In July, Oxford University Press released “Religious Actors and International Law” by Ioana Cismas (New York University Law School). The publisher’s description follows:
This book assesses whether a new category of actors-religious actors-has been constructed within international law. Religious actors, through their interpretations of the religion(s) they are associated with, uphold and promote, or indeed may transform, potentially oppressive structures or discriminatory patterns. This study moves beyond the concern that religious texts and practices may be incompatible with international law, to provide an innovative analysis of how religious actors themselves are accountable under international law for the interpretations they choose to put forward.
The book defines religious actors as comprising religious states, international organizations, and non-state entities that assume the role of interpreting religion and so claim a ‘special’ legitimacy anchored in tradition or charisma. Cutting across the state / non-state divide, this definition allows the full remit of religious bodies to be investigated. It analyses the crucial question of whether religious actors do in fact operate under different international legal norms to non-religious states, international organizations, or companies. To that end, the Holy See-Vatican, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and churches and religious organizations under the European Convention on Human Rights regime are examined in detail as case studies.
The study ultimately establishes that religious actors cannot be seen to form an autonomous legal category under international law: they do not enjoy special or exclusive rights, nor incur lesser obligations, when compared to their respective non-religious peers. Going forward, it concludes that a process of two-sided legitimation may be at stake: religious actors will need to provide evidence for the legality of their religious interpretations to strengthen their legitimacy, and international law itself may benefit from religious actors fostering its legitimacy in different cultural contexts.
This September, Routledge Press will release “Islam and Pakistan’s Political Culture” by Farhan Mujahid Chak (Qatar University). The publisher’s description follows:
This book explores the ideological rivalry which is fuelling political instability in Muslim polities, discussing this in relation to Pakistan. It argues that the principal dilemma for Muslim polities is how to reconcile modernity and tradition. It discusses existing scholarship on the subject, outlines how Muslim political thought and political culture have developed over time, and then relates all this to Pakistan’s political evolution, present political culture, and growing instability. The book concludes that traditionalist and secularist approaches to reconciling modernity and tradition have not succeeded, and have in fact led to instability, and that a revivalist approach is more likely to be successful.
This July, Ashgate Publishing released “Legal Pluralism in Action: Dispute Resolution and the Kurdish Peace Committee” by Latif Tas (University of London). The publisher’s description follows:
This groundbreaking book contributes to, and refocuses, public debates about the incorporation of plural approaches into the English legal system. The book specifically advances the recent, largely theoretical, discussions of Sharia legal practice by examining a secular method of dispute resolution as practised by the Kurdish Peace Committee in London. Following migration to the West, many Kurds still adhere to traditional values and norms. Building on these, they have adapted their customary legal practices to create unofficial legal courts and other forms of legal hybridisation. These practical solutions to the challenges of a pluralistic life are seen by Kurdish communities in the UK as applicable not only to British and transnational daily life, but also as a training ground for institutions in a possible future Kurdish state. The study provides a substantive evidence base using extensive ethnographic data about the workings of the Kurdish Peace Committee, examining detailed case studies in the context of the customs and practices of the Kurdish community.
Based on an ethnographic and interdisciplinary approach, this book will be of interest to policy makers, socio-legal professionals, students and scholars of legal anthropology, ethnic minority law, transnationalism, diaspora, Kurdish, Turkish and Middle Eastern studies.
In July, Ashgate Publishing released “The Ashgate Research Companion to Islamic Law” edited by Rudolph Peters (University of Amsterdam) and Peri Bearman (Harvard University). The publisher’s description follows:
This unparalleled Companion provides a comprehensive and authoritative guide to Islamic law to all with an interest in this increasingly relevant and developing field. The volume presents classical Islamic law through a historiographical introduction to and analysis of Western scholarship, while key debates about hot-button issues in modern-day circumstances are also addressed. In twenty-one chapters, distinguished authors offer an overview of their particular specialty, reflect on past and current thinking, and point to directions for future research.
