Christopher de Bellaigue’s most recent book is The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle Between Faith and Reason, 1798 to Modern Times. (July 2017)

Follow Christopher de Bellaigue on Twitter: @bellaigueC.

IN THE REVIEW

Iran: Still Waiting for Democracy

Hassan Rouhani
“We have immense opportunities and we can use them,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a group of campaign workers a few days after he was reelected to a second term on May 19. “What is it that we want? We are waiting for a cleavage, an opening, but we need …

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 …

NYR DAILY

Britain: When Vengeance Spreads

For all the gestures of inter-communal solidarity that have been given much publicity since the June 18 attack outside a London mosque, the more significant and ominous sentiment has been one of vindication. Anecdotal evidence, the prevalence of online Islamophobia, and a spike in cases of anti-Muslim taunting in the street suggest that many Britons, from small towns in southern England to depressed, working-class areas in the north, feel that “they” had it coming.

Iran: The Miracle That Wasn’t

Iran’s presidential election on May 19 will in all likelihood be won by the incumbent, the moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani. In 2015, two years after he came to power, Rouhani pulled the country back from the brink of confrontation with the West when he guided Iran toward the historic nuclear deal with the Obama administration. But the economic miracle that was promised by the Rouhani government hasn’t happened, and the sense of anti-climax is palpable—a disillusionment that has broadened into a general contempt for politics, politicians, and promises that aren’t kept.

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.

NYR CALENDAR