Iran and Turkey: not quite enemies but less than friends

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh, James Barry
Shahram Akbarzadeh and James Barry: ‘Iran and Turkey: not quite enemies but less than friends’, Third Word Quarterly , Vol 38, No.4 (2016), pp: 980-995
Publication year: 2016

The rise and subsequent erosion of friendly relations between Iran and Turkey was a result of their regional ambitions. While Turkey had long seen its secular system as presenting an alternative to Iran’s Islamic ideology, the alignment of their regional interests facilitated a rapport between the two states in the first decade of the twenty-first century. However, the Arab Spring proved divisive for this relationship as each state sought to advocate its model of government and secure a leadership role in the Arab world. The war in Syria widened the divide, as Iran’s long-standing support for the Bashar al-Assad regime could not be reconciled with Turkey’s desire to see President Assad out of office. Using a close reading of Persian and Turkish sources, the authors will analyse the Iran–Turkey divide, focusing specifically on how the Iranians have portrayed it as a clash of civilisations, citing Turkey’s so-called ‘neo-Ottoman’ ambitions as the primary cause.

Iran in the World

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Dara Conduit
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Dara Conduit: ‘Charting a New Course? Testing Rouhani’s foreign policy agency in the Iran-Syria relationship’, in Shahram Akbarzadeh and Dara Conduit (eds), Iran in the World: President Rouhani’s Foreign Policy (NY: Palgrave ,2016). pp. 133-154
Publication year: 2016

Iran and Syria have enjoyed one of the most enduring alliances in the Middle East, with the relationship surviving the Iran—Iraq war, decades of international sanctions, and the Iranian nuclear dispute. The alliance took on new significance after the outbreak of war in Syria in 2011 when Iran, led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, provided decisive diplomatic and materiel support for the Syrian regime. The largesse of this support suggested that for many in Tehran, the Iran—Syria alliance remained as important in 2011 as it was when it was established in 1979. The election of the reformist President Hassan Rouhani in 2013 appeared to complicate this calculus, with speculation emerging that he would temper Iran’s support for Syria. In practice, however, Rouhani’s response to Syria has been muted, reflecting an attempt to placate the international community while simultaneously preserving Iran’s most reliable regional alliance. In doing this, Rouhani has also inadvertently revealed the deeply polarizing impact that the Syrian crisis has had on the Iranian political elite, as well as the limits of presidential power in Iran.

Afghanistan and its neighbors after the NATO withdrawal

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘A new phase in relations between Iran and Afghanistan’, in Amin Saikal and Kirill Nourzhanov (eds), Afghanistan and Its Neighbors after the NATO Withdrawal (London: Lexington, 2016). pp. 35-48
Publication year: 2016

The planned reductions in NATO troop numbers in Afghanistan through 2015 and a final withdrawal at the end of 2016 brings up numerous pressing questions about the security and national interests of not just Afghanistan, but of the broader region itself. The problem of a chaotic Afghanistan-or of an outright Taliban victory-is of great concern to not only immediate neighbors such as Iran, Pakistan, and the former Soviet Central Asian republics to the north, but also to those countries in the region with Afghanistan-related security or economic concerns, such as China and India. Further abroad, Russian, American and European interests and plans for dealing with the fallout from Afghanistan must also be taken into account as these major powers have enduring interests in Afghanistan and the region. This volume puts the prospects for short- and mid-term security dynamics at the core of the analysis, with each case being placed in its proper contemporary historical, economic, and political context. The book will offer a truly comprehensive, nuanced, and timely account of the security situation in and around Afghanistan

Sectarianism and the prevalence of ‘othering’ in Islamic thought

Refereed Journal articles
Naser Ghobadzadeh and Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Naser Ghobadzadeh: ‘Sectarianism and the Prevalence of ‘Othering’ in Islamic thought,’ Third World Quarterly, Vol. 36, No. 4 (2015), pp. 691-704
Publication year: 2015

The current sectarian conflicts in the Middle East did not arise solely from renewed geopolitical rivalries between regional powers. They are also rooted in a solid, theological articulation proposed by classic Islamic political theology. The exclusivist approach, which is a decisive part of the political, social and religious reality of today’s Middle-East, benefits from a formidable theological legacy. Coining the notion of ‘othering theology’, this paper not only explores the ideas of leading classical theologians who have articulated a puritanical understanding of faith, but also explicates the politico-historical context in which these theologians rationalised their quarrels. Given the pervasive presence of these theologies in the contemporary sectarian polemics, the study of classical othering theology is highly relevant and, indeed, crucial to any attempt to overcome sectarianism in the region.

