“Religion and Human Rights: Global Challenges from Intercultural Perspectives” (Gräb & Wilhelm eds.)

In March, Walter De Gruyter Inc. will release “Religion and Human Rights: Global Challenges from Intercultural Perspectives” edited by Wilhelm Gräb (Humboldt University) and Lars  Charbonnier (Führungsakademie für Kirche und Diakonie gAG “Leadership Academy for Church and Diakonia”). The publisher’s description follows:

Current processes of globalization are challenging Human Rights and the attempts to institutionalize them in many ways. The question of the connection between religion and human rights is a crucial point here. The genealogy of the Human Rights is still a point of controversies in the academic discussion. Nevertheless, there is consensus that the Christian tradition – especially the doctrine that each human being is an image of God – played an important role within the emergence of the codification of the Human Rights in the period of enlightenment. It is also obvious that the struggle against the politics of apartheid in South Africa was strongly supported by initiatives of churchy and other religious groups referring to the Human Rights. Christian churches and other religious groups do still play an important role in the post-apartheid South Africa. They have a public voice concerning all the challenges with which the multiethnic and economically still deeply divided South African society is faced with. The reflections on these questions in the collected lectures and essays of this volume derive from an academic discourse between German and South African scholars that took place within the German-South African Year of Science 2012/13.

“Muslims and Political Participation in Britain” (Peace, ed.)

This March, Routledge Press will release “Muslims and Political Participation in Britain” edited by Timothy Peace (University of Stirling, UK).  The publisher’s description follows:

This new volume showcases the latest research into Muslim political participation both in terms of electoral politics and civil society initiatives.

Muslims play a prominent role in British political life yet what do we actually know about the involvement of British Muslims beyond the existence of a handful of Muslim MPs? What is unique about political participation in Muslim communities? All the major parties actively seek to court a ‘Muslim electorate’ but does such a phenomenon exist? Despite the impact that Muslims have had on election campaigns and their roles in various political institutions, research on this topic remains scant. Indeed, much of the existing work was couched within the broader areas of the participation of ethnic minorities or the impact of race on electoral politics. The chapters in this volume address this lacuna by highlighting different aspects of Muslim participation in British politics. They investigate voting patterns and election campaigns, civil society and grassroots political movements, the engagement of young people and the participation of Muslims in formal political institutions.

Written in an accessible style, this book will be of interest to students and scholars of political participation and religious studies.

Kersten, “Cosmopolitans and Heretics”

This January, Oxford University Press released “Cosmopolitans and Heretics: New Muslim Intellectuals and the Study of Islam” by Carool Kersten (King’s College, London).  The publisher’s description follows:

Cosmopolitans and IslamDramatic political events involving Muslims across the world have put Islam under increased scrutiny. However, the focus of this attention is generally limited to the political realm and often even further confined by constrictive views of Islamism narrowed down to its most extremist exponents. Much less attention is paid to the parallel development of more liberal alternative Islamic discourses. The final decades of the twentieth-century has also seen the emergence of a Muslim intelligentsia exploring new and creative ways of engaging with the Islamic heritage. Drawing on advances made in the Western human sciences and understanding Islam in comprehensive terms as a civilisation rather than restricting it to religion in a conventional sense their ideas often cause controversy, even inviting accusations of heresy. Cosmopolitans and Heretics examines three of these new Muslim intellectuals who combine a solid grounding in the Islamic tradition with an equally intimate familiarity with the latest achievements of Western scholarship in religion. This cosmopolitan attitude challenges existing stereotypes and makes these thinkers difficult to categorise. Underscoring the global dimensions of new Muslim intellectualism, Kersten analyses contributions to contemporary Islamic thought of the late Nurcholish Madjid, Indonesia’s most prominent public intellectual of recent decades, Hasan Hanafi, one of the leading philosophers in Egypt, and the influential French-Algerian historian of Islam Mohammed Arkoun. Emphasising their importance for the rethinking of the study of Islam as a field of academic inquiry, this is the first book of its kind and a welcome addition to the intellectual history of the modern Muslim world.

What’s Happening in Argentina?

