Tag Archives: Human Rights

Barras, “Refashioning Secularisms in France and Turkey”

9780415821780This month, Routledge publishes Refashioning Secularisms in France and Turkey: The Case of the Headscarf Ban by Amelie Barras (University of Montreal). The publisher’s description follows.

Over the past few years, secularism has become an intrinsic component of discussions on religious freedom and religious governance. The question of whether states should restrict the wearing of headscarves and other religious symbols has been particularly critical in guiding this thought process.

Refashioning Secularisms in France and Turkey documents how, in both countries, devout women have contested bans on headscarves, pointing to how these are inconsistent with the ‘real’ spirit of secularism. These activists argue that it is possible to be simultaneously secular and religious; to believe in the values conveyed by secularism, while still remaining devoted to their faith. Through this examination, the book highlights how activists locate their claims within the frame of secularism, while at the same time revisiting it to craft a space for their religiosity.

Addressing the lacuna in literature on the discourse of devout Muslims affected by these restrictions, this book offers a topical analysis on an understudied dimension of secularism and is a valuable resource for students and researchers with an interest in Religion, Gender Studies, Human Rights and Political Science.

Baran, “Dissent on the Margins: How Soviet Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It”

Next month, Oxford will publish Dissent on the Margins:9780199945535_140
How Soviet Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It, by Emily B. Baran (Middle Tennessee State University). The publisher’s description follows.

Emily B. Baran offers a gripping history of how a small, American-based religious community, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, found its way into the Soviet Union after World War II, survived decades of brutal persecution, and emerged as one of the region’s fastest growing religions after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. In telling the story of this often misunderstood faith, Baran explores the shifting boundaries of religious dissent, non-conformity, and human rights in the Soviet Union and its successor states.

Soviet Jehovah’s Witnesses are a fascinating case study of dissent beyond urban, intellectual nonconformists. Witnesses, who were generally rural, poorly educated, and utterly marginalized from society, resisted state pressure to conform. They instead constructed alternative communities based on adherence to religious principles established by the Witnesses’ international center in Brooklyn, New York. The Soviet state considered Witnesses to be the most reactionary of all underground religious movements, and used extraordinary measures to try to eliminate this threat. Yet Witnesses survived, while the Soviet system did not. After 1991, they faced continuing challenges to their right to practice their faith in post-Soviet states, as these states struggled to reconcile the proper limits on freedom of conscience with European norms and domestic concerns.

Dissent on the Margins provides a new and important perspective on one of America’s most understudied religious movements.

 

Hinojosa, “Latino Mennonites”

Next month, Johns Hopkins University Press will publish Latino Mennonites: Civil Rights, Faith & Evangelical Culture by Felipe Hinojosa (Texas A&M University). The publisher’s description follows.book cover

Felipe Hinojosa’s parents first encountered Mennonite families as migrant workers in the tomato fields of northwestern Ohio. What started as mutual admiration quickly evolved into a relationship that strengthened over the years and eventually led to his parents founding a Mennonite Church in South Texas. Throughout his upbringing as a Mexican American evangélico, Hinojosa was faced with questions not only about his own religion but also about broader issues of Latino evangelicalism, identity, and civil rights politics.

Latino Mennonites offers the first historical analysis of the changing relationship between religion and ethnicity among Latino Mennonites. Drawing heavily on primary sources in Spanish, such as newspapers and oral history interviews, Hinojosa traces the rise of the Latino presence within the Mennonite Church from the origins of Mennonite missions in Latino communities in Chicago, South Texas, Puerto Rico, and New York City, to the conflicted relationship between the Mennonite Church and the California farmworker movements, and finally to the rise of Latino evangelical politics. He also analyzes how the politics of the Chicano, Puerto Rican, and black freedom struggles of the 1960s and 1970s civil rights movements captured the imagination of Mennonite leaders who belonged to a church known more for rural and peaceful agrarian life than for social protest.

