Tag Archives: Great Britain

Raponi, “Religion and Politics in the Risorgimento”

I’m a bit late in noting this book, but the subject is so interesting that an Raponiexception was needed. Danilo Raponi’s (Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main) still new Religion and Politics in the Risorgimento: Britain and the New Italy, 1861-1875, was published by Palgrave Mamillan last fall and looks to be a wonderful resource on an insufficiently studied topic. The publisher’s description follows.

This book examines Anglo-Italian political and cultural relations in the years of the ‘Roman Question’, and it analyses the impact and importance of religion in the construction of a British ‘Orientalist’ perception of Italy. It focuses on the British and Foreign Bible Society’s attempts to turn Italy into a Protestant nation, showing how perceived shortcomings in the national character of the Italians convinced the British that such ‘Protestantisation’ was necessary if Italy was ever to achieve nationhood. Their efforts encountered, however, strong popular and intellectual resistance from both the Italian people and the Catholic clergy, who called on Catholic Ireland to intervene in their defence. By looking at the interplay between religion and foreign policy, this book breaks through the boundaries between high politics and culture in a way that has not been attempted so far in the study of modern Italy, and puts religion at the centre of a harsh political and cultural war, one that was fought primarily on a transnational level.

Bretherton, “Resurrecting Democracy”

In December, Cambridge University Press released “Resurrecting Democracy: Faith, Citizenship, and the Politics of a Common Life” by Luke Bretherton (Duke University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Resurrecting DemocracyThrough a case study of community organizing in the global city of London and an examination of the legacy of Saul Alinsky around the world, this book develops a constructive account of the relationship between religious diversity, democratic citizenship, and economic and political accountability. Based on an in-depth, ethnographic study, Part I identifies and depicts a consociational, populist and post-secular vision of democratic citizenship by reflecting on the different strands of thought and practice that feed into and help constitute community organizing. Particular attention is given to how organizing mediates the relationship between Christianity, Islam and Judaism and those without a religious commitment in order to forge a common life. Part II then unpacks the implications of this vision for how we respond to the spheres in which citizenship is enacted, namely, civil society, the sovereign nation-state, and the globalized economy. Overall, the book outlines a way of re-imagining democracy, developing innovative public policy, and addressing poverty in the contemporary context.

“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.

Clements, “Religion and Public Opinion in Britain”

This March, Palgrave Macmillan Press will release “Religion and Public Opinion in Britain: Continuity and Change” by Ben Clements (University of Leicester).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion and Public OpinionBased on extensive analysis of social surveys and opinion polls conducted over recent decades, this book provides a detailed study of the social and political attitudes of religious groups in Britain. It covers a period when religion has declined in significance as a social force in Britain, with falling levels of identity, belief, attendance and of the traditional rites of passage. It looks at group attitudes based on religious affiliation, attendance and other indicators of personal engagement with faith. It details the main areas of attitudinal continuity and change in relation to party support, ideology, abortion, homosexuality and gay rights, and foreign policy. It also examines wider changes in public opinion towards the role of religion in public life, charting the decline in religious authority, a key indicator of secularisation. It provides an important ‘bottom-up’ perspective on the historical and contemporary linkages between religion and politics in Britain.

Gilham, “Loyal Enemies: British Converts to Islam, 1850-1950″

In June, Oxford University Press will publish Loyal Enemies: British Converts toLoyal Enemies Islam, 1850-1950, by Jamie Gilham. The publisher’s description follows.

Loyal Enemies uncovers the history of the earliest British converts to Islam who lived their lives freely as Muslims on British soil, from the 1850s to the 1950s. Drawing on original archival research, it reveals that people from across the range of social classes defied convention by choosing Islam in this period. Through a series of case studies of influential converts and pioneering Muslim communities, Loyal Enemies considers how the culture of Empire and imperialism influenced and affected their conversions and subsequent lives, before examining how they adapted and sustained their faith. Jamie Gilham shows that, although the overall number of converts was small, conversion to Islam aroused hostile reactions locally and nationally. He therefore also probes the roots of antipathy towards Islam and Muslims, identifies their manifestations and explores what conversion entailed socially and culturally. He also considers whether there was any substance to persistent allegations that converts had “divided” loyalties between the British Crown and a Muslim ruler, country or community. Loyal Enemies is a book about the past, but its core themes–about faith and belief, identity, Empire, loyalties and discrimination– are still salient today.

David Cameron on the Persecution of Christians

The persecution of Christians, slowly, is making its way onto the world’s agenda. In his annual Easter message, British Prime Minister David Cameron (above) urged churches in Britain to do more to draw attention to the suffering of Christians across the globe. Cameron also spoke, unusually, about his own Christian faith and the benefits Christianity “brings to Britain.” Skeptics might perceive an attempt to smooth relations with rank-and-file Conservatives, many of whom Cameron antagonized by supporting same-sex marriage. But politicians always have a variety of motives. Cameron deserves credit for raising the issue of persecution at a time when many in the West ignore it.

And why do so many in the West ignore the persecution of Christians? The always valuable John Allen explains:

Why isn’t this global war on Christians more of a cause célèbre?Fundamentally, the silence is the result of a bogus narrative about religion in the West. Most Americans and Europeans are in the habit of thinking about Christianity as a rich, powerful, socially dominant institution, which makes it hard to grasp that Christians can actually be victims of persecution.

I’ve made a similar point myself, here.