The Companion is divided into four parts. The first offers an introduction to the history of Islamic law as well as a discussion of how Western scholarship and historiography have evolved over time. The second part delves into the substance of Islamic law. Legal rules for the areas of legal status, family law, socio-economic justice, penal law, constitutional authority, and the law of war are all discussed in this section. Part three examines the adaptation of Islamic law in light of colonialism and the modern nation state as well as the subsequent re-Islamization of national legal systems. The final section presents contemporary debates on the role of Islamic law in areas such as finance, the diaspora, modern governance, and medical ethics, and the volume concludes by questioning the role of Sharia law as a legal authority in the modern context.
By outlining the history of Islamic law through a linear study of research, this collection is unique in its examination of past and present scholarship and the lessons we can draw from this for the future. It introduces scholars and students to the challenges posed in the past, to the magnitude of milestones that were achieved in the reinterpretation and revision of established ideas, and ultimately to a thorough conceptual understanding of Islamic law.
This November, Cornell University Press will release “Becoming Muslim in Imperial Russia: Conversion, Apostasy, and Literacy” by Agnes Nilufer Kefeli (Arizona State University). The publisher’s description follows:
In the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire’s Middle Volga region (today’s Tatarstan) was the site of a prolonged struggle between Russian Orthodoxy and Islam, each of which sought to solidify its influence among the frontier’s mix of Turkic, Finno-Ugric, and Slavic peoples. The immediate catalyst of the events that Agnes Nilufer Kefeli chronicles in Becoming Muslim in Imperial Russia was the collective turn to Islam by many of the region’s Krashens, the Muslim and animist Tatars who converted to Russian Orthodoxy between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.
The traditional view holds that the apostates had really been Muslim all along or that their conversions had been forced by the state or undertaken voluntarily as a matter of convenience. In Kefeli’s view, this argument vastly oversimplifies the complexity of a region where many participated in the religious cultures of both Islam and Orthodox Christianity and where a vibrant Krashen community has survived to the present. By analyzing Russian, Eurasian, and Central Asian ethnographic, administrative, literary, and missionary sources, Kefeli shows how traditional education, with Sufi mystical components, helped to Islamize Finno-Ugric and Turkic peoples in the Kama-Volga countryside and set the stage for the development of modernist Islam in Russia.
Of particular interest is Kefeli’s emphasis on the role that Tatar women (both Krashen and Muslim) played as holders and transmitters of Sufi knowledge. Today, she notes, intellectuals and mullahs in Tatarstan seek to revive both Sufi and modernist traditions to counteract new expressions of Islam and promote a purely Tatar Islam aware of its specificity in a post-Christian and secular environment.
Last month, Routledge Press released “Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West” edited by Roberto Tottoli (Università di Napoli L’Orientale). The publisher’s description follows:
Islam has long been a part of the West in terms of religion, culture, politics and society. Discussing this interaction from al-Andalus to the present, this Handbook explores the influence Islam has had, and continues to exert; particularly its impact on host societies, culture and politics.
Highlighting specific themes and topics in history and culture, chapters cover:
- European paradigms
- Muslims in the Americas
- Cultural interactions
- Islamic cultural contributions to the Western world
- Western contributions to Islam
Providing a sound historical background, from which a nuanced overview of Islam and Western society can be built, the Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West brings to the fore specific themes and topics that have generated both reciprocal influence, and conflict.
Presenting readers with a range of perspectives from scholars based in Europe, the US, and the Middle East, this Handbook challenges perceptions on both western and Muslim sides and will be an invaluable resource for policymakers and academics with an interest in the History of Islam, Religion and the contemporary relationship between Islam and the West.
This November, Routledge Press will release “Islam and Warfare: Context and Compatibility with International Law” by Onder Bakircioglu (School of Law at the University of Leicester). The publisher’s description follows:
The question of how Islamic law regulates the notions of just recourse to and just conduct in war has long been the topic of heated controversy, and is often subject to oversimplification in scholarship and journalism. This book traces the rationale for aggression within the Islamic tradition, and assesses the meaning and evolution of the contentious concept of jihad. The book reveals that there has never been a unified position on what Islamic warfare tangibly entails, due to the complexity of relevant sources and discordant historical dynamics that have shaped the contours of jihad.