Whether in terms of religious faith and identity, race, immigrant rights, or sexuality, the politics of belonging has historically presented both challenges and possibilities for Latino evangelicals in the religious landscapes of twentieth-century America. In Latino Mennonites, Hinojosa has interwoven church history with social history to explore dimensions of identity in Latino Mennonite communities and to create a new way of thinking about the history of American evangelicalism.

Kundnani, “The Muslims Are Coming!”

Next month, Random House will publish The Muslims Are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundnani. The Muslims are Coming! The publisher’s description follows.

Death came instantly to Imam Luqman, as four FBI agents fired semiautomatic rifles at him from a few feet away. Another sixty officers surrounded the building on that October morning, the culmination of a two-year undercover investigation that had infiltrated the imam’s Detroit mosque. The FBI quickly claimed that Luqman Abdullah was “the leader of a domestic terrorist group.” And yet, caught on tape, he had refused to help “do something” violent, as it might injure innocents, and no terrorism charges were ever lodged against him.

Jameel Scott thought he was exercising his rights when he went to challenge an Israeli official’s lecture at Manchester University. But the teenager’s presence at the protest with fellow socialists made him the subject of police surveillance for the next two years. Counterterrorism agents visited his parents, his relatives, his school. They asked him for activists’ names and told him not to attend demonstrations. They called his mother and told her to move the family to another neighborhood. Although he doesn’t identify as Muslim, Jameel had become another face of the
presumed homegrown terrorist.

The new front in the War on Terror is the “homegrown enemy,” domestic terrorists who have become the focus of sprawling counterterrorism structures of policing and surveillance in the United States and across Europe. Domestic surveillance has mushroomed—at least 100,000 Muslims in America have been secretly under scrutiny. British police compiled a secret suspect list of more than 8,000 al-Qaeda “sympathizers,” and in another operation included almost 300 children fifteen and under among the potential extremists investigated. MI5 doubled in size in just five years.

Based on several years of research and reportage, in locations as disparate as Texas, New York, and Yorkshire, and written in engrossing, precise prose, this is the first comprehensive critique of counterradicalization strategies. The new policy and policing campaigns have been backed by an industry of freshly minted experts and liberal commentators. The Muslims Are Coming! looks at the way these debates have been transformed by the embrace of a narrowly configured and ill-conceived antiextremism.

Patterson, “Genocide in Jewish Thought”

This January, Cambridge University Press will publish Genocide in Jewish Thought by David Patterson (University of Texas- Dallas).  The publisher’s Genocide in Jewish Thoughtdescription follows.

Among the topics explored in this book are ways of viewing the soul, the relation between body and soul, environmentalist thought, the phenomenon of torture, and the philosophical and theological warrants for genocide. Presenting an analysis of abstract modes of thought that have contributed to genocide, the book argues that a Jewish model of concrete thinking may inform our understanding of the abstractions that can lead to genocide. Its aim is to draw upon distinctively Jewish categories of thought to demonstrate how the conceptual defacing of the other human being serves to promote the murder of peoples, and to suggest a way of thinking that might help prevent genocide.

O’Halloran, “The Church of England – Charity Law and Human Rights”

51WaynFWsCL._SY300_This February, Springer will publish The Church of England – Charity Law and Human Rights by Kerry O’Halloran (Queensland University of Technology). The publisher’s description follows.

This book examines the interface between religion, charity law and human rights. It does so by treating the Church of England and its current circumstances as a timely case study providing an opportunity to examine the tensions that have now become such a characteristic feature of that interface.

Firstly, it suggests that the Church is the primary source of canon law principles that have played a formative role in shaping civic morality throughout the common law jurisdictions: the history of their emergence and enforcement by the State in post-Reformation England is recorded and assessed. Secondly, it reveals that of such principles those of greatest weight were associated with matters of sexuality: in particular, for centuries, family law was formulated and applied with regard for the sanctity of the heterosexual marital family which provided the only legally permissible context for any form of sexual relationship. Thirdly, given that history, it identifies and assesses the particular implications that now arise for the Church as a consequence of recent charity law reform outcomes and human rights case law developments: a comparative analysis of religion related case law is provided. Finally, following an outline of the structure and organizational functions of the Church, a detailed analysis is undertaken of its success in engaging with these issues in the context of the Lambeth Conferences, the wider Anglican Communion and in the ill-fated Covenant initiative.

