Tag Archives: Religion and Politics

Miller, “Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church”

Next month, University of California Press will publish Good Catholics: The Battle over Abortion in the Catholic Church by Patricia Miller. The publisher’s description follows.

Good Catholics tells the story of the remarkable individuals who have engaged in a nearly fifty-year struggle to assert the moral legitimacy of a pro-choice position in the Catholic Church, as well as the concurrent efforts of the Catholic hierarchy to suppress abortion dissent and to translate Catholic doctrine on sexuality into law. Miller recounts a dramatic but largely untold history of protest and persecution, which demonstrates the profound and surprising influence that the conflict over abortion in the Catholic Church has had not only on the church but also on the very fabric of U.S. politics. Good Catholics addresses many of today’s hot-button questions about the separation of church and state, including what concessions society should make in public policy to matters of religious doctrine, such as the Catholic ban on contraception.

Hamid, “Temptations of Power”

9780199314058_450Next month, Oxford University Press will publish Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East by Shadi Hamid (Brookings Doha Center). The publisher’s description follows.

In 1989, Francis Fukuyama famously declared that we had reached “the end of history,” and that liberal democracy would be the reigning ideology from now on. But Fukuyama failed to reckon with the idea of illiberal democracy. What if majorities, working through the democratic process, decide they would rather not accept gender equality and other human rights norms that Western democracies take for granted? Nowhere have such considerations become more relevant than in the Middle East, where the Arab uprisings of 2011 swept the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties into power. Since then, one question has been on everyone’s mind: what do Islamists really want?

In Temptations of Power, noted Brookings scholar Shadi Hamid draws on hundreds of interviews with Islamist leaders and rank-and-file activists to offer an in-depth look at the past, present, and future of Islamist parties across the Arab world. The oldest and most influential of these groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, initially dismissed democracy as a foreign import, but eventually chose to participate in Egyptian and Jordanian party politics in the 1980s. These political openings proved short-lived. As repression intensified, though, Islamist parties did not — as one may have expected — turn to radicalism. Rather, they embraced the tenets of democratic life, putting aside their dreams of an Islamic state, striking alliances with secular parties, and reaching out to Western audiences for the first time.

When the 2011 revolutions took place, Islamists found themselves in an enviable position, but one they were unprepared for. Up until then, the prospect of power had seemed too remote. But, now, freed from repression and with the political arena wide open, they found themselves with an unprecedented opportunity to put their ideas into practice across the region. Groups like the Brotherhood combine the features of political parties and religious movements. However pragmatic they may be, their ultimate goal remains the Islamization of society and the state. When the electorate they represent is conservative as well, they can push their own form of illiberal democracy while insisting they are carrying out the popular will. This can lead to overreach and, at times, significant backlash, as the tragic events in Egypt following the military takeover demonstrated.

While the coup and the subsequent crackdown were a devastating blow for the Islamist “project,” premature obituaries of political Islam, a running feature of commentary since the 1950s, usually turn out to be just that – premature. In countries as diverse as Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Yemen, Islamist groups will remain an important force whether in the ranks of opposition or the halls of power.

Drawing from interviews with figures like ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, Hamid’s account will serve as an essential compass for those trying to understand where the region’s varied Islamist groups have come from, and where they might be headed.

Mayor de Blasio Reverses NYC Dept of Education Policy of Exclusion

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has reversed the New York City Department of Education’s policy of exclusion of religious groups that engage in “worship” from the use, on equal terms with other groups, of public school classrooms–a policy that was upheld several times by the Second Circuit as vindicating “interests favored by the Establishment Clause.” The Mayor concluded that “[a] faith-based organization has a right like anyone else” to use the public school space.

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.

Rubin, “Islam in the Balance”

Next month, Stanford University Press will publish Islam in the Balance: Ideational Threats in Arab Politics by Lawrence Rubin (Georgia Institute of Islam in the BalanceTechnology).  The publisher’s description follows.

Islam in the Balance: Ideational Threats in Arab Politics is an analysis of how ideas, or political ideology, can threaten states and how states react to ideational threats. It examines the threat perception and policies of two Arab, Muslim majority states, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, in response to the rise and activities of two revolutionary “Islamic states,” established in Iran (1979) and Sudan (1989).

Using these comparative case studies the book provides important insight about the role of religious ideology for the international and domestic politics of the Middle East and, in doing so, advances our understanding of how, why, and when ideology affects threat perception and state policy.

