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Gen Ed 1123: Islam and Politics in the Modern Middle East


Some of the texts found here might be disturbing for readers, due to their offensive content and call for hatred and violence. Although the course does not endorse these texts, they are important for students to read and discuss, as they represent one particular facet of the way in which Islam has been used to shape political thought. The teaching staff is strongly committed to supporting students, in class and beyond, when we discuss these topics.  However, students should be aware of the potential for uncomfortable moments. ​

Representative Texts/Collections in English

News Sources in English


U.S. Government Sources, Policy Documents and Reports

west point insignia

ISIL, Syria, and Iraq Resources [Combating Terrorism Center at West Point]

A gateway to declassified primary source documents (many translated into English) related to ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq, also referred to as the IslamicState of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), the Islamic State (IS) or Da`ish, and its predecessors (al-Tawhid wa-al-Jihad, al-Qa`ida in Mesopotamia (AQI), Majlis Shura al-Mujahidin, Hilf al-Muttayibin and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI)). Additional CTC research and analysis resources contextualize the development of ISIL and discuss factors leading to the  current conflicts in Iraq and Syria. 


seal department of state

Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS)

Produced by the Office of the Historian at the U.S. Department of State, the Foreign Relations of the United States presents the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity. FRUS volumes contain documents from Presidential libraries, Departments of State and Defense, National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency, the Agency for International Development, other foreign affairs agencies and the private papers of important individuals involved in formulating U.S. foreign policy. In general, the editors choose documentation that illuminates policy formulation and major aspects and repercussions of its execution.


ProQuest Congressional

Congressional documents -- legislation, hearings, House and Senate committe reports (for example) -- can sometimes be important primary source materials for foreign policy research. 

Although the Executive Office initiates and sets the course for international relations, Congress has important, if less obvious, roles to play in the process. It provides oversight and can authorize investigations into administration policies and activities (as it did with Iran Contra in 1987). It can choose to ratify international treaties (or not).  Moreover, because it approves funding and foreign aid requests from the White House, Congress always exercises a subtler influence on international policies.


 national security agency sealDigital National Security Archive

Founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy, the National Security Archive curates the word's largest and most comprehensive non-governmental collection of declassified U.S. documents. In 50+ subject collections (including materials on Afghanistan, Iraqgate, Iran-Contra, and the Iranian Revolution), the DNSA covers U.S. foreign policy, intelligence and security issues during the pivotal period of twentieth-century history. Subject collections are always prefaced by an introductory essay that provides historical context, explains the methodology behind the document selections, and identifies their potential research value. 


U.S. Intelligence on the Middle East, 1945-2009 [Brill]

This comprehensive document archive sheds light on the U.S. intelligence community’s spying and analytic efforts in the Arab world, including the Middle East, the Near East, and North Africa. It covers the time period from the end of World War II up through 2009. The database includes materials on such events as the the 2002-2003 Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) assessments, the Global War on Terror, the Iraq War, and Iran’s developing nuclear program. 

The Middle East in International Politics and Law


Wire copy, correspondence, memos, internal publications, and more, documenting decades of journalistic coverage of the Middle East region. Ankara files date 1982-2005; Beirut from 1975-2008; and Jerusalem from 1967-1998.

Archives Direct (U.K.)

A suite of collections sourced from The National Archives, Kew, the official government repository of the United Kingdom. Containing diplomatic correspondence, letters, reports, surveys, material from newspapers, statistical analyses, published pamphlets, ephemera, military papers, profiles of prominent individuals, maps and more, it consists of the history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from the British state’s point of view. Collections of possible interest for SW 54 include the Confidential Print Files on the Middle East (1839-1969), the Foreign Office Files on India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (1947-1980), the Confidential Print Files on Africa (1834-1966), documents from The Nixon Years (1969-1974), and The Macmillan Cabinet Papers (1957-1963).


Yearbook of the United Nations

The Yearbook of the United Nations—published by the Department of Public Information—stands as the authoritative reference work on the activities and concerns of the Organization. Based on official UN documents, the Yearbook provides comprehensive coverage of political and security matters, human rights issues, economic and social questions, legal issues, and institutional, administrative and budgetary matters. Discussions and synthesis are based on the primary U.N. sources that are described and identified.


World Constitutions, Illustrated

Multi-lingual resource that brings together historical and contemporary documents, provides English translations of every constitution, and links to scholarly commentary. 



From this site, users can read constitutions from around the world, in English. They can also select and then systematically compare two or more countries, passages, and topics. 

Islamist Image Collections

tehran mural image

The Tehran Propaganda Murals (Harvard Library digital collection)


A part of daily life in contemporary Iran, propaganda murals appear throughout Tehran on both public and private buildings and contain powerful iconographic imagery.

In the summer of 2006, photographer Cristina Fonti walked the streets of the Iranian capital to capture and document these images.  The Harvard College Library's collection contains 141 digitized propaganda murals. Item descriptions include English translations of captions (when included). 

The murals are potentially fertile sites for students interested in material culture, recent Iranian history, or the intersection of art, political Islam, and public space.

Above: Six-storey high mural depicting Khalid al-lslambuli, the Egyptian army officer who assassinated President Anwar al-Sadat in 1981. The mural is located on Ghaem Magham Farahani Street, Behjat-Abad, Tehran. The text, in Arabic, reads "I have killed the Pharaoh of Egypt." 



middle east poster collectionMIddle East Poster Collection 

Widener Library's Middle Eastern Division has a poster and ephemera collection which numbers around 7,000 items. It offers a unique interdisciplinary research opportunity into current and historical events in the Middle East.

