Tag Archives: Religion and Political Theory

Abdel-Samad, “Islamic Fascism”

In January, Prometheus Books will release “Islamic Fascism,” by Hamed Abdel-Samad.  The publisher’s description follows:

This polemic against Islamic extremism highlights the striking parallels between contemporary Islamism — as exemplified by ISIS, islamicfasicism_coverBoko Haram, al Qaeda, and others — and the twentieth-century fascism embodied by Hitler and Mussolini. Like those infamous European ideologies, Islamism today touts imperialist dreams of world domination, belief in its inherent superiority, contempt for the rest of humanity, and often a murderous agenda. Author Hamed Abdel-Samad, born and raised in Egypt, not only explains the historical connections between early twentieth-century fascist movements in Europe and extremist factions in Islam but also traces the fascist tendencies in mainstream Islam that have existed throughout its history.

Examining key individuals and episodes from centuries past, the book shows the influence of Islam’s earliest exploits on current politics in the Islamic world. The author’s incisive analysis exposes the fascist underpinnings of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Shia regime in Iran, ISIS, Salafi and Jihadist ideologies, and more.

Forcefully argued and well-researched, this book grew out of a lecture on Islamic fascism that the author gave in Cairo, which resulted in a call for his death by three prominent Egyptian clerics. This American edition contains two new chapters, one on the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and one on the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Milton-Edwards, “The Muslim Brotherhood”

In December, Routledge will release “The Muslim Brotherhood: The Arab Spring and its Future Face,” by Beverley Milton-Edwards (Queen’s University Belfast).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Muslim Brotherhood is the most significant and enduring Sunni Islamist organization of the contemporary era. Its roots lie in the 9780415660013Middle East but it has grown into both a local and global movement, with its well-placed branches reacting effectively to take the opportunities for power and electoral competition offered by the Arab Spring.

Regarded by some as a force of moderation among Islamists, and by others as a façade hiding a terrorist fundamentalist threat, the potential influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on Middle Eastern politics remains ambiguous. The Muslim Brotherhood: The Arab Spring and its Future Face provides an essential insight into the organisation, with chapters devoted to specific cases where the Brotherhood has important impacts on society, the state and politics. Key themes associated with the Brotherhood, such as democracy, equality, pan-Islamism, radicalism, reform, the Palestine issue and gender, are assessed to reveal an evolutionary trend within the movement since its founding in Egypt in 1928 to its manifestation as the largest Sunni Islamist movement in the Middle East in the 21st century. The book addresses the possible future of the Muslim Brotherhood; whether it can surprise sceptics and effectively accommodate democracy and secular trends, and how its ascension to power through the ballot box might influence Western policy debates on their engagement with this manifestation of political Islam.

Drawing on a wide range of sources, this book presents a comprehensive study of a newly resurgent movement and is a valuable resource for students, scholars and policy makers focused on Middle Eastern Politics.

Prothero, “Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars (Even When They Lose Elections)”

In January, HarperCollins Publishers will release “Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars (Even When They Lose Elections): The Battles That Define America from Jefferson’s Heresies to Gay Marriage,” by Stephen Prothero (Boston University). The publisher’s description follows: 

In this timely, carefully reasoned social history of the United States, the New York Times bestselling author of Religious Literacy and God Is Not One places today’s heated culture wars within the context of a centuries-long struggle of right versus left and religious versus secular to reveal how, ultimately, liberals always win.

Though they may seem to be dividing the country irreparably, today’s heated cultural and political battles between right and left, Progressives and Tea Party, religious and secular are far from unprecedented. In this engaging and important work, Stephen Prothero reframes the current debate, viewing it as the latest in a number of flashpoints that have shaped our national identity. Prothero takes us on a lively tour through time, bringing into focus the election of 1800, which pitted Calvinists and Federalists against Jeffersonians and “infidels;” the Protestants’ campaign against Catholics in the mid-nineteenth century; the anti-Mormon crusade of the Victorian era; the fundamentalist-modernist debates of the 1920s; the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s; and the current crusade against Islam.

As Prothero makes clear, our culture wars have always been religious wars, progressing through the same stages of conservative reaction to liberal victory that eventually benefit all Americans. Drawing on his impressive depth of knowledge and detailed research, he explains how competing religious beliefs have continually molded our political, economic, and sociological discourse and reveals how the conflicts which separate us today, like those that came before, are actually the byproduct of our struggle to come to terms with inclusiveness and ideals of “Americanness.” To explore these battles, he reminds us, is to look into the soul of America—and perhaps find essential answers to the questions that beset us.

