Tag Archives: Religion and Politics

What’s Happening in Argentina?

I confess I don’t follow Argentine politics. So when an Argentine friend posted the message “Yo Soy Nisman” on her Facebook page this week, I didn’t get the reference. I asked her about it, and she directed me to several news items on the death Sunday of an Argentine prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, who was about to testify about an alleged deal to immunize the perpetrators of one of the worst anti-Semitic attacks in recent history. It is an astonishing story.

In 1994, a bomb exploded at a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people. Iranian agents are suspected, and Interpol has issued arrest warrants against some Iranian officials. This month, Nisman accused the Argentine president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirschner, of blocking the investigation. Kirschner, he claimed, had made a secret agreement with Iran to shield the officials from prosecution in exchange for Iranian oil. He filed a criminal complaint against her and her foreign minister, Hector Timerman. Both Kirschner and Timerman deny the charge. They say that Nisman was being manipulated by their political opponents.

Nisman had an appointment to testify before Argentine legislators on Monday. On Sunday, police found him dead in his apartment, with a gunshot wound to the head. Kirschner first called the death a suicide, which is how the police described it. Many Argentines were skeptical, as Nisman had left no note and forensic evidence didn’t point to a suicide.

Now, apparently, Ms. Kirschner is skeptical as well. On her website yesterday, she wrote that she believes Nisman was murdered–implicitly, by the same people who had manipulated him to bring the charges against her in the first place. “They used him while he was alive and then they needed him dead,” she wrote. Presumably, the plot was to get Nisman to indict Kirschner on phony charges, and then kill him before the plot against Kirschner could be revealed.

So: A prosecutor claims he has evidence that the president has made a secret deal with a foreign country to cover up a attack on a religious minority that killed 85 people, then dies under mysterious circumstances the day before he is to testify. The president first claims it’s a suicide, then changes her mind and says, without providing evidence, that it’s a murder directed, ultimately, at her. Does any of this make sense? What’s happening in Argentina?

Commins, “Islam in Saudi Arabia”

In February, I.B.Tauris will release “Islam in Saudi Arabia” by David Dean Commins (Dickinson College). The publisher’s description follows:

In the popular imagination, Saudi Arabia is a monolithic and static relic from an earlier age, wedded to a reactionary interpretation of Islam and led by an authoritarian monarchy whose alliance with a retrograde religious establishment has assured its survival. David Commins challenges this view by tracing the origins and evolution of the Saudi state from its eighteenth century roots through the present day. For Commins, Saudi Arabia’s contemporary social and political order is the product of dynamic historical and ongoing struggles, both internal (pitting dynasts against religious traditionalists, Wahhabi true believers against non-Wahhabis and their more liberal Wahhabi allies, and an old guard against a younger generation habituated to a world of social media, cable television, and consumerism) and external (including threats from imperial powers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Arab nationalists in the 1950s-60s, Saddam’s Iraq in the 1990s, and, currently, Iran and al-Qaeda). Commins tracks the Al Saud’s efforts to balance and overcome these challenges, in the process creating a system whose defining characteristics are contradiction and ambiguity.

Rajan, “Al Qaeda’s Global Crisis”

In February, Routledge Press will release “Al Qaeda’s Global Crisis: The Islamic State, Takfir and the Genocide of Muslims” by V.G. Julie Rajan (Rutgers University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Al Qaeda's Global CrisisThis book focuses on the crises facing Al Qaeda and how the mass killing of Muslims is challenging its credibility as a leader among Islamist jihadist organizations.

The book argues that these crises are directly related to Al Qaeda’s affiliation with the extreme violence employed against Muslims in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the decade since 9/11. Al Qaeda’s public and private responses to this violence differ greatly. While in public Al Qaeda has justified those attacks declaring that, for the establishment of a state of ‘true believers’, they are a necessary evil, in private Al Qaeda has been advising its local affiliates to refrain from killing Muslims. To better understand the crises facing Al Qaeda, the book explores the development of Central Al Qaeda’s complex relationship with radical (mis)appropriations and manifestations of takfir, which allows one Muslim to declare another an unbeliever, and its unique relationship with each of its affiliates in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The author then goes on to consider how the prominence of takfir is contributing to the deteriorating security in those countries and how this is affecting Al Qaeda’s credibility as an Islamist terror organization. The book concludes by considering the long-term viability of Al Qaeda and how its demise could allow the rise of the even more radical, violent Islamic State and the implications this has for the future security of the Middle East, North Africa and Central/South Asia.

This book will be of much interest to students of political violence and terrorism, Islamism, global security and IR.

