Hassan Mneimneh

With an academic background in History and Middle East Studies (Harvard University, Georgetown University, and the American University of Beirut), Hassan Mneimneh has written extensively on radicalization and insurgency in the Middle East, and he continues to participate in initiatives designed to assess extremism in the Arab and Muslim worlds. He is co-editor of the biannual review Current Trends in Islamist Ideology and was involved in the Iraq Research and Documentation Project (IRDP) since its inception at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. He is at present at the Hudson Center, Washington DC. He argues that the historical record of Muslim societies can be read in two different ways: normative and empirical. The normative reading accepts a priori the notion that there is one Muslim global community (Umma) endowed with one central authority (Khilafa or Caliphate), the legitimacy of which derives solely from its status as successor to the rule of the Prophet. History is, therefore, the account of the fulfillment of, and aberrations from, this ideal. He notes how, in fact, it is the philological efforts of Western Orientalists, relying primarily on the output of the scholastic tradition—that provide the justification for the Islamist normative view of Muslim history, and the view that Arab-Islamic civilization had a Golden Age that should be emulated and restored. He argues, however, that an empirical reading of Muslim history reveals a considerably more nuanced reality, and does not support the Islamist position.