I confess I don’t follow Argentine politics. So when an Argentine friend posted the message “Yo Soy Nisman” on her Facebook page this week, I didn’t get the reference. I asked her about it, and she directed me to several news items on the death Sunday of an Argentine prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, who was about to testify about an alleged deal to immunize the perpetrators of one of the worst anti-Semitic attacks in recent history. It is an astonishing story.

In 1994, a bomb exploded at a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people. Iranian agents are suspected, and Interpol has issued arrest warrants against some Iranian officials. This month, Nisman accused the Argentine president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirschner, of blocking the investigation. Kirschner, he claimed, had made a secret agreement with Iran to shield the officials from prosecution in exchange for Iranian oil. He filed a criminal complaint against her and her foreign minister, Hector Timerman. Both Kirschner and Timerman deny the charge. They say that Nisman was being manipulated by their political opponents.

Nisman had an appointment to testify before Argentine legislators on Monday. On Sunday, police found him dead in his apartment, with a gunshot wound to the head. Kirschner first called the death a suicide, which is how the police described it. Many Argentines were skeptical, as Nisman had left no note and forensic evidence didn’t point to a suicide.

Now, apparently, Ms. Kirschner is skeptical as well. On her website yesterday, she wrote that she believes Nisman was murdered–implicitly, by the same people who had manipulated him to bring the charges against her in the first place. “They used him while he was alive and then they needed him dead,” she wrote. Presumably, the plot was to get Nisman to indict Kirschner on phony charges, and then kill him before the plot against Kirschner could be revealed.

So: A prosecutor claims he has evidence that the president has made a secret deal with a foreign country to cover up a attack on a religious minority that killed 85 people, then dies under mysterious circumstances the day before he is to testify. The president first claims it’s a suicide, then changes her mind and says, without providing evidence, that it’s a murder directed, ultimately, at her. Does any of this make sense? What’s happening in Argentina?

Holt v. Hobbs Podcast

Mark and I have recorded a podcast on this week’s Supreme Court decision in Holt v. Hobbs, the prison beard case. We discuss the facts, the holding, and broader implications for RFRA and religious liberty.

 

Around the Web This Week

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

Commins, “Islam in Saudi Arabia”

In February, I.B.Tauris will release “Islam in Saudi Arabia” by David Dean Commins (Dickinson College). The publisher’s description follows:

In the popular imagination, Saudi Arabia is a monolithic and static relic from an earlier age, wedded to a reactionary interpretation of Islam and led by an authoritarian monarchy whose alliance with a retrograde religious establishment has assured its survival. David Commins challenges this view by tracing the origins and evolution of the Saudi state from its eighteenth century roots through the present day. For Commins, Saudi Arabia’s contemporary social and political order is the product of dynamic historical and ongoing struggles, both internal (pitting dynasts against religious traditionalists, Wahhabi true believers against non-Wahhabis and their more liberal Wahhabi allies, and an old guard against a younger generation habituated to a world of social media, cable television, and consumerism) and external (including threats from imperial powers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Arab nationalists in the 1950s-60s, Saddam’s Iraq in the 1990s, and, currently, Iran and al-Qaeda). Commins tracks the Al Saud’s efforts to balance and overcome these challenges, in the process creating a system whose defining characteristics are contradiction and ambiguity.

Sciorra, “Built with Faith: Italian American Imagination and Catholic Material Culture in New York City”

Later this month, the University of Tennessee Press will release “Built with Faith: Italian American Imagination and Catholic Material Culture in New York City” by Joseph Sciorra (Queens College). The publisher’s description follows:

Over the course of 130 years, Italian American Catholics in New York City have developed a varied repertoire of devotional art and architecture to create community-based sacred spaces in their homes and neighborhoods. These spaces exist outside of but in relationship to the consecrated halls of local parishes and are sites of worship in conventionally secular locations. Such ethnic building traditions and urban ethnic landscapes have long been neglected by all but a few scholars. Joseph Sciorra’s Built with Faith offers a place-centric, ethnographic study of the religious material culture of New York City’s Italian American Catholics.

