Category Archives: Jessica P. Wright

Around the Web This Week

Some interesting law & religion stories from around the web this week:

Hamid, “Temptations of Power”

9780199314058_450Next month, Oxford University Press will publish Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East by Shadi Hamid (Brookings Doha Center). The publisher’s description follows.

In 1989, Francis Fukuyama famously declared that we had reached “the end of history,” and that liberal democracy would be the reigning ideology from now on. But Fukuyama failed to reckon with the idea of illiberal democracy. What if majorities, working through the democratic process, decide they would rather not accept gender equality and other human rights norms that Western democracies take for granted? Nowhere have such considerations become more relevant than in the Middle East, where the Arab uprisings of 2011 swept the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties into power. Since then, one question has been on everyone’s mind: what do Islamists really want?

In Temptations of Power, noted Brookings scholar Shadi Hamid draws on hundreds of interviews with Islamist leaders and rank-and-file activists to offer an in-depth look at the past, present, and future of Islamist parties across the Arab world. The oldest and most influential of these groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, initially dismissed democracy as a foreign import, but eventually chose to participate in Egyptian and Jordanian party politics in the 1980s. These political openings proved short-lived. As repression intensified, though, Islamist parties did not — as one may have expected — turn to radicalism. Rather, they embraced the tenets of democratic life, putting aside their dreams of an Islamic state, striking alliances with secular parties, and reaching out to Western audiences for the first time.

When the 2011 revolutions took place, Islamists found themselves in an enviable position, but one they were unprepared for. Up until then, the prospect of power had seemed too remote. But, now, freed from repression and with the political arena wide open, they found themselves with an unprecedented opportunity to put their ideas into practice across the region. Groups like the Brotherhood combine the features of political parties and religious movements. However pragmatic they may be, their ultimate goal remains the Islamization of society and the state. When the electorate they represent is conservative as well, they can push their own form of illiberal democracy while insisting they are carrying out the popular will. This can lead to overreach and, at times, significant backlash, as the tragic events in Egypt following the military takeover demonstrated.

While the coup and the subsequent crackdown were a devastating blow for the Islamist “project,” premature obituaries of political Islam, a running feature of commentary since the 1950s, usually turn out to be just that – premature. In countries as diverse as Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Yemen, Islamist groups will remain an important force whether in the ranks of opposition or the halls of power.

Drawing from interviews with figures like ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, Hamid’s account will serve as an essential compass for those trying to understand where the region’s varied Islamist groups have come from, and where they might be headed.

Junker-Kenny, “Religion and Public Reason”

9783110347326This March, De Gruyter published Religion and Public Reason: A Comparison of the Positions of John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas and Paul Ricoeur by Maureen Junker-Kenny (Trinity College, Dublin). The publisher’s description follows.

This book compares three approaches to public reason and to the public space accorded to religions: the liberal platform of an overlapping consensus proposed by John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas’s discourse ethical reformulation of Kant’s universalism and its realization in the public sphere, and the co-founding role which Paul Ricoeur attributes to the particular traditions that have shaped their cultures and the convictions of citizens.

The premises of their positions are analysed under four aspects: (1) the normative framework which determines the specific function of public reason; (2) their anthropologies and theories of action; (3) the dimensions of social life and its concretization in a democratic political framework; (4) the different views of religion that follow from these factors, including their understanding of the status of metaphysical and religious truth claims, and the role of religion as a practice and conviction in a pluralist society. Recent receptions and critiques in English and German are brought into conversation: philosophers and theologians discuss the scope of public reason, and the task of translation from faith traditions, as well as the role they might have in the diversity of world cultures for shaping a shared cosmopolitan horizon.

Johnson & Vanderbeck, “Law, Religion and Homosexuality”

9780415832687This May, Routledge will publish Law, Religion and Homosexuality by Paul Johnson (University of York) and Robert Vanderbeck (University of Leeds). The publisher’s description follows.

Law, Religion and Homosexuality is the first book-length study of how religion has shaped, and continues to shape, legislation that regulates the lives of gay men and lesbians. Through a systematic examination of how religious discourse influences the making of law – in the form of official interventions made by faith communities and organizations, as well as by expressions of faith by individual legislators – the authors argue that religion continues to be central to both enabling and restricting the development of sexual orientation equality. Whilst some claim that faith has been marginalized in the legislative processes of contemporary western societies, Johnson and Vanderbeck show the significant impact of religion in a number of substantive legal areas relating to sexual orientation including: same-sex sexual relations, family life, civil partnership and same-sex marriage, equality in employment and the provision of goods and services, hate speech regulation, and education. Law, Religion and Homosexuality demonstrates the dynamic interplay between law and religion in respect of homosexuality and will be of considerable interest to a wide audience of academics, policy makers and stakeholders.

Through the Jaffa Gate: A Photo Essay

Last month, CLR Student Fellow Jessica Wright ’14 traveled to Israel, where she considered the religious, legal, and political issues that continue to divide the country and region. The following is her photo essay from Jerusalem. To see the slide show, please click on the first image.

All photos by Jessica Wright, Canon EOS 700D and Leica M3 (please do not use photos without permission).

Around the Web This Week

Some interesting law & religion stories from around the web this week:

Reichberg & Syse (eds.), “Religion, War, and Ethics”

9780521738279Next month, Cambridge University Press will publish Religion, War, and Ethics: A Sourcebook of Textual Traditions edited by Gregory M. Reichberg (International Peace Research Institute, Oslo) and Henrik Syse (Peace Research Institute). The publisher’s description follows.