Rubin makes clear that transnational ideologies may present a greater and more immediate national security threat than shifts in the military balance of power: first because ideology, or ideational power, triggers threat perception and affects state policy; second because states engage in ideational balancing in response to an ideological threat.

The book has significant implications for international relations theory and engages important debates in comparative politics about authoritarianism and Islamic activism. Its findings about how an Islamist regime or state behaves will provide vital insight for policy creation by the US and its Middle East allies should another such regime or state emerge.

Junker-Kenny, “Religion and Public Reason”

9783110347326This March, De Gruyter published Religion and Public Reason: A Comparison of the Positions of John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas and Paul Ricoeur by Maureen Junker-Kenny (Trinity College, Dublin). The publisher’s description follows.

This book compares three approaches to public reason and to the public space accorded to religions: the liberal platform of an overlapping consensus proposed by John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas’s discourse ethical reformulation of Kant’s universalism and its realization in the public sphere, and the co-founding role which Paul Ricoeur attributes to the particular traditions that have shaped their cultures and the convictions of citizens.

The premises of their positions are analysed under four aspects: (1) the normative framework which determines the specific function of public reason; (2) their anthropologies and theories of action; (3) the dimensions of social life and its concretization in a democratic political framework; (4) the different views of religion that follow from these factors, including their understanding of the status of metaphysical and religious truth claims, and the role of religion as a practice and conviction in a pluralist society. Recent receptions and critiques in English and German are brought into conversation: philosophers and theologians discuss the scope of public reason, and the task of translation from faith traditions, as well as the role they might have in the diversity of world cultures for shaping a shared cosmopolitan horizon.

Johnson & Vanderbeck, “Law, Religion and Homosexuality”

9780415832687This May, Routledge will publish Law, Religion and Homosexuality by Paul Johnson (University of York) and Robert Vanderbeck (University of Leeds). The publisher’s description follows.

Law, Religion and Homosexuality is the first book-length study of how religion has shaped, and continues to shape, legislation that regulates the lives of gay men and lesbians. Through a systematic examination of how religious discourse influences the making of law – in the form of official interventions made by faith communities and organizations, as well as by expressions of faith by individual legislators – the authors argue that religion continues to be central to both enabling and restricting the development of sexual orientation equality. Whilst some claim that faith has been marginalized in the legislative processes of contemporary western societies, Johnson and Vanderbeck show the significant impact of religion in a number of substantive legal areas relating to sexual orientation including: same-sex sexual relations, family life, civil partnership and same-sex marriage, equality in employment and the provision of goods and services, hate speech regulation, and education. Law, Religion and Homosexuality demonstrates the dynamic interplay between law and religion in respect of homosexuality and will be of considerable interest to a wide audience of academics, policy makers and stakeholders.

Qasmi, “The Ahmadis and the Politics of Religious Exclusion in Pakistan”

Next month, Anthem Press will publish The Ahmadis and the Politics of Religious Exclusion in Pakistan by Ali Usman Qasmi (Lahore University of Management Sciences). The publisher’s description follows.The Ahmadis and the Politics of Religious Exclusion in Pakistan

‘The Ahmadis and the Politics of Religious Exclusion in Pakistan’ traces the history of the political exclusion of the Ahmadiyya religious minority in Pakistan by drawing on revealing new sources. The Ahmadis believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadiyan (1835–1908) was a prophet (in a nuanced understanding of this term) and promised messiah. This led to the group’s condemnation as infidels during the colonial period, setting in course a painful history of religious exclusion.

Part I of this volume traces the development of the anti-Ahmadi movement from its origin in Punjab province, where an agitation movement was launched calling upon the central government to declare the Ahmadis officially non-Muslim. After the movement intensified, leading to proclamation of martial law in Lahore in 1953, the Punjab government held a court of inquiry, which released its report in 1954. The proceedings of the Munir-Kiyani inquiry commission has now become available to scholars, and is a key focus of analysis. Part II focuses on the developments in Pakistan’s politics that created a discursive space where legislative measures against the Ahmadis could be deliberated and adopted by the national assembly, and argues Pakistan’s first general elections in 1970 reflected the entrenchment of religious leaders in Pakistan’s power politics. The national assembly’s 1974 session saw Ahmadis unanimously declared as non-Muslims; the records of this session’s debates are extensively reviewed in this book.

A truly path-breaking study, this work goes beyond merely chronicling the details of anti-Ahmadi violence and the legal and administrative measures adopted against them, to address wider issues of the politics of Islam in postcolonial Muslim nation-states and their disputative engagements with the ideas of modernity and citizenship.

