“The Caliphate and Islamic Statehood” (Kersten ed.)

This April, Gerlach Press will release “The Caliphate and Islamic Statehood: Formation, Fragmentation and Modern Interpretations” edited by Carool Kersten (King’s College, University of London).  The publisher’s description follows:

00813_Cover_Al-Zoby_fin.inddAlthough the Islamic Caliphate was formally abolished ninety years ago, it had already ceased to exist as a unitary and effectively administered political institution many centuries earlier. The ever widening gap between political ideal and historical reality is also reflected in the varying conceptualizations and theories of the Caliphate developed by Islamic religious scholars and Muslim intellectuals past and present. However, recent events in the Islamic world show that the idea of a Caliphate still appeals to Muslims of varying persuasions. This three-volume reference work tracks the history of the Caliphate as what many Muslims believe to be a genuine and authentic Islamic political institution: From its emergence in seventh-century Arabia until highly contested and controversial attempts of its revival at the beginning of the twenty-first century by radical Islamists in Afghanistan and Iraq. No matter how grandiose such interpretations of a seemingly archaic institution may be, they show the Caliphate’s longevity as a rallying point – real or symbolic – for Muslims across the world.

St. John’s Hosts Panel on Mideast Christians

L-R: Michael LaCivita, Mark Wasef, MLM

This past Wednesday, the Center for Law and Religion co-sponsored a panel, “Threat to Justice: Middle Eastern Christians and the ISIS Crisis,” at the St. John’s Law School campus in Queens. The Catholic Law Students Association, and, especially, this year’s energetic president, Eugene Ubawike ’15, took the lead in organizing the event, which was also endorsed by the Law School’s Center for International and Comparative Law. I served as moderator.

Eugene introduced the panel by referring to the martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians at the hands of ISIS operatives in Libya last weekend. The martyrdom of Christians is not something one reads about only in history books, he said–persecution is happening right now. In my introduction, I followed up on Eugene’s comments by reminding the audience of what Pope Francis said at our conference in Rome this past summer: there are more Christian martyrs today than in the first centuries of the Church, since before the time of Constantine, 1700 years ago.

Michael LaCivita, the Chief Communications Officer of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, explained the mission of his organization and helpfully situated the discussion by giving a brief history of the Christians of the Middle East. Mark Wasef, an attorney and member of the board of United for a New Egypt, provided an overview of the situation Christians face in contemporary Egypt. He spoke movingly of the troubles Copts have faced in recent years, but also of the possibility of peaceful relations between Christians and Muslims, and his hopes for the future. A robust question and answer session touched on topics like the dhimma, the promise of the Sisi government in Egypt, Mideast Christians in American politics, and the legacy of the Crusades.

This is not the first panel on Mideast Christians that CLR has sponsored at the Law School, and, as at the event we sponsored in October 2010, turnout on Wednesday night was encouraging, a sign that the Law School community takes this issue seriously. Congratulations to Eugene and the Catholic Law Students Association for an important event in the life of St. John’s, and many thanks to our panelists.

Around the Web This Week

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

Bulman, “Anglican Enlightenment”

This April, Cambridge University Press will release “Anglican Enlightenment: Orientalism, Religion and Politics in England and its Empire, 1648–1715” by William Bulman (Lehigh University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Anglican EnlightenmentAn original interpretation of the early European Enlightenment and the religious conflicts that rocked England and its empire under the later Stuarts. In a series of vignettes that move between Europe and North Africa, William Bulman shows that this period witnessed not a struggle for and against new ideas and greater freedoms, but a battle between several novel schemes for civil peace. Bulman considers anew the most apparently conservative force in post-Civil War English history: the conformist leadership of the Church of England. He demonstrates that the Church’s historical scholarship, social science, pastoral care, and political practice amounted not to a culturally backward spectacle of intolerance, but to a campaign for stability drawn from the frontiers of erudition and globalisation. In seeking to sever the link between zeal and chaos, the church and its enemies were thus united in an Enlightenment project, but bitterly divided over what it meant in practice.

Iyigun, “War, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God: The Ottoman Role in Europe’s Socioeconomic Evolution”

In April, the University of Chicago Press will release “War, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God: The Ottoman Role in Europe’s Socioeconomic Evolution” by Murat Iyigun (University of Colorado Boulder). The publisher’s description follows:

Differences among religious communities have motivated—and continue to motivate—many of the deadliest conflicts in human history. But how did political power and organized religion become so thoroughly intertwined? And how have religion and religiously motivated conflicts affected the evolution of societies throughout history, from demographic and sociopolitical change to economic growth?

War, Peace, and Prosperity in the Name of God turns the focus on the “big three monotheisms”—Judaism, Islam, and Christianity—to consider these questions. Chronicling the relatively rapid spread of the Abrahamic religions among the Old World, Murat Iyigun shows that societies that adhered to a monotheistic belief in that era lasted longer, suggesting that monotheism brought some sociopolitical advantages. While the inherent belief in one true god meant that these religious communities had sooner or later to contend with one another, Iyigun shows that differences among them were typically strong enough to trump disagreements within. The book concludes by documenting the long-term repercussions of these dynamics for the organization of societies and their politics in Europe and the Middle East.

“Identities in Crisis in Iran: Politics, Culture, and Religion” (Cohen, ed.)

In March, Lexington Books will release “Identities in Crisis in Iran: Politics, Culture, and Religion” edited by Ronen A. Cohen (Ariel University, Israel). The publisher’s description follows:

Identities in Crisis in Iran aims at finding answers to the questions about the puzzling character of the Iranian identity. The contributors acknowledge that identity, especially when it is faced with fundamental tensions as in the case of Iran, is a phenomenon that is constantly developing via factors involving the private self and common social components. This book addresses the tension many Iranian people face that lie between the Persian culture and the Shi’a religion, women versus men, and culture versus traditions.