Iran and the Shanghai cooperation organization : ideology and realpolitik in Iranian foreign policy

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Iran and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Ideology and Realpolitik in Iranian Foreign Policy,’ Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 69, No. 1 (2015), pp. 88-103.
Publication year: 2015

The Islamic Republic of Iran has pursued full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). In doing so, Iran has appeared to be unfazed by the prospect of allying with Russia and China, two countries which have systematically suppressed their Muslim minorities for decades. Similarly, the SCO’s Central Asian member states are led by individual leaders who are generally believed to rule in spite of their populations. As a result, Iran’s eagerness to join the SCO may appear to contradict its self-promoted image as the champion of Muslim interests, but in reality it sits nicely within its overarching enmity for the USA. Indeed, the SCO is seen as a geopolitical counterweight to the USA. For Iran, this geopolitical opportunity overrides ideological imperatives, with the gap between ideology and geopolitics most evident under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran and Daesh: The Case of a Reluctant Shia Power

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Iran and Daesh’, Middle East Policy, Vol. 22, No. 3, (2015), pp. 44-54.
Publication year: 2015

Democracy and Reform in the Middle East and Asia: Social Protest and Authoritarian Rule After the Arab Spring

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘The Arab Revolution is Bad News for Iran’, in Amin Saikal and Amitav Acharya (eds), Democracy and Reform in the Middle East and Asia (London: I.B. Tauris, 2014). pp. 105-120
Publication year: 2014

The popular revolutions that swept across the Arab world in late 2010 and 2011 were initially welcomed in Tehran as a vindication of its policies. Since its inception, the Islamic Republic of Iran had maintained a difficult relationship with its Arab neighbours, even fighting a bloody eight-year war with one. From the Iranian point of view, Arab governments had betrayed Islam by working closely with the United States and giving up on the Palestinian cause. At first glance, the Arab revolution that deposed the ruling regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and the revolt in the Gulf sheikhdoms fitted neatly in the narrative of the Iranian regime. The Arab regimes were inclined to side with the United States in all international fora and were generally criticized for not representing the interest of their own people. But this interpretation of the Arab revolution as an automatic endorsement of the Iranian worldview was too simplistic to withstand the test of time. Very soon after the removal of Hosni Mubarak from office and the spread of unrest to Syria and Libya, the Iranian interpretation came under severe strain. In Syria, the Bashar al-Assad regime, which had been hailed by the Iranian authorities as a genuine popular alternative to many other Arab states, seemed to face the same kind of popular unrest that had paralysed its neighbours. In Egypt, the Muslim brotherhood dismissed suggestions that it might follow the Iranian model. Iran’s binary worldview of believers versus disbelief could not explain the momentous events that engulfed the region. The Arab revolution presented a conceptual challenge to the Iranian worldview. This has reminded the leadership of the tenuous nature of their hold on power. The regime has responded by doubling security measures against its internal opposition, dubbed the Green Movement. Only a year after the regime managed to suppress its own opposition rallies, the Arab revolution has made it vulnerable once again. This chapter begins with a survey of the Iranian position with regard to the Arab revolution, and then explores the impact of the Bahrain and Syrian conflicts on Iran’s standing in the region. It argues that the double standard in relation to these conflicts has eroded Iran’s soft power on the Arab streets and led to its marginalization. The chapter concludes with an assessment of the internal implications of this strategic demise as the regime feels pressured from within and without.