From the perspective of the dilemmas currently challenging the moral authority of the Church of England, this book identifies and explores the contemporary ‘moral imperatives’ or red line issues that now threaten the coherence of Christian religions in most leading common law nations. Gay marriage and abortion are among the host of morally charged and deeply divisive topics demanding a reasoned response and leadership from religious bodies. Attention is given to the judicial interpretation and evaluation of these and other issues that now undermine the traditional role of the Church of England. As the interface between religion, charity law and human rights becomes steadily more fractious, with religious fundamentalism and discrimination acquiring a higher profile, there is now a pressing need for a more balanced relationship between those with and those without religious beliefs. This book will be an invaluable aid in starting the process of achieving a triangulated relationship between the principles of canon law, charity law and human rights law.

Arsheim on the Meanings and Uses of Religious Freedom

Helge Årsheim has an interesting piece on the Immanent Frame blog which recapitulates some of the debates that he has been sponsoring at his PluRel blog (to which I gladly contributed) and offers some thoughts of his own, particularly as respects the meaning and scope of religious freedom in the international sphere. Below is an extended chunk from Helge’s post. The only little addendum to it that I’d make here is that the extent to which US domestic law is “splendidly isolated” from international law is, of course, famously a matter of both descriptive and normative contestation within the US legal community! Here’s Helge:

The international law on religious freedom is not limited to religion, but denotes a set of legal measures set in motion to protect beliefs and their ”manifestations” from undue limitations and interference. Explicitly covering beliefs well beyond the confines of any traditional definition of religion, the right as it is codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and surrounding legal texts – collectively known as the International Bill of Rights – does not require legal systems, whether international or domestic, to decide on the merits of one religion over another. The expansive nature of the freedom of religion or belief in international law thus provides an unequivocal answer in the negative to the overarching question in all dealings with religion in political or legal contexts: whether religion is a special, set apart, sui generis concept that requires particular attention and protection over other concerns. Religion, as it is construed in international legal texts, is just one subset of an expansive range of protected beliefs that can be subjectively held without any form of state interference. While the inclusion of terms like “manifestation,” “observance,” “belief,” and “conscience” are drawn from, and therefore clearly favor, certain religious traditions to the exclusion of others, their interpretation in the practice of the UN Human Rights Committee are explicitly detached from a religious framework.

Once the serene, inclusive, and clear-cut concept of religious freedom in international law is confronted with the myriad cultural, historical, political and academic iterations of religious freedom that dominate domestic legal practice, however, the content of “religion and belief” moves from being non-theist and inclusive to a more ambivalent status: in these competing visions of what religious freedom may or may not be, the contents of both “religion” and its relation to “freedom” is hotly contested. These contestations take place across a wide array of societal spheres, and concern the origin and metaphysical status of religion in society and the political sphere; what groups, doctrines and practices can be construed as “religious” and competencies and duties arising from this identification; and the relationship between majority and minority religious traditions in history and culture. Contrary to the dictates of international law, the vast majority of competing visions of religious freedom in the domestic sphere are united by their emphasis on the determination of religion as religion….

While the disconnect between international and local conceptions of religious freedom is well known and has been decisive to the development of the “margin of appreciation” doctrine of the European Court of Human Rights, the exchange at the PluRel blog displays a number of different positions on how this disconnect can and should be interpreted. Winnifred Sullivan observes in her inaugural post that US law is “…constantly bumping up against the unstable collection of social facts that have come to be assembled under the word “religion,”” and that for this reason, we should “find some other words.”. At the other end of the spectrum, Marc O. DeGirolami observes that US legal actors believe that religion is a “special cultural phenomenon,” the definition of which should be based on analogies to “historical and culturally contingent settlements,” rather than findings from the “academic study of religion.”