Colloquium: “Orthodox Christianity & Humanitarianism: Ideas & Action in the World”

On May 7-8, 2015, the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical & Interfaith Relations (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America) will host a colloquium entitled “Orthodox Christianity & Humanitarianism: Ideas & Action in the World.”

Orthodox Christians worldwide are integrally involved in the faith-humanitarianism nexus, both as providers of humanitarian services through development and emergency relief and as part of those populations suffering from some of the world’s most urgent humanitarian crises and longstanding humanitarian challenges.

This colloquium is being sponsored by the Office of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical & Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and will explore how Orthodox Christianity conceives of and practices humanitarianism.  The focus of our inquiry is the contemporary context, but we will necessarily consider historical examples, adaptations, and evolution in Orthodox teachings and practice regarding humanitarianism.

The colloquium is designed to encourage analysis, debate, and prescription.  The aim is to encourage conversation and dialogue that can facilitate networks of cooperation and action that will allow for the rich resources of Orthodox Christianity—its teachings, its institutions and organizations, its communicants—to become fully engaged in the urgent humanitarian needs of our time.

Details can be found here.

Grillo, “Muslim Families, Politics and the Law: A Legal Industry in Multicultural Britain”

In April, Ashgate Publishing will release “Muslim Families, Politics and the Law: A Legal Industry in Multicultural Britain” by Ralph Grillo (University of Sussex, UK). The publisher’s description follows:

Contemporary European societies are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, certainly in terms of the diversity which has stemmed from the immigration of workers and refugees and their settlement. Currently, however, there is widespread, often acrimonious, debate about ‘other’ cultural and religious beliefs and practices and limits to their accommodation.

This book focuses principally on Muslim families and on the way in which gender relations and associated questions of (women’s) agency, consent and autonomy, have become the focus of political and social commentary, with followers of the religion under constant public scrutiny and criticism. Practices concerning marriage and divorce are especially controversial and the book includes a detailed overview of the public debate about the application of Islamic legal and ethical norms (Shari’a) in family law matters, and the associated role of Shari’a councils, in a British context.

In short, Islam generally and the Muslim family in particular have become highly politicized sites of contestation, and the book considers how and why and with what implications for British multiculturalism, past, present and future. The study will be of great interest to international scholars and academics researching the governance of diversity and the accommodation of other faiths including Islam.

Christman, “Pragmatic Toleration: The Politics of Religious Heterodoxy in Early Reformation Antwerp, 1515-1555″

In April, the University of Rochester Press will release “Pragmatic Toleration: The Politics of Religious Heterodoxy in Early Reformation Antwerp, 1515-1555” by Victoria Christman (Luther College). The publisher’s description follows:

In a modern world still struggling to achieve religious coexistence, there has been a recent burgeoning of scholarship aimed at examining the history of such coexistence. Most of these studies focus on developments in the seventeenth century and beyond. This book redirects attention earlier, to the first half of the sixteenth century, and argues that impulses to toleration were already at work even amid the religious upheaval of the European Reformations. In the early modern metropolis of Antwerp, the author finds a wealthy merchant city struggling to balance the competing interests of municipality and empire. While their imperial overlords attempted to impose religious uniformity via increasingly repressive anti-heresy edicts, the city fathers of Antwerp found ways to circumvent those laws in order to accommodate the religious heterodoxy of their most valued inhabitants. The result was the development of pragmatically tolerant practices that arose in the service of fundamentally nonreligious motivations.

Via a series of case studies, this book documents the development of such practices on the part of the Antwerp fathers as they defended their heterodox inhabitants. It seeks to understand the motivations underlying the councilors’ lenient treatment of heterodoxy in their city, and attempts to answer the question of how we are to understand such pragmatically tolerant behavior as part of the broader history of religious tolerance in the Christian West.

Movsesian at Federal Bar Council

L-R: Noel Francisco, MLM, Judge Brian Cogan, David Schaefer

On Monday, I participated in a panel discussion, “The Evolution and Implications of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” at the Federal Bar Council’s annual Winter Bench & Bar Conference. (Honor compels me to reveal that the conference took place at the Casa de Campo resort in the Dominican Republic, where the February weather is much nicer than in Queens. But I returned to Queens right after my panel to teach my classes. The sacrifices scholars make). Founded in 1932, the Council is an organization of lawyers who practice in federal courts within the Second Circuit. The winter conference attracts not only lawyers, but also judges–Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is on the program this year–and discussions are substantive and enlightening.

My panel concerned a topic we’ve covered often here at the Forum, namely, religious accommodations under RFRA. I gave a twenty-minute overview of the topic, addressing the history of religious accommodations in American law, RFRA itself, the Court’s decisions last term in Hobby Lobby  and Wheaton College, and their immediate aftermath. Moderator Judge Brian Cogan (EDNY) then led the discussion, which included a mock argument on a hypothetical case involving the federal Family and Medical Leave Act–attorneys Steven Edwards (Hogan Lovells) and Steven Hyman (McLaughlin & Stern) took opposite sides–and interventions by Noel Francisco (Jones Day) and David Schaefer (Brenner Saltzman & Wallman). We wrapped up with audience Q&A.

I wasn’t the only member of the Center family to participate in the conference. Board member Mary Kay Vyskocil (Simpson Thacher) worked hard to coordinate the RFRA panel, though she unfortunately could not attend the conference, and Board member Judge Richard Sullivan (SDNY) will appear on a panel later this week.

Thanks to the Council for inviting me and to my fellow panelists for an engaging discussion!