Muslim Active Citizenship in the West

Scholarly books
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Mario Peucker
London: Routledge
Publication year: 2014

Muslim Active Citizenship in the West investigates the emergence and nature of Muslims’ struggle for recognition as full members of society in Australia, Great Britain and Germany. What actions have been taken by Muslims to achieve equal civic standing? How do socio-political and socio-economic factors impact on these processes? And how do Muslims negotiate their place in a society that is often regarded as sceptical – if not hostile – towards Muslims’ desire to belong?

This book sheds new light on Muslims’ path towards citizenship in Australia, Great Britain and Germany. Existing research and statistics on Muslims’ socio-economic status, community formation, claim-making and political responses, and the public portrayal of Islam are systematically examined. These insights are tested ‘through the eyes of Muslims’, based on in-depth interviews with Muslim community leaders and other experts in all three countries. The findings offer unique perspectives on Muslim resilience to be recognised as equal citizens of Islamic faith in very different socio-political national settings.

Pursuing an interdisciplinary and comparative approach, this book examines the country-specific interplay of historical, institutional, political, and identity dimensions of Muslims’ active citizenship and will be invaluable for students and researchers with an interest in Sociology, Religious Studies and Political Science.

Muslim active citizenship in Australia: Socioeconomic challenges and the emergence of a Muslim elite

Refereed Journal articles
Mario Peucker, Joshua Roose, Shahram Akbarzadeh,
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Mario Peucker and Joshua Roose: ‘Muslim Active Citizenship in Australia: Socio-economic Challenges and the Emergence of a Muslim Elite,’ Australian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 49 (2014), pp. 1-18.
Publication year: 2014

The most recent national Census demonstrated that Australian Muslims continue to occupy a socioeconomically disadvantaged position. On key indicators of unemployment rate, income, type of occupation and home ownership, Muslims consistently under-perform the national average. This pattern is evident in the last three Census data (2001, 2006 and 2011). Limited access to resources and a sense of marginalisation challenge full engagement with society and the natural growth of emotional affiliation with Australia. Muslim active citizenship is hampered by socioeconomic barriers. At the same time, an increasingly proactive class of educated Muslim elite has emerged to claim a voice for Muslims in Australia and promote citizenship rights and responsibilities.

Managing religious diversity and promoting active citizenship: Muslims in Australia, Britain and Germany

Scholarly book chapters
Mario Peucker and Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh and M Peucker: ‘Managing religious diversity and promoting active citizenship: Muslims in Australia, Britain and Germany’, in Fethi Mansouri and Boulou Ebanda de B'beri (eds), Global perspectives on the politics of multiculturalism in the 21st century: a case study analysis (London: Routledge, 2014). pp. 141-160
Publication year: 2014

Iran’s Policy towards Afghanistan In the Shadow of the United States

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Iran’s Policy towards Afghanistan: In the Shadow of the United States,’ Journal of Asian security and International Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 1 (April 2014), pp. 63-78.
Publication year: 2014

The fall of the Taliban in 2001 presented Iran with a complex strategic situation. On the one hand, the removal of the Taliban promised to open up new opportunities for Iran to expand its influence, based on historical and cultural ties between Iran and Afghanistan. On the other hand, the 2001 operation brought the United States (US) to the region. The large scale entrenchment of US troops on the eastern borders of Iran presented tangible security risks, dominating Iran’s strategic outlook. The closure of the US base in Uzbekistan and the planned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan have offered an opportunity to policy makers in Iran to recalibrate bilateral relations with Afghanistan. But the Iranian leadership appears too slow in readjusting its strategic outlook, keeping Iran’s policy towards Afghanistan hostage to its hostility towards the US.

