Across the continent of Africa, Christianity and Islam are growing rapidly, side by side. The conventional wisdom is the two religions are destined for bloody conflict. This summer, Oxford will release a book that challenges this wisdom and argues that African religious diversity actually can encourage liberal democracy. The book is Christianity, Islam, and Liberal Democracy, by Robert A. Dowd (Notre Dame). The publisher’s description follows:
Drawing from research conducted in Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda, Christianity, Islam, and Liberal Democracy offers a deeper understanding of how Christian and Islamic faith communities affect the political attitudes of those who belong to them and, in turn, prospects for liberal democracy. While many analysts believe that religious diversity in developing countries is an impediment to liberal democracy, Robert A. Dowd concludes just the opposite. Dowd draws on narrative accounts, in-depth interviews, and large-scale surveys to show that Christian and Islamic religious communities are more likely to support liberal democracy in religiously diverse and integrated settings than in religiously homogeneous or segregated ones. Religious diversity and integration, in other words, are good for liberal democracy. In religiously diverse and integrated environments, religious leaders tend to be more encouraging of civic engagement, democracy, and religious liberty.
By providing a theoretical framework for understanding when and where Christian and Islamic communities in sub -Saharan Africa encourage and discourage liberal democracy, Dowd demonstrates how religious communities are important in affecting political actions and attitudes. This evidence, the book ultimately argues, should prompt policymakers interested in cultivating religiously-inspired support for liberal democracy to aid in the formation of religiously diverse neighborhoods, cities, and political organizations.
Western observers often group all Islamist parties together. But the groups often compete with one another there are subtle differences among them; it’s important to keep those differences in mind in analyzing Islamist politics. We’re a little late getting to this, but it December, the Hudson Institute published a monograph by Samuel Tadros, Islamist vs. Islamist:The Theologico-Political Questions, that analyzes the situation in Egypt. Here’s the publisher’s description:
This monograph is the second part of a two-year study on Egyptian Islamism funded by the Smith Richardson Foundation. The study is divided into two parts. The first maps the various currents, groups, and individuals that form the complex Egyptian Islamist scene. The second examines the internal dynamics of Islamism in terms of the interrelationship between its various constituent currents and their disagreements on key theological political questions. The study aims to fill two significant gaps in our knowledge of the Egyptian Islamist scene.
In July, Brill will release “Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical History” edited by David Thomas (University of Birmingham) and John Chesworth (University of Birmingham). The publisher’s description follows:
Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History, volume 7 (CMR 7),
covering Central and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and South America in the period 1500-1600, is a continuing volume in a general history of relations between the two faiths from the seventh century to the early 20th century. It comprises introductory essays and the main body of detailed entries which treat all the works, surviving or lost, that have been recorded. These entries provide biographical details of the authors, descriptions and assessments of the works themselves, and complete accounts of manuscripts, editions, translations and studies. The result of collaboration between numerous leading scholars, CMR 7, along with the other volumes in this series, is intended as a basic tool for research in Christian-Muslim relations.
This June, SUNY Press will release “Mappila Muslim Culture: How a Historic Muslim Community in India Has Blended Tradition and Modernity” by Roland E. Miller (Emeritus Professor at Luther College, University of Regina, and Luther Seminary). The publisher’s description follows:
This book provides a comprehensive account of the distinct culture of the Mappila Muslims, a large community from the southern Indian state of Kerala. Although they were the first Muslim community in South Asia, the Mappilas are little-known in the West. Roland E. Miller explores the Mappilas’ fourteen-century-long history of social adaptation and their current status as a successful example of Muslim interaction with modernity. Once feared, now admired, Kerala’s Mappilas have produced an intellectual renaissance and renewed their ancient status as a model of social harmony. Miller provides an account of Mappila history and looks at the formation of Mappila culture, which has developed through the interaction of Islamic and Malayali influences. Descriptions of current day life cycles, religion, ritual, work life, education, and leadership are included.
This June, the University of KwaZulu-Natal Press will release “Schooling Muslims in Natal: Identity, State and the Orient Islamic Educational Institute” by Goolam Vahed (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and Thembisa Waetjen (Durban University of Technology). The publisher’s description follows:
The history of Muslim education in the east coast region of South Africa is the story of ongoing struggles by an immigrant religious minority under successive, exclusionary forms of state. Schooling Muslims in Natal traces the labours and fortunes of a set of progressive idealists who, mobilising merchant capital, transoceanic networks and informal political influence, established the Orient Islamic Educational Institute in 1943 to found schools and promote a curriculum inclusive of secular subjects and Islamic teaching. Through the story of their Durban flagship project – the Orient Islamic School – this book recounts the changing politics of religious identity, education and citizenship in South Africa.
From the late nineteenth century, Gujarati Muslim traders settling in the colony of Natal built mosques and madressas; their progeny carried on the strong traditions of community patronage and leadership. Aligned to Gandhi’s Congress initiatives for Indian civic recognition, they worked across differences of political strategy, economic class, ethnicity and religion to champion modern education for a ghettoised Indian diaspora. In common was the threat of a state that, long before the legal formation of apartheid, managed diversity in deference to white racial hysteria over ‘Indian penetration’ and an ‘Asiatic menace’.
This is the story of confrontation, cooperation and compromise by an officially marginalised but still powerful set of ‘founding fathers’ who shaped education and urban space as they integrated this region of Africa into the Indian Ocean world.
