Christopher de Bellaigue’s latest book, Islamic Enlightenment, will be published in April. (March 2017)


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: The Return of the Sultan

Portrait of the Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II, 1897; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, 2015

To many Western observers, the phenomenon of President of Turkey Recep Teayyip Erdoğan’s increased powers demonstrates a return to the kind of authoritarianism that is common to many countries of the Middle East. It also seems to accord with the increasing turn away from democratic practices in many parts of the world, from Putin’s Russia to Trump’s America. On closer inspection, however, what is happening in Turkey shows distinct traces of an earlier phase of Islamic-minded autocracy in the country’s history.

Iran: A Private Agony

Taraneh Alidoosti as Rana in Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman, 2016

Recently shortlisted for a Foreign Language Oscar, Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman is more ambitious in scope than any of his films to date. Its subject, the inviolability of women and the ways that men exercise guardianship over it, is of course a universal theme. But to my knowledge it has never been dealt with in such surgical detail by a filmmaker in Iran.

Turkey After Trump

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdoğan Istanbul, Turkey, October, 10, 2016

Since the failed coup of July 15, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been conducting a campaign of repression. Turks have reacted to what is but one more assault on freedom of expression with resignation; while the international response has been muted. What does all this mean for a Donald Trump presidency?

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 Erdoğan 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.