The Special Broadcasting Service and the future of multiculturalism: An insight into contemporary challenges and future directions

Refereed Journal articles
Joshua Roose and Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Joshua Roose: ‘The Special Broadcasting Service and the Future of Multiculturalism: An Insight into Contemporary Challenges and Future Directions,’ Communication, Politics & Culture, Vol. 46, No. 1 (2013). pp. 93-115.
Publication year: 2013

 In the past decade multiculturalism across Western nations has come under sustained critique and attack from its political opponents. It has been asserted that multiculturalism leads to the creation of ghettos and segregated communities, which undermine liberal democratic values and heighten the risk of attraction to extremist violence, particularly in regard to Muslim communities. The ferocity of these attacks has led many scholars to claim that multiculturalism is ‘in retreat’. But such claims have rarely been tested as they relate to publicly funded government agencies and institutions. These are key sites governing the daily practice and representation of multiculturalism that impact on populations in everyday life. In the Australian context, the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) is a pivotal example of a multicultural institution, with its programming and community engagement widely considered among the world’s best practice in promoting pluralism and respect between cultures. In more recent times, however, a series of controversial episodes on the network’s flagship ‘ideas forum’, the Insight television program, have led to anger in Australian Muslim communities, and a boycott by a variety of community leaders, academics and activists. This study reveals a notable shift away from the core values of multiculturalism in the SBS and Australian society.

Investing in Mentoring and Educational Initiatives:The Limits of De-Radicalisation Programmes in Australia

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Limits of De-radicalisation Programs in Australia’, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 33, No. 3 (2013), pp. 451-463.
Publication year: 2013

The Australian Government has tried to counter the threat of Islamic extremism by investing in mentoring and educational initiatives. Fearful of the potential for “home-grown” extremism, especially after the July 2005 London attacks, the Australian authorities seek to counter the narrow-minded narrative of extremism by sponsoring “moderate Islam”. This approach is aimed at presenting a counter-ideology to Islamism, and has had some success. But it neglects the broader context of Muslim experience which is marked by socio-economic under-privilege and political alienation. These experiences marginalise Australian Muslims and make them vulnerable to extremist ideas. This pattern is most evident among the youth, whose sense of self is still in flux. Furthermore, the state’s sponsorship of “moderate Islam” puts Australia on a questionable path as it chips away at the principle of the separation of state and religion and makes moderate Muslims vulnerable to accusation of “betraying” Islam by the more radical elements in the Muslim community. This paper argues that efforts by the Australian Government to counter radicalisation are hindered by a range of political, cultural and socio-economic factors and analyses these factors in the light of historical, ethnic, cultural and social conditions relevant to the Muslim community in Australia.

Beyond Repair: Ruptures in the Foundations of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Refereed Journal articles
Rebecca Barlow, Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Rebecca Barlow: ‘Beyond Repair: Ruptures in the Foundations of the Islamic Republic of Iran,’ NCEIS Research Papers, Vol. 5, No. 9 (2013), pp. 1-23.
Publication year: 2013

A complex set of political and economic challenges have placed the Islamic Republic on the shakiest ground since its inception in 1979. Growing rifts amongst Iran’s top clerics and political elite have revealed the regime’s inability to pursue a coherent policy and project an image of unity on both the domestic and international stage. To make matters worse, the regime has been unable to provide social and economic security for its citizens in the face of harsh international sanctions and internal corruption. The Iranian Rial is severely inflated, unemployment is on the rise, and living standards are falling. At the same time, the state has shown worrying signs of militarisation, with the government increasingly relying on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, and its paramilitary wing, the Basij militia, to ensure political compliance and silence voices of dissent. Yet many opposition voices within Iran, including the Green Movement, continue to call for fundamental political reforms.

American Democracy Promotion in the Changing Middle East: From Bush to Obama

Edited research books
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Benjamin MacQueen ,James Piscatori, and Amin Saikal (eds)
Akbarzadeh, Shahram, Benjamin MacQueen, James Piscatori, and Amin Saikal, eds. American democracy promotion in the changing Middle East: from Bush to Obama. Routledge, 2012.
Publication year: 2013

The recent “Arab spring”, with its popular uprisings in many Arab countries, has exposed the ambiguity at the heart of American promotion of democracy in the Middle East. The US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were packaged as democracy promotion, as heralding the beginning of a new phase in the politics of the Middle East when democracy would replace authoritarian regimes. Many of these authoritarian regimes, however, were sustained by US support. The recent popular uprisings threaten to bring democracy without promotion by the US, and threaten to overthrow regimes previously supported by the US and important for US strategy in the region – hence an initial hesitant response by the US to some of the uprisings. This book explores the contradictions in American democracy promotion in the Middle East. It discusses the principles underlying US democracy promotion, and the debates surrounding US policy formation, and examines the application of US democracy promotion in specific cases. It concludes by assessing the likely future patterns of US engagement with democratic reform in the Middle East.