Onder Bakircioglu advocates a dynamic reading of Islamic law and military tradition; one which prioritises the demands of contemporary international relations and considers the meaning and application of jihad as contingent on the socio-political forces of each historical epoch.
This book will be of great interest to scholars and students of international law, Islamic law, war and security studies, and the law of armed conflict.
This November, Oxford University Press will release “Religious Secularity: A Theological Challenge to the Islamic State” by Naser Ghobadzadeh (Australian Catholic University). The publisher’s description follows:
“Fundamentalism” and “authoritarian secularism” are commonly perceived as the two mutually exclusive paradigms available to Muslim majority countries. Recent political developments, however, have challenged this perception. Formerly associated with a fundamentalist outlook, mainstream Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Nahda, have adopted a distinctly secular-democratic approach to the state re-building process. Their success or failure in transitioning to democracy remains to be seen, but the political position these Islamic groups have carved out suggests the viability of a third way.
Naser Ghobadzadeh examines the case of Iran, which has a unique history with respect to the relationship of religion and politics. The country has been subject to both authoritarian secularization and authoritarian Islamization over the last nine decades. While politico-religious discourse in Iran is articulated in response to the Islamic state, it also bears the scars of Iran’s history of authoritarian secularization-the legacy of the Pahlavi regime. Ghobadzadeh conceptualizes this politico-religious discourse as “religious secularity”. He uses this apparent oxymoron to describe the Islamic quest for a democratic secular state, and he demonstrates how this concept encapsulates the complex characteristics of the Shiite religious reformation movement.
In November, Cambridge University Press will release “Doubt in Islamic Law: A History of Legal Maxims, Interpretation, and Islamic Criminal Law” by Intisar A. Rabb (Harvard Law School). The publisher’s description follows:
This book considers an important and largely neglected area of Islamic law by exploring how medieval Muslim jurists resolved criminal cases that could not be proven beyond a doubt. Intisar A. Rabb calls into question a controversial popular notion about Islamic law today, which is that Islamic law is a divine legal tradition that has little room for discretion or doubt, particularly in Islamic criminal law. Despite its contemporary popularity, that notion turns out to have been far outside the mainstream of Islamic law for most of its history. Instead of rejecting doubt, medieval Muslim scholars largely embraced it. In fact, they used doubt to enlarge their own power and to construct Islamic criminal law itself. Through a close examination of legal, historical, and theological sources, and a range of illustrative case studies, this book shows that Muslim jurists developed a highly sophisticated and regulated system for dealing with Islam’s unique concept of doubt, which evolved from the seventh to the sixteenth century.
Next month, Stanford University Press will release “Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empire” by Bedross Der Matossian (University of Nebraska-Lincoln). The publisher’s description follows:
The Ottoman revolution of 1908 is a study in contradictions—a positive manifestation of modernity intended to reinstate constitutional rule, yet ultimately a negative event that shook the fundamental structures of the empire, opening up ethnic, religious, and political conflicts. Shattered Dreams of Revolution considers this revolutionary event to tell the stories of three important groups: Arabs, Armenians, and Jews. The revolution raised these groups’ expectations for new opportunities of inclusion and citizenship. But as post-revolutionary festivities ended, these euphoric feelings soon turned to pessimism and a dramatic rise in ethnic tensions.
The undoing of the revolutionary dreams could be found in the very foundations of the revolution itself. Inherent ambiguities and contradictions in the revolution’s goals and the reluctance of both the authors of the revolution and the empire’s ethnic groups to come to a compromise regarding the new political framework of the empire ultimately proved untenable. The revolutionaries had never been wholeheartedly committed to constitutionalism, thus constitutionalism failed to create a new understanding of Ottoman citizenship, grant equal rights to all citizens, and bring them under one roof in a legislative assembly. Today as the Middle East experiences another set of revolutions, these early lessons of the Ottoman Empire, of unfulfilled expectations and ensuing discontent, still provide important insights into the contradictions of hope and disillusion seemingly inherent in revolution.