Britain to Recognize Sharia-Compliant Wills

An interesting story about The Law Society’s decision to recognize the legitimacy of Islamic law by permitting solicitors to draft wills that are compliant with principles of Islamic law. A bit:

Under ground-breaking guidance, produced by The Law Society, High Street solicitors will be able to write Islamic wills that deny women an equal share of inheritances and exclude unbelievers altogether.

The documents, which would be recognised by Britain’s courts, will also prevent children born out of wedlock – and even those who have been adopted – from being counted as legitimate heirs.

Anyone married in a church, or in a civil ceremony, could be excluded from succession under Sharia principles, which recognise only Muslim weddings for inheritance purposes.

Nicholas Fluck, president of The Law Society, said the guidance would promote “good practice” in applying Islamic principles in the British legal system.

The story reports that some of the existing Islamic law tribunals also “have powers to set contracts between parties, mainly in commercial disputes, but also to deal with issues such as domestic violence, family disputes and inheritance battles.”

It may be that The Law Society will eventually make the same decision with respect to private parties who wish to engage in commercial transactions that conform to Islamic law, or who wish to avoid commercial transactions with those who hold what are taken to be religiously objectionable views. Interesting that the reception to similar claims in this country has been rather different.

UPDATE: See Frank Cranmer’s comment for various clarifications.

The Death of Tory Anglicanism

That’s the title of this very interesting piece by Eliza Filby (h/t Sam Bray). There is some interesting historical discussion which frames the political and religious issues helpfully for outsiders. It also struck me that the terms in which religion is now considered as a political matter seem to reflect some considerable Americanization. Note as well the influence of libertarianism, also an ascendant feature of American politics of the right. A bit:

In the divorce between Conservatism and Anglicanism, the blame was put on the church. But the truth was that the party had changed too. Even in the 1980s, Anglican Conservatives were a dying breed. The new generation of Conservative MPs were more libertarian. Future Tory MPs would be sourced from a much wider pool both socially and religiously.

True, the Tory party today is not completely secular. While the High Anglican contingent may have dwindled (or converted to Catholicism), there are still prominent Conservative evangelicals. But they tend to hold a more individualistic and moralistic faith and care little for goings-on in the Synod.

Paradoxically, though, the Conservative party has become more secular at a time when religion has become an increasingly prominent issue. But faith is now spoken of in terms of the rights of the religious individual rather than the privileges of the established church.

While the Tory leadership may still sometime say that Britain is a Christian country and send out copies of the King James Bible to schools, there is little sense of a religious underpinning to current Tory thinking. If David Cameron has sought to hark back to a pre-Thatcherite tradition of Tory paternalism, he has done so without reference to its Anglican roots. Indeed, the confusion surrounding his ‘Big Society’ agenda may in part be due to its secular articulation (especially odd given that faith groups are expected to do so much of the work).

Until recently, this secularisation had gone unnoticed, concealed under the broader process of Cameron’s modernisation of the party, but the pushing through of gay marriage has changed all that. If the debate reveals anything, it is that the tables have turned; the Conservative party appears to have out-liberalised the Church of England.

Mandelbrote & Ledger-Lomas (eds.), “Dissent and the Bible in Britain, c.1650-1950″

Next month, Oxford University Press will publish Dissent and the Bible in Britain, c.1650-1950 by Scott Mandelbrote (University of Cambridge) and Michael Ledger-Lomas (King’s College). The publisher’s description follows.

The claim that the Bible was “the Christian’s only rule of faith and practice” has been fundamental to Protestant dissent. Dissenters first braved persecution and then justified their adversarial status in British society with the claim that they alone remained true to the biblical model of Christ’s Church. They produced much of the literature that guided millions of people in their everyday reading of Scripture, while the voluntary societies that distributed millions of Bibles to the British and across the world were heavily indebted to Dissent. Yet no single book has explored either what the Bible did for dissenters or what dissenters did to establish the hegemony of the Bible in British culture. The protracted conflicts over biblical interpretation that resulted from the bewildering proliferation of dissenting denominations have made it difficult to grasp their contribution as a whole. This volume evokes the great variety in the dissenting study and use of the Bible while insisting on the factors that gave it importance and underlying unity. Its ten essays range across the period from the later seventeenth to the mid-twentieth century and make reference to all the major dissenting denominations of the United Kingdom. The essays are woven together by a thematic introduction which places the Bible at the center of dissenting ecclesiology, eschatology, public worship, and “family religion,” while charting the political and theological divisions that made the cry of “the Bible only” so divisive for dissenters in practice.

A Penny for the Old Guy

At Mirror of Justice, my friend Rick Garnett has an interesting post about Guy Fawkes Day, which, for those of you who don’t know, was yesterday. The day commemorates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a conspiracy by British Catholics to blow up Parliament and end the Protestant Stuart dynasty. (Amusing, in its way, because the Protestantism of the Stuarts was always a little suspect). Guy Fawkes was one of the conspirators–the one in charge of the explosives–and for centuries Britons commemorated the day by burning effigies of Guy and the Pope. Nowadays, the holiday has morphed into Bonfire Night, in which Britons across the country light huge fires and set off fireworks. Probably the whole thing will morph into Halloween one of these days.

As an American, I’ve always thought knowing about Guy Fawkes Day was a mark of anglophile eccentricity, rather like reading P.D. James or renting Elizabeth R on Netflix. But here comes Rick, who writes that his public school celebrated Guy Fawkes Day as a holiday. And Rick comes from Alaska! Obviously, this great country is more than I know.