The Vicious Cycle of Stereotyping: Muslims in Europe and Australia

Scholarly book chapters
Mario Peucker and Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Mario Peucker: ‘The Vicious Cycle of Stereotyping: Muslims in Europe and Australia’, in Fethi Mansouri and Vince Marotta (eds), Muslims in the West and the Challenges of Belonging (Melbourne: MUP, 2012). pp. 171-197
Publication year: 2012

Routledge Handbook of Political Islam

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘The Paradox of Political Islam’, in Shahram Akbarzadeh (ed), Routledge Handbook of Political Islam (London: Routledge, 2012). pp. 1-10
Publication year: 2012

The Routledge Handbook of Political Islam provides a multidisciplinary overview of the phenomenon of political Islam, one of the key political movements of our time. Drawing on the expertise from some of the top scholars in the world it examines the main issues surrounding political Islam across the world, from aspects of Muslim integration in the West to questions of political legitimacy in the Muslim world.

Bringing together an international team of renowned and respected experts on the topic, the chapters in the book present a critical account of:

  • Theoretical foundations of political Islam
  • Historical background
  • Geographical spread of Islamist movements
  • Political strategies adopted by Islamist groups
  • Terrorism
  • Attitudes towards democracy
  • Relations between Muslims and the West in the international sphere
  • Challenges of integration
  • Gender relations.

Presenting readers with the diversity of views on political Islam in a nuanced and dispassionate manner, this handbook is an essential addition to the existing literature on Islam and politics. It will be of interest across a wide range of disciplines, including political science, Islamic studies, sociology and history.

Routledge Handbook of Political Islam

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Rebecca Barlow
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Rebecca Barlow: ‘The Institutionalisation of political Islam in Iran’, in Shahram Akbarzadeh (ed), Routledge Handbook of Political Islam (London: Routledge, 2012). pp. 142-153
Publication year: 2012

The establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1980 brought Islamism out of the shadows and into the corridors of power. This was an unprecedented development. Political Islam had emerged as the antithesis of the status quo, an alternative to secular policies and creeping Westernisation. In Iran, what started out as a revolutionary ideology was transformed into official ideology for the new regime. Islamism came full circle. Seemingly overnight, it was transformed from a battle cry for revolution into the pillar of a new system of government. Political Islam in today’s Iran is a status quo ideology that protects the vested interests of many in the clerical establishment, as well as those who have identified with, and benefited from, this transformation. This chapter explores the institutionalisation of political Islam in Iran.

The institutionalisation of Islamism following the 1979 popular revolution was not without difficulties. The major impediment to political Islam in Iran was the fact that it gained prominence on the back of a mass movement thirsty for political, social and economic trans­ parency and accountability. Engrained in the 1979 revolution was a desire to establish a new democratic system where the political leadership was answerable to the people and represented their national interests. The idea of a republic was appealing to the masses that protested against the corruption of the Pahlavi monarchy. Popular sovereignty was at the heart of the republic model. However, rule by the people did not sit easily with the Islamists and had to be demarcated within the limits set, as they claimed, by God. Tension between the popular and the divine models of government was evident from the very first day of the new regime. This tension is entwined in the Iranian constitution which maintains divine caveats to popular sovereignty and is even carried into the official name of the state: the Islamic Republic. The surge of popular resentment against the political establishment following the contested 2009 presidential elections was a reminder that the above tension remained unresolved. Street protests challenging the Supreme Leader and his role at the top of the state hierarchy have raised pertinent questions about the capacity of political Islam as a status quo ideology and what it means for civil rights. This chapter presents an account of political Islam in power and traces its implications for civil rights, with a special focus on women’s rights in Iran.