This June, Tughra Books will release “General Principles in the Risale-i Nur Collection for a True Understanding of Islam” by Ali Ünal. The publisher’s description follows:
The Risale-i Nur Collection is full of “general principles,” not only related to the Islamic Jurisprudence but also to all the fields of Islam or Islamic life and Islamic branches of knowledge. Based on or specially favored with profound wisdom having its source in the Divine Wisdom or the Divine Name of the All-Wise, the Risale-i Nur Collection contains numerous principles, precepts, or maxims which are standards or brilliant criteria enabling people to think, believe, and live according to Islam, and to evaluate and judge things and events in Islam’s light. They also provide people with the essentials or basic principles on which the branches of Islamic knowledge and Islamic science are based. Thus, we have tried to collect many of these principles in this book under certain titles, and in certain parts or sections according to the fields of thought and branches of knowledge to which they have a greater relevance.
In May, Cambridge University Press will release “The Western Case for Monogamy Over Polygamy” by John Witte, Jr. (Emory University). The publisher’s description follows:
For more than 2,500 years, the Western tradition has embraced monogamous marriage as an essential institution for the flourishing of men and women, parents and children, society and the state. At the same time, polygamy has been considered a serious crime that harms wives and children, correlates with sundry other crimes and abuses, and threatens good citizenship and political stability. The West has thus long punished all manner of plural marriages and denounced the polygamous teachings of selected Jews, Muslims, Anabaptists, Mormons, and others. John Witte, Jr. carefully documents the Western case for monogamy over polygamy from antiquity until today. He analyzes the historical claims that polygamy is biblical, natural, and useful alongside modern claims that anti-polygamy laws violate personal and religious freedom. While giving the arguments pro and con a full hearing, Witte concludes that the Western historical case against polygamy remains compelling and urges Western nations to hold the line on monogamy.
This April, Oxford University Press will release “Render unto the Sultan: Power, Authority, and the Greek Orthodox Church in the Early Ottoman Centuries” by Tom Papademetriou (Richard Stockton College, New Jersey). The publisher’s description follows:
The received wisdom about the nature of the Greek Orthodox Church in the Ottoman Empire is that Sultan Mehmed II reestablished the Patriarchate of Constantinople as both a political and a religious authority to govern the post-Byzantine Greek community. However, relations between the Church hierarchy and Turkish masters extend further back in history, and closer scrutiny of these relations reveals that the Church hierarchy in Anatolia had long experience dealing with Turkish emirs by focusing on economic arrangements. Decried as scandalous, these arrangements became the modus vivendi for bishops in the Turkish emirates.
Primarily concerned with the economic arrangements between the Ottoman state and the institution of the Greek Orthodox Church from the mid-fifteenth to the sixteenth century,Render Unto the Sultan argues that the Ottoman state considered the Greek Orthodox ecclesiastical hierarchy primarily as tax farmers (multezim) for cash income derived from the church’s widespread holdings. The Ottoman state granted individuals the right to take their positions as hierarchs in return for yearly payments to the state. Relying on members of the Greek economic elite (archons) to purchase the ecclesiastical tax farm (iltizam), hierarchical positions became subject to the same forces of competition that other Ottoman administrative offices faced. This led to colorful episodes and multiple challenges to ecclesiastical authority throughout Ottoman lands.
Tom Papademetriou demonstrates that minority communities and institutions in the Ottoman Empire, up to now, have been considered either from within the community, or from outside, from the Ottoman perspective. This new approach allows us to consider internal Greek Orthodox communal concerns, but from within the larger Ottoman social and economic context.
Render Unto the Sultan challenges the long established concept of the ‘Millet System’, the historical model in which the religious leader served both a civil as well as a religious authority. From the Ottoman state’s perspective, the hierarchy was there to serve the religious and economic function rather than the political one.
This June, I.B. Tauris Press will release “Christian-Muslim Relations in Egypt: Politics, Society, and Interfaith Encounters” by Henrik Lindberg Hansen (University of London). The publisher’s description follows:
The subject of Christian-Muslim relations in the Middle East and indeed in the West attracts much academic and media attention. Nowhere is this more the case than in Egypt, which has the largest Christian community in the Middle East, estimated at 6-10 per cent of the national population. Henrik Lindberg Hansen analyzes this relationship, offering an examination of the nature and role of religious dialogue in Egyptian society. Taking three main religious organizations and institutions in Egypt (namely the Azhar University, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Coptic Orthodox Church), Hansen argues that religious dialogue involves a close examination of societal relations, and how these are understood and approached. Including analysis of the occasions of violence against Christian communities in 2011 and the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in 2013, Hansen provides a wide-ranging exploration of the importance of religion in Egyptian society and everyday encounters with a religious other . This makes his book vital for researchers of both religious minorities in the Middle East and interfaith dialogue in a wider context.”
In June, Mulholland Books will release “Not In God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence” by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth). The publisher’s description follows:
Despite predictions of continuing secularization, the twenty-first century has witnessed a surge of religious extremism and violence in the name of God. In this powerful and timely book, Jonathan Sacks explores the roots of violence and its relationship to religion, focusing on the historic tensions between the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Drawing on arguments from evolutionary psychology, game theory, history, philosophy, ethics and theology, Sacks shows how a tendency to violence can subvert even the most compassionate of religions.
Whilst dismissing the claim that religion is intrinsically a cause of violence, Sacks argues that theology must become part of the solution if it is not to remain at the heart of the problem. Through a close reading of key Biblical texts at the heart of the Abrahamic faiths, Sacks challenges those who kill in the name of the God of life, wage war in the name of the God of peace, hate in the name of the God of love, and practice cruelty in the name of the God of compassion.