Identity and Religion: The Struggle between Islamism and Secularism in the Occupied Territories

By Frisch, Hillel | Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Identity and Religion: The Struggle between Islamism and Secularism in the Occupied Territories


Frisch, Hillel, Middle East Quarterly


Identity and Religion: The Struggle between Islamism and Secularism in the Occupied Territories. By Loren D. Lybarger. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2007. 26 1 pp. $46.

Lybarger's worthy book ties together rich ethnographic material and interviews during the 1990s with individuals in three locales - Bethlehem, a neighboring refugee camp, and a refugee camp in Gaza. The interviews reveal the perpetual fluidity of individuals in crisis situations in identifying who they are and where they are going.

Lybarger, assistant professor of classics and world religions at Ohio University-Athens, captures much of the complexity of social and political life, even given the small size of his sample. He is a master of prose with true insight. We meet the leftist activist turned nongovernmental organization professional worried about the rise of Islamism; the Palestine Liberation Organization bureaucratic type who is convinced that nationalist and fundamentalist revolutionaries are both derailing Palestinian state-building; two unmarried women, one clinging to a relatively liberal life, the other moving with the wave into a life of Islamic piety; an Islamist and his wife in the Gaza refugee camp increasingly and mutually estranged from his older brother who belongs to one of the Palestinian Authority's security services; and other less decisive and sure-footed souls who are trying to make the most of the quicksand reality around them. …

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