Steenbrink, “Catholics in Independent Indonesia:1945-2010″

In February, Brill will release “Catholics in Independent Indonesia: 1945-2010” by Karel Steenbrink (Utrecht University). The publisher’s description follows:

Catholics in Independent Indonesia: 1945-2010 concludes Steenbrink’s three volume historical account of Catholicism in Indonesia with a detailed report of the survival and growth of this minority religion in Muslim Indonesia since its independence in 1945. Colonial Catholicism survived in the independent Republic of Indonesia during the nationalist Sukarno regime (1945-1965) and regained a new dynamic during the general religious revival that was part of the New Order of Soeharto after 1965. From a Dutch-inspired institution it became a fully Indonesian steered community with a modern and international character. The second half of the book will deal with the different regional developments in this vast country.

 

“The Catholic Church in Ireland Today” (Cochran & Waldmeir eds.)

This February, Lexington Books  will release “The Catholic Church in Ireland Today” edited by David Carroll Cochran (Loras College) and John C. Waldmeir (Loras College).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Catholic Church in Ireland TodayFrom a Church that once enjoyed devotional loyalty, political influence, and institutional power unrivaled in Europe, the Catholic Church in Ireland now faces collapse. Devastated by a series of reports on clerical sexual abuse, challenged publicly during several political battles, and painfully aware of plunging Mass attendance, the Irish Church today is confronted with the loss of its institutional legitimacy. This study is the first international and interdisciplinary attempt to consider the scope of the problem, analyze issues that are crucial to the Irish context, and identify signs of both resilience and renewal. In addition to an overview of the current status and future directions of Irish Catholicism, The Catholic Church in Ireland Today examines specific issues such as growing secularism, the changing image of Irish bishops, generational divides, Catholic migrants to Ireland, the abuse crisis and responses in Ireland and the United States, Irish missionaries, the political role of Irish priests, the 2012 Dublin Eucharistic Congress, and contemplative strands in Irish identity. This book identifies the key issues that students of Irish society and others interested in Catholic culture must examine in order to understand the changing roles of religion in the contemporary world.

“The Shi’a in Modern South Asia” (Jones & Qasmi, eds.)

This March, Cambridge University Press will release “The Shi’a in Modern South Asia: Religion, History and Politics” edited by Justin Jones (University of Oxford) and Ali Usman Qasmi (Lahore University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Shia in ModernThe Shi‘i communities of South Asia, roughly 60 million people, represent, after those of Iran, the second largest grouping of Shi’as in the Muslim world. Until recently our knowledge of them has not matched their numbers. Indeed, they have suffered from the paradox of being both highly visible but in scholarly terms largely invisible. Where the Shi‘a live in South Asian towns and cities, arguably, no community has been more visible or more audible: visible because of their great processions at Muharram; and audible, certainly at Muharram, but also throughout the year in their majalis, as they recount the events of Karbala, often transmitting them by loudspeaker to the muhalla. The essays in this volume illustrate how scholars are beginning to develop a grasp of religious change amongst the Shi’as over the past two centuries to match that which has been achieved for the Sunnis. The following themes, all present to a greater or lesser extent in modern scholarship on the Shi‘a of South Asia, run through these essays: there is the role of political power, but also its lack, in establishing and shaping Shi‘i communities; there is the centrality of the tragedy of Karbala to Shi‘i identity and to the Shi‘i sense of community; there is the tendency, as time moves towards the present, for Shi‘i practices of pluralism and inclusiveness to weaken in favour of exclusiveness; then, associated with this development, there is the impact of religious reform, and significant religious change, which compares suggestively with religious change in the Sunni world; there is the enduring impact of Iran, the Shi‘i centres in Iraq and more recently Shi‘i activism in the Lebanon; and finally there is the specific role of women in fashioning Shi‘i devotion and community. The contributions to this volume add to the understanding of power and the shaping of Shi‘i communities.

Mallat, “Philosophy of Nonviolence: Revolution, Constitutionalism, and Justice beyond the Middle East”

Next month, Oxford University Press will release “Philosophy of Nonviolence: Revolution, Constitutionalism, and Justice beyond the Middle East” by Chibli Mallat (S.J. Quinney School of Law at the University of Utah). The publisher’s description follows:

In 2011, the Middle East saw more people peacefully protesting long entrenched dictatorships than at any time in its history. The dictators of Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen were deposed in a matter of weeks by nonviolent marches. Imprecisely described as ‘the Arab Spring’, the revolution has been convulsing the whole region ever since. Beyond an uneven course in different countries, Philosophy of Nonviolence examines how 2011 may have ushered in a fundamental break in world history. The break, the book argues, is animated by nonviolence as the new spirit of the philosophy of history.