Heilbronner, “From Popular Liberalism to National Socialism”

In January, Ashgate will release “From Popular Liberalism to National Socialism: Religion, Culture and Politics in South-Western Germany, 1860s-1930s,” by Oded Heilbronner (Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel).  The publisher’s description follows:

‘Long live liberty, equality, fraternity and dynamite’

So went the traditional slogan of the radical liberals in Greater Swabia, the south-western part of modern Germany. This book investigates the development of what the author terms ‘popular liberalism’ in this region, in order to present a more nuanced understanding of political and cultural patterns in Germany up to the early 1930s. In particular, the author offers an explanation for the success of National Socialism before 1933 in certain regions of South Germany, arguing that the radical liberal sub-culture was not subsumed by the Nazi Party, but instead changed its form of representation. Together with the famous völkish fraction and the leftist fraction within the chapters of the Nazi Party, there were radical-liberal associations, ex-members of radical-liberal parties, sympathizers with these parties, and notables with a radical orientation derived from family and regional traditions. These people and associations believed that the Nazi Party could fulfil their radical – liberal vision, rooted in the local democratic and liberal traditions which stretched from 1848 to the early 20th century. By looking afresh at the relationship between local-regional identities and national politics, this book makes a major contribution to the study of the roots of Nazism.

“Teaching Civic Engagement” (Clingerman & Locklin, eds.)

In December, the Oxford University Press will release “Teaching Civic Engagement,” edited by Forrest Clingerman (Ohio Northern University) and Reid B. Locklin (St. Michael’s College and University of Toronto).  The publisher’s description follows:

Using a new model focused on four core capacities-intellectual complexity, social location, empathetic accountability, and motivated action–Teaching Civic Engagement explores the significance of religious studies in fostering a vibrant, just, and democratic civic order.

In the first section of the book, contributors detail this theoretical model and offer an initial application to the sources and methods that already define much teaching in the disciplines of religious studies and theology. A second section offers chapters focused on specific strategies for teaching civic engagement in religion classrooms, including traditional textual studies, reflective writing, community-based learning, field trips, media analysis, ethnographic methods, direct community engagement and a reflective practice of “ascetic withdrawal.” The final section of the volume explores theoretical issues, including the delimitation of the “civic” as a category, connections between local and global in the civic project, the question of political advocacy in the classroom, and the role of normative commitments.

Collectively these chapters illustrate the real possibility of connecting the scholarly study of religion with the societies in which we, our students, and our institutions exist. The contributing authors model new ways of engaging questions of civic belonging and social activism in the religion classroom, belying the stereotype of the ivory tower intellectual.

Moussa, “Politics of the Islamic Tradition”

In October, Routledge released “Politics of the Islamic Tradition: The Thought of Muhammad Al-Ghazali,” by Mohammed Moussa (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies).  The publisher’s description follows:

Over the last two centuries the Muslim world has undergone dramatic transformations, impacting the Islamic tradition and throwing into question our understanding of tradition. The notion of tradition as an unmoving edifice is contradicted by the very process of its transmission, and the complex role human beings play in creating and sustaining traditions is evident in the indigenous mechanisms of change within the Islamic tradition.

Politics of the Islamic Tradition locates the work of Egyptian cleric Muhammad al-Ghazali within the context of this dynamic Islamic tradition, with special focus on his political thought. Al-Ghazali inherited a vast and diverse heritage which he managed to reinterpret in a changing world. An innovative exploration of the change and continuity present within Muslim discourses, this book brings together disparate threads of the Islamic tradition, religious exegesis, the contemporary Arab Middle East, the Islamic state and idea of renewal in al-Ghazali’s thought. As well as being one of the first complete treatments of al-Ghazali’s works, this book provides an original critical approach to tradition and its capability for innovation and change, countering the dichotomy between tradition and modernity that typically informs most scholarly studies on contemporary Islam.

Offering highly original insights into Islamic thought and engaging with critical notions of tradition, this book is essential reading for students and scholars of Islamic Politics and History.