 

The Arab Revolutions in Context: Civil Society and Democracy in a Changing Middle East

Edited research books
Benjamin Isakhan, Fethi Mansouri and Shahram Akbarzadeh (eds)
Isakhan, Benjamin, Fethi Mansouri, and Shahram Akbarzadeh. ISS 12 The Arab Revolutions in Context: Civil Society and Democracy in a Changing Middle East. Vol. 12. Melbourne Univ. Publishing, 2012.
Publication year: 2012

From late 2010 a series of dramatic and unprecedented events swept across the Middle East and North Africa, toppling several autocratic regimes that had held power for decades and ushering in a new climate of dissent and democratisation. The Arab Revolutions in Context seizes a unique opportunity to reflect on these seismic events, their causes and consequences, and the core issues facing the region as it moves forward. This volume is more than a collection of detailed thematic essays.
It situates the Arab Revolutions within their broader contextual backgrounds—showing that a unique set of historical events, as well as local, regional and global dynamics, has converged to provide the catalyst that triggered the recent revolts-and also within a new conceptual framework. The argument here is that the Arab Revolutions pose a very specific challenge to conventional wisdom concerning democracy and democratisation in the Middle East. The Arab Revolutions in Context is the first volume of its kind to address the Arab Revolutions and the varying analyses, debates and discussions that they have stimulated.

Routledge Handbook of Political Islam

Edited research books
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Akbarzadeh, Shahram, ed. Routledge handbook of political Islam. Routledge, 2012.
Publication year: 2012

The Routledge Handbook of Political Islam provides a multidisciplinary overview of the phenomenon of political Islam, one of the key political movements of our time. Drawing on the expertise from some of the top scholars in the world it examines the main issues surrounding political Islam across the world, from aspects of Muslim integration in the West to questions of political legitimacy in the Muslim world.

Bringing together an international team of renowned and respected experts on the topic, the chapters in the book present a critical account of:

  • Theoretical foundations of political Islam
  • Historical background
  • Geographical spread of Islamist movements
  • Political strategies adopted by Islamist groups
  • Terrorism
  • Attitudes towards democracy
  • Relations between Muslims and the West in the international sphere
  • Challenges of integration
  • Gender relations.

Presenting readers with the diversity of views on political Islam in a nuanced and dispassionate manner, this handbook is an essential addition to the existing literature on Islam and politics. It will be of interest across a wide range of disciplines, including political science, Islamic studies, sociology and history.

Islamism Reaches Central Asia

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Islamism Reaches Central Asia’, in Shahram Akbarzadeh (ed), Routledge Handbook of Political Islam (London: Routledge, 2012). pp. 119-128
Publication year: 2012

The Routledge Handbook of Political Islam provides a multidisciplinary overview of the phenomenon of political Islam, one of the key political movements of our time. Drawing on the expertise from some of the top scholars in the world it examines the main issues surrounding political Islam across the world, from aspects of Muslim integration in the West to questions of political legitimacy in the Muslim world.

Bringing together an international team of renowned and respected experts on the topic, the chapters in the book present a critical account of:

  • Theoretical foundations of political Islam
  • Historical background
  • Geographical spread of Islamist movements
  • Political strategies adopted by Islamist groups
  • Terrorism
  • Attitudes towards democracy
  • Relations between Muslims and the West in the international sphere
  • Challenges of integration
  • Gender relations.

Presenting readers with the diversity of views on political Islam in a nuanced and dispassionate manner, this handbook is an essential addition to the existing literature on Islam and politics. It will be of interest across a wide range of disciplines, including political science, Islamic studies, sociology and history.

Constitutionalism in Islamic Countries: Between Upheaval and Continuity

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘The Limits of Islam in Post-Soviet Central Asia’, in Rainer Grote and Tilmann Röder (eds): Constitutionalism in Islamic
Publication year: 2011

This chapter examines the limited role of Islam in shaping the public space of post-Soviet Central Asia. It documents Soviet instruments of administrative control on Islam in Central Asia and then examines the behavior of the incumbent regimes which inherited this Soviet legacy. It shows that despite strong expectations of Central Asia’s transition from authoritarian rule to democracy following the Soviet collapse, the incumbent elite managed to thwart that process and return to the familiar modes of centralized authoritarian rule. The chapter concludes by exploring the prospects of Islam’s political role in Central Asia.

