic rule? Or does it have to do with the dilemma of popular sovereignty? What is the role of post-Islamism in this regard? This paper endeavors to address these dynamics in light of the challenges facing the liberalization processes.

Wednesday, October 30th

10:00-10:30     Kristin Hillers, M.A., Hood College

“Both and Neither: The Paradoxical Nature of a Democratic Utopia in Egyptian Politics”

By analyzing the speeches and philosophies of Egyptian politicians as well as the protesters during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, this presentation examine the contradictions and intricacies of creating a Utopian, democratic state, with specific focus on Sadat’s Address before the People’s Assembly on March 14, 1976 in which he frames fundamentalists in Egypt as threats to the democratic Utopia. Sadat’s vision of Utopia is in sharp contrast with that of the participants of the 2011 revolution, who demanded and fought for a democratic state.

10:30-11:00     Dr. Hoda Zaki, Professor of Political Science, Hood College

“Concentric Circles and Submerged Traditions from Bandung to Tahrir: Religion and Politics in Egyptian Political Thought and Activism.”

Using the lens of postcolonial theory this presentation examines the ways in which religion and politics have intertwined to create new forms of activism across national boundaries with a specific focus on Egyptian politics. This paper will focus on the intersectionality of religion and politics in the thinking of Gamal Abdel Nasser at the 1955 Asian-African Conference held in Bandung, Indonesia, and on utopian thought and its impact on Egyptian activists in Tahrir Square, 2011.

11:00-11:30     Nada Elbasha and Jackson Monzon, Davis Peace Project Grant Recipients, Hood College

“Words for Peace”

This presentation will explore the world inside the Dheisheh Palestinian refugee camp where a project was set up with the financial support of the Davis Project for Peace and the Karama Organization in Bethlehem involving encouraging children to write about the experiences.

11:30-12:00     Rev. Paul Haidostian, PhD,  President of Haigazian University

“To Be Protestants in Lebanon Today: A Descriptive and Critical Review.” (Rev. Paul Haidostian, PhD)

The lecture will put the almost 170 year old Protestant presence in Lebanon in historical and political perspective. It will address its internal as well as ecumenical and inter-religious dynamics and reflect on the impending challenges in the context of an increasingly radicalized Islam and a declining Christian presence in the country and the region.