Glick, “The Israeli Solution”

Last month, Random House published The Israeli Solution: A One State Plan forThe Israeli Solution Peace in the Middle East by Caroline Glick.  The publisher’s description follows.

The reigning consensus in elite and academic circles is that the United States must seek to resolve the Palestinians’ conflict with Israel by implementing the so-called two-state solution. Establishing a Palestinian state, so the thinking goes, would be a panacea for all the region’s ills. It would end the Arab world’s conflict with Israel, because the reason the Arab world is anti-Israel is that there is no Palestinian state. It would also nearly erase the principal cause of the violent extremism in the rest of the Middle East.

In a time when American politics are marked by partisan gridlock, the two-state solution stands out for its ability to attract supporters from both sides of the ideological divide. But the great irony is that it is one of the most irrational and failed policies the United States has ever adopted.

Between 1970 and 2013, the United States presented nine different peace plans for Israel and the Palestinians, and for the past twenty years, the two state solution has been the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy. But despite this laser focus, American efforts to implement a two-state peace deal have failed—and with each new attempt, the Middle East has become less stable, more violent, more radicalized, and more inimical to democratic values and interests.

In The Israeli Solution, Caroline Glick, senior contributing editor to the Jerusalem Post, examines the history and misconceptions behind the two-state policy, most notably:

- The huge errors made in counting the actual numbers of Jews and Arabs in the region. The 1997 Palestinian Census, upon which most two-state policy is based, wildly exaggerated the numbers of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.

- Neglect of the long history of Palestinian anti-Semitism, refusal to negotiate in good faith, terrorism, and denial of Israel’s right to exist.

- Disregard for Israel’s stronger claims to territorial sovereignty under international law, as well as the long history of Jewish presence in the region.

- Indifference to polling data that shows the Palestinian people admire Israeli society and governance. Despite a half-century of domestic and international terrorism, anti-semitism, and military attacks from regional neighbors who reject its right to exist, Israel has thrived as the Middle East’s lone democracy.

After a century spent chasing a two-state policy that hasn’t brought the Israelis and Palestinians any closer to peace, The Israeli Solution offers an alternative path to stability in the Middle East based on Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.

Hamid, “Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East”

Next month, Oxford will publish Temptations of Power:9780199314058_140 Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East, by Shadi Hamid (Director of Research and Fellow, Brookings Doha Center). The publisher’s description follows.

In 1989, Francis Fukuyama famously declared that we had reached “the end of history,” and that liberal democracy would be the reigning ideology from now on. But Fukuyama failed to reckon with the idea of illiberal democracy. What if majorities, working through the democratic process, decide they would rather not accept gender equality and other human rights norms that Western democracies take for granted? Nowhere have such considerations become more relevant than in the Middle East, where the Arab uprisings of 2011 swept the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties into power. Since then, one question has been on everyone’s mind: what do Islamists really want?

In Temptations of Power, noted Brookings scholar Shadi Hamid draws on hundreds of interviews with Islamist leaders and rank-and-file activists to offer an in-depth look at the past, present, and future of Islamist parties across the Arab world. The oldest and most influential of these groups, the Muslim Brotherhood, initially dismissed democracy as a foreign import, but eventually chose to participate in Egyptian and Jordanian party politics in the 1980s. These political openings proved short-lived. As repression intensified, though, Islamist parties did not — as one may have expected — turn to radicalism. Rather, they embraced the tenets of democratic life, putting aside their dreams of an Islamic state, striking alliances with secular parties, and reaching out to Western audiences for the first time.

When the 2011 revolutions took place, Islamists found themselves in an enviable position, but one they were unprepared for. Up until then, the prospect of power had seemed too remote. But, now, freed from repression and with the political arena wide open, they found themselves with an unprecedented opportunity to put their ideas into practice across the region. Groups like the Brotherhood combine the features of political parties and religious movements. However pragmatic they may be, their ultimate goal remains the Islamization of society and the state. When the electorate they represent is conservative as well, they can push their own form of illiberal democracy while insisting they are carrying out the popular will. This can lead to overreach and, at times, significant backlash, as the tragic events in Egypt following the military takeover demonstrated.

While the coup and the subsequent crackdown were a devastating blow for the Islamist “project,” premature obituaries of political Islam, a running feature of commentary since the 1950s, usually turn out to be just that – premature. In countries as diverse as Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Yemen, Islamist groups will remain an important force whether in the ranks of opposition or the halls of power.

Drawing from interviews with figures like ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, Hamid’s account will serve as an essential compass for those trying to understand where the region’s varied Islamist groups have come from, and where they might be headed.