America’s Challenges in the Greater Middle East

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Obama in the Middle East: Failure to Bring Change’, in Shahram Akbarzadeh (ed), America’s Challenges in the Greater Middle East (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2-11). pp. 1-10
Publication year: 2011

President Barack Obama inherited an unenviable legacy from his predecessor in the greater Middle East. At the time of his inauguration, U.S. troops were involved in two theaters of war. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had started well and allowed the United States to gain quick victories against incumbent regimes. Securing these victories, however, had proven elusive. In Afghanistan, the Taliban had managed to put up resistance, seriously curtailing the authority of the central government beyond major centers of population. The Taliban also established camps across the border, using Pakistani territory to train fighters and launch attacks against U.S. troops and those of its allies. In Iraq, a pro-Saddam insurgency soon developed into an Islamist/Al Qaeda campaign of terror, aimed at punishing the United States and instigating a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia Iraqis.

Muslims, Multiculturalism and the Question of the Silent Majority

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Joshua Roose
Shahram Akbarzadeh Joshua Roose: ‘Muslims, Multiculturalism and the Question of the Silent Majority’, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 31, No. 3 (2011). pp.309-325.
Publication year: 2011

Cultural diversity is the norm in Australia and the United Kingdom. Both states celebrate multiculturalism. But some populist politicians, commentators, and quasi-academics have recently portrayed Western Muslims as a “fifth column”, organized and intent on destroying the fabric of Western culture from within. Interestingly, extremist Muslim groups in the West make similar claims about the relationship between Islam and the West. In recent years, however, Western-born “moderate” Muslim intellectuals and moderates have emerged into the public sphere to challenge essentialist depictions of Islam and the Islamist textual interpretations. They claim an important social space for the Western practice of Islam. Whilst a burgeoning level of academic scrutiny is being focused upon moderate Muslims, this article notes the absence of academic literature about a large part of the Muslim population whose public life is not necessarily guided by their religion but more by their culture and ethnicity, i.e. the “cultural Muslims”. This group is unrepresented in the public debate on Islam and often ignored yet could constitute the majority of Western Muslims. This article concludes by posing significant questions about this group and the implications of political discourse upon their future trajectory.

America’s Challenges in the Greater Middle East

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Iran: From Engagement to Containment’, in Shahram Akbarzadeh (ed), America’s Challenges in the Greater Middle East (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). pp. 161-176
Publication year: 2011

President Barack Obama faces a tough challenge to his efforts to steer away from the policies of his predecessor in Iran. Obama’s diplomatic charm offensive in the Muslim world, and more specifically in relation to Iran, was hoped to breathe new life into the tortured relationship between the United States and Iran. This was a marked departure from the past. Regime change was out. Direct engagement was in. Obama refrained from repeating his predecessor’s threats against Iran, instead trying to find a way to influence the behavior of the ruling regime. In a clear effort to draw lessons from past mistakes, the Obama administration moved to address the emotive issues of respect and parity between the United States and Iran and endeavored to chart a path of noninterference. Despite this significant change in the U.S. position, little progress has been made in affecting the behavior of the Islamic regime. Iran continues to defy the international community with its nuclear program, insists on antagonizing Israel, supports Hizbullah, and dismisses international efforts to bring peace to the protracted Palestinian-Israeli dispute. In short, Iran revels in its pariah status. As a result, pressure has been mounting on President Obama to reconsider his policy of engagement and revert back to the pattern of punishment.

