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The Turbulent World with James M. Dorsey

News & Politics Podcasts

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. James is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title as well as Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa.




Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. James is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title as well as Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa.






Religious Leaders Strive To Become Peacemakers Rather Than Warmongers

A recent clash between pro-Palestinian Muslims and pro-Israeli Christians in the North Sulawesi coastal town of Bitung raised the spectre of Indonesia’s worst nightmare, inter-communal violence. In a country that prides itself on a culture of inter-communal harmony, the death of a protester set off alarm bells. “This is very worrying” said Yahya Cholil Staquf, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest and most moderate Muslim civil society movement. Mr. Staquf, popularly known as Pak Yahya, spoke at a one-day summit in Jakarta of religious leaders, convened to define “religion’s role in addressing Middle East violence & threats to a rules-based international order.”


Gaza Divides The Wheat From The Chaff Among Religious Leaders

Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel has not just divided Muslim political leaders. It’s also solicited diverse responses from religious figures and institutions, reflecting deeper divisions about what Islam stands for in the 21st century. At the core of the differences is the ability and willingness to empathise with innocent victims on both sides of the Israeli-Palestnian divide, even if the focus is on the carnage caused by Israel’s assault on Gaza, the West’s double standards, and the international community’s impotence in imposing a long-term halt to the fighting.


Gaza’s Day After May Alleviate Suffering But Promises To Be No Panacea

Israel’s war on Gaza. Cracks in Western support have emerged not only because of the devastating human toll of Israel’s military campaign, including stepped-up attacks on hospitals and schools, but also due to differences on how Gaza would be governed once the guns fall silent.


Israeli And Palestinian War Crimes - A Conversation With Omer Bartov

Words matter. No more so than in legal settings. Genocide is the word most associated with Israel's more than one-month-long assault on Gaza. In response to the October 7 Hamas attack against Israel, in which at least 1,200, mostly civilian, Israelis were killed. Genocide and Holocaust scholars, including those who believe that Israel has and is committing war crimes in its assault are divided about whether Israeli actions amount to genocide. Even so, they warn that Israeli actions could lead to genocide, if it not already has. What is certain is that optics streaming out of Gaza of the destruction and the plight of innocent Palestinian civilians, including large numbers of children and babies, explain the popular use of the term genocide when discussing the Israeli assault. To get some proper definitions and put things in perspective. I am joined today by Professor Omar Bartov, a world-renowned genocide and Holocaust scholar at Brown University in Rhode Island.


Israeli And Palestinian Obstinance, Not Settlements, Obstructs Two - State Solution

When US President Joe Biden insisted there could be no return to the status ante quo once the guns fall silent in Gaza, he revived debate about the viability of a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, for all practical purposes, Hamas’ brutal October 7 attack against Israel and Israel’s more than month-long indiscriminate bombing of Gaza have likely delayed any realistic effort to resolve the conflict.


Arab And Muslim Leaders Put Limited Influence And Differences On Display

It took Arab and Muslim leaders 35 days of war to call an ‘emergency’ meeting to discuss Israel’s assault on Gaza. Their limited ability to influence developments was on public display when they finally gathered this weekend in the Saudi capital Riyadh. So were the differences that raised questions about efforts in recent years to sustainably reduce regional tensions without resolving fundamental disputes and conflicts.


Whither Hamas A Conversation With Hostage Negotiator Gershon Baskin

Few bring an understanding to the table of both sides that is grounded in having mediated between Israel and Hamas rather than only having engaged with one side or the other, particularly as Qatar negotiates a release of some hostages kidnapped by Hamas on October 7. A hostage negotiator, former advisor to Israeli prime ministers, critic of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and an investor in East Jerusalem housing for Palestinians, Gershon Baskin is one of those few. In 2011, Mr. Baskin negotiated Hamas’ release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,027 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. Mr. Baskin was in touch with Hamas leaders in Gaza until a week ago. He says the release by Hamas of women, children, and elderly hostages is being negotiated on three different tracks in Qatar, Egypt, and Lebanon, countries that host exiled Hamas officials and/or have a relationship with the group. The release could involve an exchange for Palestinians in Israeli prisons and/or a temporary silencing of the guns.


Gaza War Drowns Out Sane Voices

Gershon Baskin may be one of the few sane voices left on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide. Mr. Baskin speaks with authority when he denounces the Israeli assault on Gaza as a war crime and Hamas for its brutal October 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,400, primarily civilian, Israelis.