The collection is wide and varied in its scope and depth. It includes about 20 categories, including political/election posters, Arab spring posters (especially the January 25 revolution in Egypt), Iraq war posters, film posters, lobby cards, art posters, sports posters, celebrity posters, advertising posters, even humorous posters from various periods and countries.

This special collection is currently being processed (i.e., described and cataloged in our HOLLIS Images Database. Students who are interested in using it for an Gen Ed 1123 project should contact its curator, Ali Boutaqmanti.

Above: Poster of the Iraqi Islamic political leader Muqtadá al-Ṣadr, one of the influential Shiite leaders in Iraq.The caption in Arabic script reads: "May God protect the lion cub of the Ḥawzah al-nāṭiqah [the speaking Ḥawzah], al-Sayyid Muqtadá al-Ṣadr," a reference to his weekly newspaper “al-Ḥawzah : al-nāṭiqah al-sharīfah,” shut down in 2004.


The Militant Imagery Project, Combating Terrorism Center, West Point 

Jihadist organizations and individuals inspired by their message are prolific producers and distributors of visual propaganda, and their efforts have expanded exponentially online.

Since 2006, The CTC has been collecting, decoding, and contextualizing the most prominent of these images and themes. Particular attention is given to groups who use images to further financial, material, and ideological support for violence. Each item is accompanied by a full English translation when texts are part of the image, and a detailed analysis of its specific visual motifs.

[For a detailed analysis of the image above, click here.]


Islamist Periodicals



A clearinghouse for jihadi primary sources, translations, and original analysis, maintained by Aaron Y. Zellin.

Zellin also produces and hosts JihadPod, which feature interviews with experts in the field of jihadi studies and analysis of jihadi primary source material. Currently, there are 31 episodes, (2011-2016).


Dabiq (c.2014-2016)

The glossy recruiting magazine, in English, put out by the Islamic State. According to Muslim apocalyptic tradition, "Dabiq" refers to a Syrian site where one of the final battles will take place.

In 2016, Dabiq was succeeded by a new publication, Rumiyah.



Inspire is an English language magazine, first published in 2010 and produced by AQAP (al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula). It aims at British and American readers.



Islamic State Report

A glossy English language publication, aimed at a Western audience. Most recently tracked issue: June 2014.


Islamic State News

This publication identifies itself as the "News Authority of the Islamic State." Most recently tracked issue: June 2014.



Al Qaeda's English language magazine, launched in 2014. It contains articles on variety of jihadist topics, but focuses most heavily on the Indian subcontinent.


Islamist Websites in English


Ikhwan Web: The Muslim Brotherhood's official English website


Launched in 2005, Ikhwan Web is the Muslim Brotherhood"s only official English web site. The main office is located in London, although Ikhwan Web has correspondents in most countries. Ikhwan Web is not a news website, although it reports news that matters to the Muslim Brotherhood's cause. By presenting the Muslim Brotherhood's vision directly, the site hopes to rebut misconceptions in Western society about Islam.




Official Website of Muqtada al-Sadr [English language version]


Ḥizb ut-Taḥrīr

According to the website, Hizb ut-Tahrir "aims to resume the Islamic way of life and to convey the Islamic da'wah to the world. This objective means bringing the Muslims back to living an Islamic way of life in Dar al-Islam and in an Islamic society such that all of life's affairs in society are administered according to the Shari'ah rules, and the viewpoint in it is the halal and the haram under the shade of the Islamic State, which is the Khilafah State." Provides links to leaflets, books, speeches, and national organizations ("welaya" ) and their publications. 


Hizbullah: the Party of God

As defined on its website, Hizbullah is an "important and pivotal force in Middle East politics in general and Lebanese society in particular. Hizbullah has its immediate historic roots in the social uprising of the Lebanese Shi'a community in the late 1960's and early 70's" and took its inspiration from the charismatic Imam Musa Sadr and his Movement of the Deprived (Harakat al-Mahrumin). The homepage links to documents, institutions, and sites related directly to Hizbullah; to external resources that report on its activities; and to Israel documents on Hizbullah.

Official website of the leader of Morocco's al-ʻAdl wa-al-Iḥsān (Justice and Spirituality Party). Site links to primary sources, including writings, letters and correspondence.


Hamas Charter

Issued on August 12, 1988 and sometimes referred to as the "Hamas Covenant,"  it outlines the ideology and aims of a group that identified itself as one of the branches of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.. 

Commentary on the Hamas Charter

From Myths and Facts, an organization devoted to research and publication of information regarding US interests in the world and particularly in the Middle East.  The site is maintained by Eli E. Hertz, past Chairman of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA), an organization "devoted to promoting accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East."


Ennahdha Renaissance Party 

From its website: "Ennahda (Renaissance) Party is a Tunisian political party with an Islamic frame of reference. It was established in 1981 and joined the generations of Tunisians who struggled against dictatorship and for freedom and justice, experiencing repression and persecution under the former regime. The party received official legal status on 1 March 2011 following the Tunisian Revolution, under the Decree of September 24, 2011. Its aim is to contribute to building a modern Tunisia, a thriving democratic republic based on the rule of law and values ​​of citizenship, freedom, rights and responsibilities, and whose citizens can enjoy dignity, equality and social justice."