Democracy Promotion versus Engagement with Iran

Refereed Journal articles
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Democracy Promotion versus Engagement with Iran,’ Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 41, No. 3 (2011). pp.471-483.
Publication year: 2011

US President Barack Obama has tried two very distinct policy options in dealing with Iran. The engagement policy was designed to make a break with the past experience and re-start US-Iran relations on a positive footing. This approach was consistent with the advice offered to the new administration by Iran analysts and leaders of non-governmental organisations. The implication of the engagement policy, however, was sidelining the US commitment to democracy and human rights in Iran. This policy could offer little to the budding reform movement in 2009. The alternative policy of containment was not beneficial to the reform movement either. The policy shift at the end of 2009 was a response to Iran’s failure to comply with the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The containment policy, manifested in the fourth round of UN-imposed sanctions on Iran, has led to a further entrenching of the hard-liners in the regime and intolerance of internal dissent.

America’s Challenges in the Greater Middle East

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh, Luca Anceschi
Shahram Akbarzadeh and Luca Anceschi: ‘Central Asia: Pragmatism in Action’, in Shahram Akbarzadeh (ed), America’s Challenges in the Greater Middle East (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). pp. 217-236
Publication year: 2011

The Obama administration has inherited a difficult case in Central Asia. Once shunned by successive U.S. administrations for its poor record on human rights and its geostrategic position that was assumed to be peripheral to U.S. interests, Central Asia was thrust on the U.S. foreign policy radar in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Security concerns, followed closely by establishing access routes to the region’s fossil fuels, have dominated the minds of policy makers ever since. In between these concerns has been the nagging question of political reform, something the Central Asian leadership has been disinclined to adopt. The Bush administration tried to find a balance between competing objectives in relation to Central Asia. Generally emphasizing the security aspect of the relationship, the Bush administration peppered its public statements on Central Asia with the occasional reference to the normative concepts of good governance and rule of law. The latter may have been mere window dressing, but such reference was a reminder of an inherent tension between pragmatism and idealism in the foreign policy of the United States. This chapter traces the ebbs and flows of these competing goals and examines the responses formulated by the Obama administration. It is argued that the Obama administration has continued to regard security and access to fossil fuels as Washington’s primary objectives while pushing concerns with normative aspects of foreign policy further to the background.

America's Challenges in the Greater Middle East

Edited research books
Shahram Akbarzadeh (ed)
Akbarzadeh, Shahram, ed. America's challenges in the greater Middle East: the Obama Administration's policies. Springer, 2011.
Publication year: 2011

Barack Obama has faced many challenges in reversing U.S. policy on the Middle East. This book highlights points of resistance to Obama’s efforts regarding U.S. foreign policy and what lessons may be learned from this experience for the remainder of his presidency and his potential second term in office.

The Challenge of being Muslim

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘The Challenge of being Muslim’, in Shahram Akbarzadeh (ed), Challenging Identities: Muslim Women in Australia (Melbourne: MUP, 2010). pp. 1-8
Publication year: 2010

Muslim women in Australia are at the forefront of a culture war, and not necessarily by choice. As visible representatives of Islam, veiled women face discrimination and abuse, and carry the stigma of a culture frequently deemed unacceptable and inferior. Despite these adverse conditions, Muslim women have demonstrated a remarkable resilience by maintaining their presence in the public domain and by continuing to make a positive contribution to Australia. The experiences of Muslim women in Australia cannot be typecast as a sisterhood of oppressed females. Challenging Identities questions the assumption of incompatible ‘Australian values’ and ‘Islamic values’, and provides valuable first-person accounts from the lives of Muslim women in Australia.

Living Islam in Australia

Scholarly book chapters
Shahram Akbarzadeh: ‘Living Islam in Australia’ in Australia and the Arab World (Abu Dhabi: Emirati Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, 2010). pp. 117-132.
Publication year: 2010

Australia’s contribution to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and its subsequent withdrawal in 2009 have made Arab-Australian relations a controversial and complex issue. They are further complicated as each side seeks not only to secure and maintain strategic and diplomatic relations, but also the perennially important trade and energy relations. This book explores and analyses this relationship using a number of approaches, looking at Australia’s diplomatic and economic ties with the Arab states, as well as the cultural exchange that occurs with the Muslims and Arabs who live inside Australia, and their contribution towards a growing multicultural society. This important analysis will be of interest to students, researchers and policymakers in a range of fields, such as International Relations, Middle East studies, multiculturalism and trade relations.