Religion, War, and Ethics is a collection of primary sources from the world’s major religions on the ethics of war. Each chapter brings together annotated texts – scriptural, theological, ethical, and legal – from a variety of historical periods that reflect each tradition’s response to perennial questions about the nature of war: When, if ever, is recourse to arms morally justifiable? What moral constraints should apply to military conduct? Can a lasting earthly peace be achieved? Are there sacred reasons for waging war, and special rewards for those who do the fighting? The religions covered include Sunni and Shiite Islam; Judaism; Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity; Theravada Buddhism; East Asian religious traditions (Confucianism, Shinto, Japanese and Korean Buddhism); Hinduism; and Sikhism. Each section is compiled by a specialist, recognized within his or her respective religious tradition, who has also written a commentary on the historical and textual context of the passages selected.

Balala, “Islamic Finance and Law”

islamic-finance-and-law-theory-and-practice-in-a-globalized-worldNext month, I.B. Tauris will publish Islamic Finance and Law: Theory and Practice in a Globalized World by Maha-Hanaan Balala (Oxford). The publisher’s description follows.

Islamic commercial and financial practice has not experienced the trial-and-error style of development that has characterized the development of the common law in the English-speaking world. Many of the principles, rules and practices prevalent in the Islamic law of contract, commerce, finance and property remain the same as those outlined by the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad, and expounded by scholars of jurisprudence as far back as the 13th century, despite the advancement in time and sophistication of commercial interaction. Hanaan Balala here demonstrates how, in order to bridge the gap between the principles outlined by the Quran and the Prophet in the 7th century and commercial practice in the 21st century, Islamic finance jurisdictions need to open themselves to learning from the experience (including the mistakes) of the English common law. “Islamic Finance and Law: Theory and Practice in a Globalized World” provides an analysis of the fundamental principles underlying the Islamic law of contract and commercial practice in comparison with their equivalents in common law in the English-speaking world. It seeks to draw parallels (and differences where appropriate) to facilitate the growth and development of Islamic commercial and financial law globally.

Around the Web

Some interesting law & religion stories from around the web this week:

Next Year in Jerusalem

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Issues of law and religion have always interested CLR Student Fellow Jessica Wright 3L, particularly as they relate to the Middle East. The following is a reflection on her recent trip to Jerusalem, during which she considered the religious, legal, and political issues that continue to divide the region.

Our taxi wound around the outskirts of Jerusalem, the city unfolding slowly before us beneath the dusty haze that had lingered since our arrival two days earlier. The Berlin-esque feel of Tel Aviv with its trendy cafes, beach-front hangouts, and laissez-faire attitude seemed a distant memory as we watched Haredim in their long black coats and black hats hurrying down the streets, weaving in and out of a stream of conservatively-dressed women pushing prams. Traffic ground to a halt somewhere between the entrance to Jerusalem and our hotel near the Old City, and our driver informed us that several streets had been closed because of a mass “ultra-Orthodox” protest against the draft.

The draft protest is indicative of larger issues having to do with community and identity in the region. Israel has been called the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, but it is a democracy with an important condition, one that Prime Minister Netanyahu made clear at the White House as I began my sojourn to the Holy Land. He said the only pathway to peace begins with Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. Of course, as the New York Times observed earlier this year, “this issue underpins all others [and] is exactly what makes it unacceptable to Palestinians. At its heart, it is a dispute over a historical narrative that each side sees as fundamental to its existence.” The question concerning what it means to describe Israel as a Jewish state is as relevant today and perhaps as vexed as it was in 1948.

The first night in Jerusalem, we found ourselves at the Old Bezalel Art School with Israeli friends. Our conversation eventually turned to the significance of the Israeli state and the importance of community. One friend argued that the land itself is significant because it allows one to experience Judaism as a public way of life. The traditional religious rituals become less important, she said, because identification with Judaism is about living in the state of Israel and being part of that community. But Israeli nationalism, it turns out, is not a wholly secular enterprise for most Israelis. Along with flying the flag, serving in the army, and speaking Hebrew, there is a religious narrative upon which identity is ultimately based. The particularities of the narrative vary widely. While sharing the same religious texts, the various Jewish communities within Israel have different histories and customs, and divergent outlooks. The tension between the communities is palpable. Secular Israelis want a modern, liberal state; religious Zionists believe in the coexistence of secularism and the dictates of the Torah; messianic Zionists see the state as a tool for bringing the Messiah; and the Haredim are devoted to isolated learning. And this is to say nothing of the narratives of modern Palestine, which are also focused on conflicts over belief, identity, and community.

These tensions are felt everywhere in Jerusalem – in conversation, on the streets, in the markets, and nowhere more than in the crowded and layered maze of the Old City. Standing inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where six ancient Christian denominations worship daily, one can hear the muezzin’s call to prayer outside. The church itself is just steps away from the Western Wall where Jews pray and celebrate, and very near the al-Aqsa mosque where Muslims gather together. Outside the walls, Israelis struggle to find commonality, to define their State, and to impress upon outsiders the importance of their identity. Inside the walls, one is able to forget those issues for a moment and revel in the diversity of belief in such close proximity.

From the Mount of Olives, one is afforded a panoramic view of the Old City with the construction of modern Jerusalem sprawling around it. Just down the road, one can look out over the West Bank, the security barrier visible in the foreground. It is nearly impossible to come away from Jerusalem without feeling its energy and passion, and without acknowledging its significance for people of many faiths. “Next year in Jerusalem,” I discovered, is about yearning for a way of life. How one defines it depends on the narratives woven by communities of believers. One may think Jerusalem should be a place where all Jews could flourish alongside Christians and Muslims. Perhaps, then, it would be more accurate to say, “Next year in utopos,” the place that can never be. Or maybe there is reason to hope that the communities of historical Palestine can live in peace. As Michael Walzer has said, “high ambition requires a long life, and Israel is a very young state.”