“Spreading Buddha’s Word in East Asia” (eds. Wu and Chia)

In December, the Columbia University Press will release “Spreading Buddha’s Word in East Asia: The Formation and Transformation of the Chinese Buddhist Canon,” edited by Jiang Wu (University of Arizona) and Lucille Chia (University of California at Riverside).  The publisher’s description follows:

A monumental work in the history of religion, the history of the book, the study of politics, and bibliographical research, this volume follows the making of the Chinese Buddhist canon from the fourth century to the digital era. Approaching the subject from a historical perspective, the book ties the religious, social, and textual practices of canon formation to the development of East Asian Buddhist culture and opens up the study of Chinese Buddhist texts to readers interested in the evolution of Chinese writing in general and the Confucian and Daoist traditions in particular.

The collection undertakes extensive readings of major scriptural catalogs from the early manuscript era as well as major printed editions, including the Kaibao Canon, Qisha Canon, Goryeo Canon, and Taisho Canon. Contributors add fascinating depth to such understudied issues as the historical process of compilation, textual manipulation, physical production and management, sponsorship, the dissemination of various editions, cultic activities surrounding the canon, and the canon’s reception in different East Asian societies. The Chinese Buddhist canon is one of the most enduring textual traditions in East Asian religion and culture, and through this exhaustive, multifaceted effort, an essential body of work becomes part of a new, versatile narrative of East Asian Buddhism that has far-reaching implications for world history.

Dorrien, “The New Abolition”

This month, the Yale University Press releases “The New Abolition: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel,” by Gary Dorrien (Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University).  The publisher’s description follows: 

The black social gospel emerged from the trauma of Reconstruction to ask what a “new abolition” would require in American society. It became an important tradition of religious thought and resistance, helping to create an alternative public sphere of excluded voices and providing the intellectual underpinnings of the civil rights movement. This tradition has been seriously overlooked, despite its immense legacy.

In this groundbreaking work, Gary Dorrien describes the early history of the black social gospel from its nineteenth-century founding to its close association in the twentieth century with W. E. B. Du Bois. He offers a new perspective on modern Christianity and the civil rights era by delineating the tradition of social justice theology and activism that led to Martin Luther King Jr.

Lifshitz, “Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg and the Foundation of Jewish Political Thought”

In October, Cambridge University Press will release “Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg and the Foundation of Jewish Political Thought” by Joseph Isaac Lifshitz (Shalem Center, Jerusalem). The publisher’s description follows:

This book is a scholarly examination of the political thought of Rabbi Meir (Maharam) of Rothenburg, the most important thirteenth century German Rabbi who was associated with the Pietist movement of the period. From the Maharam’s responsa on community matters, a coherent political thought emerges that exercised nearly unprecedented influence on European Jewish communities up to the Jewish Emancipation. Rabbi Meir’s extremely sophisticated attempt to balance the demands of the community against those of the individual was facilitated by a characteristic three-tiered structure to his political thought: concrete legal rules supported by value-laden legal principles built upon his general religious ideology. Through a systematic analysis of the Maharam’s political thought, Isaac Lifshitz offers an original contribution to Jewish studies, political theory, and the study of legal philosophy. By considering the legal and theological underpinnings of one of Medieval Jewry’s most influential figures, it also makes a contribution to the history of ideas in the Medieval period.

“Rawls and Religion” (Bailey & Gentile, eds.)

In January, Columbia University Press will release “Rawls and Religion” edited by Tom Bailey (John Cabot University, Rome) and Valentina Gentile (LUISS University, Rome). The publisher’s description follows:

John Rawls’s influential theory of justice and public reason has often been thought to exclude religion from politics, out of fear of its illiberal and destabilizing potentials. It has therefore been criticized by defenders of religion for marginalizing and alienating the wealth of religious sensibilities, voices, and demands now present in contemporary liberal societies.

In this anthology, established scholars of Rawls and the philosophy of religion reexamine and rearticulate the central tenets of Rawls’s theory to show they in fact offer sophisticated resources for accommodating and responding to religions in liberal political life. The chapters reassert the subtlety, openness, and flexibility of his sense of liberal “respect” and “consensus,” revealing their inclusive implications for religious citizens. They also explore the means he proposes for accommodating nonliberal religions in liberal politics, developing his conception of “public reason” into a novel account of the possibilities for rational engagement between liberal and religious ideas. And they reevaluate Rawls’s liberalism from the “transcendent” perspectives of religions themselves, critically considering its normative and political value, as well as its own “religious” character. Rawls and Religion makes a unique and important contribution to contemporary debates over liberalism and its response to the proliferation of religions in contemporary political life.