Sullivan and DeGirolami prescribe solutions that display very different views of the power of law, but share a basic conviction that social practices that can fall under the rubric of religion are worthy of legal protection or non-interference. Where Sullivan suggests that law is unable to grant this form of protection due to its preference for certain majority traditions over lived religious practice, DeGirolami seems to consider this preference part of the culturally contingent settlements on which law relies, a preference that cannot be unsettled by the findings of academics. Although one would expect a cultural affinity between US and international law on religious freedom in their shared preference for Protestant conceptions of religion, neither Sullivan nor DeGirolami address the international legal framework, demonstrating the splendid isolation of US legislation and jurisprudence on this issue. This isolation is a common feature of US law, which has a longstanding tradition of ignoring international law. Additionally, the turning point of the non-establishment clause of the US constitutional law on religious freedom is the neutrality of the state, an issue entirely outside the purview of international law.

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Jenkins, “The Future of Ethics: Sustainability, Social Justice, and Religious Creativity”

Next month, Georgetown University Press will publish The Future of Ethics: Sustainability, Social Justice, and Religious Creativity by Willis Jenkins (University of Virginia). The publisher’s description follows.cover art

The Future of Ethics interprets the big questions of sustainability and social justice through the practical problems arising from humanity’s increasing power over basic systems of life. What does climate change mean for our obligations to future generations? How can the sciences work with pluralist cultures in ways that will help societies learn from ecological change?

Traditional religious ethics examines texts and traditions and highlights principles and virtuous behaviors that can apply to particular issues. Willis Jenkins develops lines of practical inquiry through “prophetic pragmatism,” an approach to ethics that begins with concrete problems and adapts to changing circumstances. This brand of pragmatism takes its cues from liberationist theology, with its emphasis on how individuals and communities actually cope with overwhelming problems.

Can religious communities make a difference when dealing with these issues? By integrating environmental sciences and theological ethics into problem-based engagements with philosophy, economics, and other disciplines, Jenkins illustrates the wide understanding and moral creativity needed to live well in the new conditions of human power. He shows the significance of religious thought to the development of interdisciplinary responses to sustainability issues and how this calls for a new style of religious ethics.

Sorenson, “An Introduction to the Modern Middle East: History, Religion, Political Economy, Politics”

Next month, Westview Press will publish a new edition of An Introduction to the Modern Middle East: History, Religion, Political Economy, Politics by David Sorenson (US Air War College). The publisher’s description follows.An Introduction to the Modern Middle East

Combining elements of comparative politics with a country-by-country analysis, author David S. Sorenson provides a complete and accessible introduction to the modern Middle East. With an emphasis on the politics of the region, the text also dedicates chapters specifically to the history, religions, and economies of countries in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf, the Eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa. In each country chapter, a brief political history is followed by discussions of democratization, religious politics, women’s issues, civil society, economic development, privatization, and foreign relations.

In this updated and revised second edition, An Introduction to the Modern Middle East includes new material on the Arab Spring, the changes in Turkish politics, the Iranian nuclear issues, and the latest efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma. Introductory chapters provide an important thematic overview for each of the book’s individual country chapters and short vignettes throughout the book offer readers a chance for personal reflection.

McCrudden (ed.), “Understanding Human Dignity”

This November, Oxford University Press will publish Understanding Human Dignity edited by Christopher McCrudden (Queen’s University Belfast). The publisher’s description follows.

Understanding Human Dignity aims to help the reader make sense of current debates about the meaning and implications of the idea of human dignity. The concept of human dignity has probably never been so omnipresent in everyday speech, or so deeply embedded in political and legal discourse. In debates on torture, abortion, same-sex marriage, and welfare reform, appeals to dignity are seldom hard to find. The concept of dignity is not only a prominent feature of political debate, but also, and increasingly, of legal argument. Indeed, courts tell us that human dignity is the foundation of all human rights. But the more important it is, the more contested it seems to have become. There has, as a result, been an extraordinary explosion of scholarly writing about the concept of human dignity in law, political philosophy, and theology. This book aims to reflect on these intra-disciplinary debates about dignity in law, philosophy, history, politics, and theology, through a series of edited essays from specialists in these fields, explored the contested concept in its full richness and complexity.