Sciorra has spent thirty-five years researching these community art forms and interviewing Italian immigrant and U.S.-born Catholics. By documenting the folklife of this group, Sciorra reveals how Italian Americans in the city use expressive culture and religious practices to trans- form everyday urban space into unique, communal sites of ethnically infused religiosity. The folk aesthetics practiced by individuals within their communities are integral to understanding how art is conceptualized, implemented, and esteemed outside of museum and gallery walls. Yard shrines, sidewalk altars, Nativity presepi, Christmas house displays, a stone-studded grotto, and neighborhood processions—often dismissed as kitsch or prized as folk art—all provide examples of the vibrant and varied ways contemporary Italian Americans use material culture, architecture, and public ceremonial display to shape the city’s religious and cultural landscapes.

Written in an accessible style that will appeal to general readers and scholars alike, Sciorra’s unique study contributes to our understanding of how value and meaning are reproduced at the confluences of everyday life.

“The Oxford Handbook of Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding” (Omer et al., eds.)

This March, Oxford University Press will release “The Oxford Handbook of Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding” edited by Atalia Omer (University of Notre Dame), R. Scott Appleby (University of Notre Dame), and David Little (Harvard Divinity School).  The publisher’s description follows:

Oxford HandbookThis volume provides a comprehensive and interdisciplinary account of the scholarship on religion, conflict, and peacebuilding. Looking far beyond the traditional parameters of the field, the contributors engage deeply with the legacies of colonialism, missionary activism, secularism, orientalism, and liberalism as they relate to the discussion of religion, violence, and nonviolent transformation and resistance.

Featuring numerous case studies from various contexts and traditions, the volume is organized thematically into five different parts. It begins with an up-to-date mapping of scholarship on religion and violence, and religion and peace. The second part explores the challenges related to developing secularist theories on peace and nationalism, broadening the discussion of violence to include an analysis of cultural and structural forms. In the third section, the chapters explore controversial topics such as religion and development, religious militancy, and the freedom of religion as a keystone of peacebuilding. The fourth part locates notions of peacebuilding in spiritual practice by focusing on constructive resources within various traditions, the transformative role of rituals, youth and interfaith activism in American university campuses, religion and solidarity activism, scriptural reasoning as a peacebuilding practice, and an extended reflection on the history and legacy of missionary peacebuilding. The volume concludes by looking to the future of peacebuilding scholarship and the possibilities for new growth and progress.

Bringing together a diverse array of scholars, this innovative handbook grapples with the tension between theory and practice, cultural theory, and the legacy of the liberal peace paradigm, offering provocative, elastic, and context-specific insights for strategic peacebuilding processes.

Rajan, “Al Qaeda’s Global Crisis”

In February, Routledge Press will release “Al Qaeda’s Global Crisis: The Islamic State, Takfir and the Genocide of Muslims” by V.G. Julie Rajan (Rutgers University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Al Qaeda's Global CrisisThis book focuses on the crises facing Al Qaeda and how the mass killing of Muslims is challenging its credibility as a leader among Islamist jihadist organizations.

The book argues that these crises are directly related to Al Qaeda’s affiliation with the extreme violence employed against Muslims in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the decade since 9/11. Al Qaeda’s public and private responses to this violence differ greatly. While in public Al Qaeda has justified those attacks declaring that, for the establishment of a state of ‘true believers’, they are a necessary evil, in private Al Qaeda has been advising its local affiliates to refrain from killing Muslims. To better understand the crises facing Al Qaeda, the book explores the development of Central Al Qaeda’s complex relationship with radical (mis)appropriations and manifestations of takfir, which allows one Muslim to declare another an unbeliever, and its unique relationship with each of its affiliates in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The author then goes on to consider how the prominence of takfir is contributing to the deteriorating security in those countries and how this is affecting Al Qaeda’s credibility as an Islamist terror organization. The book concludes by considering the long-term viability of Al Qaeda and how its demise could allow the rise of the even more radical, violent Islamic State and the implications this has for the future security of the Middle East, North Africa and Central/South Asia.

This book will be of much interest to students of political violence and terrorism, Islamism, global security and IR.