Israel In Gaza No Good Options

Israel’s options are central to discussions about the day after the guns fall silent in Gaza. Absent from the debate is what Palestinians want.


US Gaza War Cost - Benefit Analysis May Reach Tipping Point

The stakes in the Gaza war for the United States and President Joe Biden could not be higher.


Biden’s Israeli Bear Hug Is A Double - Edged Sword

US President Joe Biden’s bear hug approach and refusal to pressure Israel more forcefully involves a complicated cost-benefit analysis as well as a crucial political battle that could not only drag the United States into another Middle East war but also change the paradigm of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.


Hamas Puts Malaysia In A Bind

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is in a bind. He is caught between public support for the Palestinians, and for Hamas in significant quarters, opponents painting him as a Western and Israeli lackey, and the need to not be seen as enabling a militant organization that brutally targets civilians.


Israel May Win Its Battle Against Hamas But Has Already Lost The War

Israel will likely win the Gaza war on the battlefield. Even so, it has already been defeated in the court of public opinion.


Emotions Fuel Gaza War And Bury Hopes For Resolving The Israeli - Palestinian Conflict

Human beings’ most destructive instincts – survival, anger, fear, despair, and vengeance – dictate Israeli and Palestinian war strategy and policy in the wake of Hamas’ October 7 brutal attack on Israel.


Middle Eastern History Repeats Itself Or Maybe It Doesn’t

If there is a lesson to be drawn from the Gaza war, it is that history repeats itself: hardliners on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide reinforce each other.


The Middle East May Never Be The Same

Hamas, the Islamist militia that controls Gaza, will likely emerge a victor regardless of how the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian fighting ends.


The Politics Of Saudi And Iranian Sports

Saudi and Iranian sports have politics written into their DNA.


Reforming Islam - How Many Ways To Crack An Egg - A Conversation With Andrew March.

Islamic Law is at the centre of debates about what constitutes moderate Islam and what it would take to reform Islam. Essentially two schools of thought dominate the discussion. Islam's traditional approach simply picks and chooses which elements of Sharia it opts to ignore. That is the approach adopted by autocratic rulers like Saudi Crown Prince Moham bin Salman and United Arab Emirates. President Mohamed bin Zayed. Indonesia's, Nahdlatul Ulama, the world's largest and most moderate civil society movement challenges the traditional approach. It insists that removal of outdated, obsolete, and supremacist concepts in Sharia is the only way to fortify Islam against religious and political extremism and promote political, social, and religious pluralism, religious tolerance, and democracy. My guest today, Andrew March, a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor is an Islam scholar and author of several books published last month. Andrew's last book on Muslim democracy is a translation of essays by Rached Ghannouchi, a Tunisian politician, public intellectual, religious thinker, and founder of a political party that evolved from Islamism to Muslim democracy in many ways comparable to Christian democratic parties. The book is also a philosophical discussion between the two. Mr. Ghannouchi was named one of Time's 100 most influential people in the world in 2012 and Foreign Policy’s top 100 global thinkers. Eighty-two years old, Mr. Ghannouchi is the latest high- profile figure to have been arrested on charges of incitement against state authorities by the autocratic regime of President Kais Saied. Ghannouchi went on hunger strike this week. Ghannouchi is a middle ground figure in the debate about what constitutes moderate Islam and how to reform the faith. Reform of Sharia may be one step too far for him. Yet, his evolution from Islamism or political Islam to Muslim democracy positions him as a democratic reformer. It raises the question of whether Mr. Ghannouchi and his Ennahda Party are models for groups like the Muslim Brotherhood or the exception that confirms the rule that political Islam is inflexible, rigid, and opposed to moderate interpretations of Islam and a threat to secularism. Andrew March joins me to discuss all of this.


Saudi - Israeli Deal Would Be A Gamechanger But Not For The Reasons Discussed

A Saudi-Israeli agreement to establish diplomatic relations involving enhanced US commitments to Gulf security could be a game-changer for great power rivalry in the Middle East.


Keeping Saudi Ultra - Conservatism Alive And Kicking Meet Sheikh Awesome

Meet Sheikh Assim Al-Hakeem, aka Sheikh Awesome, a multilingual, ultra-conservative, and charismatic Saudi cleric. Mr. Al-Hakeem is more than just any Saudi Islamic scholar. An erstwhile Friday prayer imam of a mosque in Jeddah, Mr. Al-Hakeem articulates views that at times align with those of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman but, at others, contradict the recasting of Saudi Arabia’s religious image projected by the kingdom’s de facto ruler.