Philosophy of Nonviolence maps out a system articulating nonviolence in the revolution, the rule of constitutional law it yearns for, and the demand for accountability that inspired the revolution in the first place. Part One–Revolution, provides modern context to the generational revolt, probes the depth of Middle Eastern-Islamic humanism, and addresses the paradox posed by nonviolence to the ‘perpetual peace’ ideal. Part Two–Constitutionalism, explores the reconfiguration of legal norms and power structures, mechanisms of institutional change and constitution-making processes in pursuit of the nonviolent anima. Part Three–Justice, covers the broadening concept of dictatorship as crime against humanity, an essential part of the philosophy of nonviolence. It follows its frustrated emergence in the French revolution, its development in the Middle East since 1860 through the trials of Arab dictators, the pyramid of accountability post-dictatorship, and the scope of foreign intervention in nonviolent revolutions. Throughout the text, Professor Mallat maintains thoroughly abstract and philosophical arguments, while substantiating those arguments in historical context enriched by a close participation in the ongoing Middle East revolution.

Salim, “Contemporary Islamic Law in Indonesia: Shari’ah and Legal Pluralism”

In February, Edinburgh University Press will release “Contemporary Islamic Law in Indonesia: Shari’ah and Legal Pluralism” by Arskal Salim (University of Western Sydney). The publisher’s description follows:

Indonesia has probably the fastest changing legal system in the Muslim world. This ethnographic account of legal pluralism in the post-conflict and disaster situation in Aceh addresses changes in both the national legal system and the regional legal structure in the province. Focusing on the encounter between diverse patterns of legal reasoning advocated by multiple actors and by different institutions (local, national and international; official and unofficial; judicial, political and social cultural) it considers the vast array of issues arising in the wake of the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami in Aceh.

It investigates disputes about rights to land and other forms of property, power relations, the conflict of rules, gender relationships, the right to make decisions, and prevailing norms. These disputes are presented on multiple levels and in various forums, either through negotiation or adjudication, regardless of whether they are settled or not. The cases involve various actors from villages, the courts, the provincial government and the legislature, the national Supreme Court and the central government of Indonesia.

 

Motadel, “Islam and Nazi Germany’s War”

In November, Harvard University Press released “Islam and Nazi Germany’s War” by David Motadel (University of Cambridge). The publisher’s description follows:

In the most crucial phase of the Second World War, German troops, fighting in regions as far apart as the Sahara and the Caucasus, confronted the Allies across lands largely populated by Muslims. Nazi officials saw Islam as a powerful force with the same enemies as Germany: the British Empire, the Soviet Union, and the Jews. Islam and Nazi Germany’s War is the first comprehensive account of Berlin’s remarkably ambitious attempts to build an alliance with the Islamic world.

Drawing on archival research in three continents, David Motadel explains how German officials tried to promote the Third Reich as a patron of Islam. He explores Berlin’s policies and propaganda in the Muslim war zones, and the extensive work that authorities undertook for the recruitment, spiritual care, and ideological indoctrination of tens of thousands of Muslim volunteers who fought in the Wehrmacht and the SS.

Islam and Nazi Germany’s War reveals how German troops on the ground in North Africa, the Balkans, and the Eastern front engaged with diverse Muslim populations, including Muslim Roma and Jewish converts to Islam. Combining measured argument with a masterly handling of detail, it illuminates the profound impact of the Second World War on Muslims around the world and provides a new understanding of the politics of religion in the bloodiest conflict of the twentieth century.

 

Event at Fordham Law School: “Beyond Extremism” (Jan. 27)

On January 27th, Fordham Law School’s Center on Religion and Culture is hosting a forum entitled “Beyond Extremism: Reclaiming Religion’s Peacebuilding Capacity in an Unstable World.”  The panelists include R. Scott Appleby (University of Notre Dame), Shaun Casey (U.S. State Department), Robin Wright (Journalist), and Eliza Griswold (Author):

In the post-9/11 world, where boundaries between faith and global politics are fluid, religion is often criticized for stoking extremism and underwriting violence. But can the enmeshed relationship between faith and politics also be the starting point for a new era in peacebuilding and conflict resolution?

How can religious leaders and foreign policy makers work together to lay the foundations for peace in hotspots around the globe? Join us for a forum on the intersection where secular politics and the world’s faith traditions meet.

Details can be found here.