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80 Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies, Vol. 1.1 The Transnational Mosque: Architecture and Historical Memory in the Contemporary Middle East Kishwar Rizvi Chapel Hill: North Carolina Press, 2015. 296 pages. Ina1963publicationtitledMiṣrTabnī,“EgyptBuilds,”EgyptianarchitectAhmed rTabnī,“EgyptBuilds,”EgyptianarchitectAhmed rTabnī Hammad showcases 1950s and 1960s built and unrealized works by Egyptian architects. Local modernists translated the International Style into an architectural language for the modern nation. The final section of Hammad’s book is dedicated to religious architecture, where the hard edges and clear lines of contemporary architecture found in the previous pages in building projects such as housing, government offices, and cultural centers give way to neo-historicist references . The same architects, such as local modernists Ali Labib Gabr and Sayed Karim, shied away from designing explicitly modernist mosques; instead, they made modest interventions in conventional plans and sections while the facades reproduced the familiar appearance of mosques with all the expected trappings. On two consecutive pages are the designs for a church and mosque, both by Sayed Karim. While the church, designed for the Cairo district of Maadi, echoes Oscar Niemeyer’s designs, the mosque designed for the city of Kom Ombo is far more subdued in terms of modernist design as it includes Moorish arches and crenellations along its roofline. The striking difference induces one to ask: What does a contemporary mosque look like? Furthermore, who decides on the architectural signification of these buildings, and for what reasons? Kishwar Rizvi’s The Transnational Mosque: Architecture and Historical Memory in the Contemporary Middle East offers a sweeping analysis of the ways Memory in the Contemporary Middle East offers a sweeping analysis of the ways Memory in the Contemporary Middle East in which the architecture of mosques in a troubled region has been shaped by the coalescence of individual and national agendas. With a focus on buildings from the Middle East and beyond, the book includes architectural examples produced around the globe that are linked to the stylistic, political, or economic spheres of influence of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Turkey. The first cited example in the book, the Muhammad al-Amin Mosque in central Beirut, captures the essence of the author’s argument. The mosque is located in a critical location in the city, loaded with memories and histories of conflict and political transformations. The building architecturally quotes Ottoman and Egyptian mosques from varying periods, and its funding is Saudi via a local business tycoon. Thus, al-Amin Mosque is a transnational mosque that “refers to the Elshahed / Book Reviews 81 distant past and appears to move beyond geographical and temporal boundaries , the goal of this resurrected imagery is to create a vision for the future defined by religious ideology.” (p. 3) Thebookoffersahistoryofthecontemporaryarchitecturesofmosquesacross a region rife with political and religious tensions, and where historical memory is destroyed and remade by a wide range of actors from businessmen and governments to terrorist groups such as Daʿish. Mosques built in today’s Middle East are discussed against a backdrop of numerous acts of the destruction of shrines, churches, and temples, as well as historical and minority mosques and pre-Islamic religious sites. In this context, “The need to monumentalize different periods of Islamic history capitalizes on the zeitgeist of contemporary Islam, in which backward glances appear to provide direction and serve as inspiration for communities and governments seeking a new vision for the future.” (p. 4). The architectural styles of these recent monuments to global Islam are not accidental. They are carefully designed to craft new identities reflecting the tug of war between conflicting interests invested in particular localities while connected to political and religious networks that stretch across boundaries of nation-states. TheTransnationalMosquemovesawayfromtherecentsurgeofinterestin“the global” where the term has become a catchall phrase for expanding Eurocentric histories by adding a smattering of examples from the global south. Instead, the author frames her study in terms of the “transnational,” with emphasis on specific actors, such as architectural firms and financial backers, whose designs and capital move between specific locales and geographies. The transgressions of limitations of place as well as time produce the architectural examples studied in the book, as they simultaneously monumentalize certain historical memories...


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pp. 80-83
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