May 13, 2013, 12:01 am
Students gather and read in the courtyard of the mosque at Al-Azhar U., in Cairo, where the country’s top clerics teach the next generation of religious leaders. (Thomas Brown)
Muslim clerics hold a lot of power. As interpreters of the Koran, they issue religious rulings, or fatwas, that can sway millions of people. Yet in the study of religious extremism, remarkably little work has been done to determine why some clerics become radical and others do not.
Rich Nielsen, a doctoral student at Harvard University, aims to change that. His dissertation, Clerics of the Jihad, explores that question by poring over the scholarly works and biographies of high-profile clerics. His conclusion: It’s all about career opportunities. Those with poor networks are much more likely to preach extremism.
April 5, 2013, 12:08 pm
Erica Chenoweth, U. of Denver
San Francisco — If you’re looking for a conversation starter, calling your next book “Why Democracy Encourages Terrorism” would probably work. The idea behind the provocative title goes like this: Democracy allows interest groups and political parties to flourish, which then leads to competition. Among those groups that feel most marginalized in the ensuing din, some take extreme measures in the pursuit of attention.
In other words, the conventional wisdom that democracy is the antidote to terrorism—because it provides outlets for people’s grievances—is completely wrong.
I sat down with Erica Chenoweth, author of the forthcoming book and an assistant professor at the University of Denver, at the International Studies Association conference here, to find out how she…
April 4, 2013, 2:13 pm
Prepare yourselves, dear readers: The United States of North America is coming.
Writing in the newest issue of Dædalus, two historians of science, Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, have taken on a quixotic task: imagining a future historian looking back at our time, in an effort to tease out how we failed to avert a climate-caused collapse. Or, as they put it, how it came to be that “a second Dark Age” fell “on Western civilization, in which denial and self-deception, rooted in an ideological fixation on ‘free’ markets, disabled the world’s powerful nations in the face of tragedy.” (The full version of the article is online here.)
Known for their 2010 book Merchants of Doubt, which examined the role of industry in casting doubts on the findings of scientists on cigarettes, climate change, and other topics, Oreskes, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, and…