Christopher de Bellaigue’s forthcoming book is The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle between Faith and Reason, 1798 to Modern Times.
 (September 2016)


A Murderous Turning Point in Turkey

Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a rally in Kızılay Square, Ankara, two days after the failed coup, July 2016
The modern state of Turkey has known three coups in which its military forces took power, in 1960, 1971, and 1980. In addition there was the coup of 1997, when the generals sat down with an Islamist prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, and forced him to resign, making way for a …

Dreams of Islamic Liberalism

Muhammad Abduh, Egypt’s senior judicial authority at the start of the twentieth century and an admirer of Darwin. He is now ­recognized, according to Christopher de Bellaigue, ‘as one of the most influential liberal Islamic thinkers.’

Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860–1950

by Marwa Elshakry
During the spring of 1910 a young Iranian who was studying to be a mullah would climb to the roof of his house to observe a mysterious projectile as it moved across the night sky. Ahmad Kasravi did not know what he was seeing but he was instinctively skeptical of …


Turkey Chooses Erdogan

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan wave flags as they gather in Istanbul's central Taksim Square on July 18, 2016

Since a group of senior military officers, backed by thousands of armed soldiers, came close to toppling him on the night of July 15, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought comfort in the bosom of his angry, exhilarated people. The country has spent the past three weeks in a state of collective hyperventilation. The combination of nationalism and religiosity is like nothing I have seen in twenty years of following Turkish politics.

France at War

French CRS anti-riot police near the French National Assembly, Paris, France, July 5, 2016

Days after the Nice attacks, French politics has shifted toward militarism, xenophobia, and the all-powerful state. France is hurtling toward a presidential election that will bring more hostility, fear, and division, and be fought against the expectation of further attacks. In the meantime, the racial profiling and frisking of Arabs in the street, the police raids in the middle of the night will intensify, contributing to further alienation of French Muslims.

Hunting the Truth in a Paris Ghetto

Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan in Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan, 2015

The three main characters of Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan join together opportunistically in the Sri Lankan refugee camp from which they will head westwards, but the question of whether Dheepan, Yalini, and Illayaal will end up caring for each other—becoming, in the process, a “real” family—isn’t simply of human interest. In their new home, safety and security can only be found by pooling income, morale, skills, and acquired local knowledge.

Persia: The Court at Twilight

Dancers and musicians at the Qajar court, photograph taken by Antoin Sevruguin, late nineteenth century

The two hundred-odd images in “Eye of the Shah: Qajar Court Photography and the Persian Past” were executed for the most part by a small number of court and portrait photographers using an ultra-modern medium in a land still run according to the divine writ of kings, where the Shah’s harem contained hundreds of wives, concubines, and eunuchs, and many people continued to keep slaves. It’s in this confrontation—between the bastinado and the wet collodion method—that the principal interest of “Eye of the Shah” lies.