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Holy Warriors

In God’s Path: The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire by robert g. hoyland oxford, 320 pages, $29.95 Amedieval Islamic tradition recounts that the Prophet Muhammad once told his companions after they returned from a battle: “You have come from the Lesser Jihad to the Greater . . . . Continue Reading »

Confession and the Armenian Genocide

My grandmother often talked about her father’s crucifixion to my mother and my aunt. Today my aunt still vividly remembers her lamenting the atrocities of the Armenian massacres that spread throughout the Ottoman Empire one hundred years ago.The family called my great grandfather Haji Dede. He was a beloved low level cleric of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the village of Tomarza in the Kayseri region of central Turkey. In 1915, the killers came to Tomarza. They put Haji Dede up on some crossbeams, and turned him upside down like Saint Peter. I have no further narrative or details of what else they did to him before he died. Other sources have noted that a pre-killing ritual of men, especially clergy, often involved pulling out their beards. Victims could undergo other barbaric humiliations and tortures, beheading, or be burned alive. The Armenians who neither survived nor were butchered outright, died on death marches. Continue Reading »

A Genocide Remembered and Denied

On the night of April 24, 1915, as Constantinople’s Armenian community was deep in slumber following Easter celebrations, Turkish gendarmes, following the orders of the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP), made their way through the ancient Byzantine capital to the homes of 250 Armenian cultural leaders. As Peter Balakian wrote in The Burning Tigris, Constantinople’s Armenian community had been “the center of Armenian cultural and intellectual life” since the nineteenth century. The Armenians were a minority community that excelled in the arts, academia, and the professional classes; successful, intelligent, and very much “the other” in a Turkey whose young rulers were influenced by the racialist ideologies then prominent in Europe. Continue Reading »

Incoherence, Petulance, and Obama's Middle East Policy

The Obama administration's Middle East policy is becoming something worse than a failure. It is turning into a combination of ideological tics and irritable gestures even as the worst actors gain power.Ross Douthat argues that the Obama administration is shifting the U.S.’s foreign policy strategy from a Pax Americana model (where the U.S. uses military force to impose order) to one of offshore balancing (where the U.S. strategically sides with one local power or another while keeping U.S. commitments to a minimum). If only that were what the United States was doing. A thoughtful policy of offshore balancing would be a dramatic improvement over policies that Obama is pursuing. Continue Reading »

St. John Paul II and the “Tyranny of the Possible”

The reputations of the great often diminish over time. Ten years after his holy death on April 2, 2005, Karol Wojtyla, Pope St. John Paul II, looms even larger than he did when the world figuratively gathered at his bedside a decade ago: tens of millions of men and women around the world who felt impelled, and privileged, to pray with him through what he called his “Passover”—his liberation through death into a new life of freedom in the blazing glory of the Thrice-Holy God. Continue Reading »

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