Tag Archives: Religion and Politics

“Multiculturalism and Religious Identity: Canada and India” (Sikka & Beaman eds.)

Last month, McGill-Queens University Press released “Multiculturalism and Religious Identity:  Canada and India”  edited by Sonia Sikka (University of Ottawa) and Lori G. Beaman (University of Ottawa). The publisher’s description follows:

How, and to what extent, can religion be included within commitments to multiculturalism? Multiculturalism and Religious Identity addresses this question by examining the political recognition and management of religious identity in Canada and India.

In multicultural policy, practice, and literature, religion has until recently not been included within broader discussions of multiculturalism, perhaps due to worries of potential for conflict with secularism. This collection undertakes a contemporary analysis of how the Canadian and Indian states each approach religious diversity through social and political policies, as well as how religion and secularism meet both philosophically and politically in contested public space. Although Canada and India have differing political and religious histories – leading to different articulations of multiculturalism, religious diversity, and secularism – both countries share a commitment to ensuring fair treatment for the different religious communities they include.

Combining broader theoretical and normative reflections with close case studies, Multiculturalism and Religious Identity leads the way to addressing these timely issues in the Canadian and Indian contexts.

“The Public Face of African New Religious Movements in Diaspora: Imagining the Religious ‘Other’” (Adogame ed.)

Next month, Ashgate Publishing will release “The Public Face of African New Religious Movements in Diaspora: Imagining the Religious ‘Other’” edited by Afe Adogame (University of Edinburgh). The publisher’s description follows:

The growing pace of international migration, technological revolution in media and travel generate circumstances that provide opportunities for the mobility of African new religious movements (ANRMs) within Africa and beyond. ANRMs are furthering their self-assertion and self-insertion into the religious landscapes of Europe, the Americas, and Asia. Their growing presence and public visibility seem to be more robustly captured by the popular media than by scholars of NRMs, historians of religion and social scientists, a tendency that has probably shaped the public mental picture and understanding of the phenomena. This book provides new theoretical and methodological insights for understanding and interpreting ANRMs and African-derived religions in diaspora.

Contributors focus on individual groups and movements drawn from Christian, Islamic, Jewish and African-derived religious movements and explore their provenance and patterns of emergence; their belief systems and ritual practices; their public/civic roles; group self-definition; public perceptions and responses; tendencies towards integration/segregation; organisational networks; gender orientations and the implications of interactions within and between the groups and with the host societies. The book includes contributions from scholars and religious practitioners, thus offering new insights into how ANRMs can be better defined, approached, and interpreted by scholars, policy makers, and media practitioners alike.

“Legal Cases, New Religious Movements, and Minority Faiths” (Richardson & Bellanger eds.)

This October, Ashgate Publishing will release “Legal Cases, New Religious Movements, and Minority Faiths,” edited by James T. Richardson (University of Nevada) and François Bellanger (University of Geneva, Switzerland).  The publisher’s description follows:

Legal Cases, New Religious Movements, and Minority FaithsNew religious movements (NRMs) and other minority faiths have regularly been the focus of legal cases around the world in recent decades. This is the first book to focus on important aspects of the relationship of smaller faiths to the societies in which they function by using specific legal cases to examine social control efforts. The legal cases involve group leaders, a groups’ practices or alleged abuses against members and children in the group, legal actions brought by former members or third parties, attacks against such groups by outsiders including even governments, and libel and slander actions brought by religious groups as they seek to defend themselves. These cases are sometimes milestones in the relation between state authorities and religious groups.

Exploring cases in different parts of the world, and assessing the events causing such cases and their consequences, this book offers a practical insight for understanding the relations of NRMs and other minority religions and the law from the perspective of legal cases. Chapters focus on legal, political, and social implications. Including contributions from scholars, legal practitioners, actual or former members, and authorities involved in such cases from various jurisdictions, this book presents an objective approach to understanding why so many legal actions have involved NRMs and other minority faiths in recent years in western societies, and the consequences of those actions for the society and the religious group as well.

“Religion, Nation and Democracy in the South Caucasus” (Agadjanian et al., eds.)

This October, Routledge Press will release “Religion, Nation and Democracy in the South Caucasus” edited by Alexander Agadjanian (Russian State University), Ansgar Jödicke (University of Fribour, Switzerland), and Evert van der Zweerde (Radbout University of Nijmegen, Netherlands).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion, Nation and Democracy in South CaucasusThis book explores developments in the three major societies of the South Caucasus – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – focusing especially on religion, historical traditions, national consciousness, and political culture, and on how these factors interact. It outlines how, despite close geographical interlacement, common historical memories and inherited structures, the three countries have deep differences; and it discusses how development in all three nations has differed significantly from the countries’ declared commitments to democratic orientation and European norms and values. The book also considers how external factors and international relations continue to impact on the three countries.

“Secularism on the Edge: Rethinking Church-State Relations in the United States, France, and Israel” (Berlinerblau et al., eds.)

In August, Palgrave Macmillan released “Secularism on the Edge: Rethinking Church-State Relations in the United States, France, and Israel” edited by Jacques Berlinerblau (Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University), Sarah Fainberg (Tel Aviv University), and Aurora Nou (graduate student at American University). The publisher’s description follows:

What is secularism, and why does it matter? In an era marked by global religious revival, how do countries navigate the presence of faith in the public square? In this dynamic collection of essays, leading scholars from around the world, including Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua and French female rabbi Delphine Horvilleur, examine the condition of church-state relations in three pivotal countries: the United States, France, and Israel. Their analyses are rooted in a wide variety of disciplines, ranging from ethnography and demography to political science, gender studies, theology, and law.

Prominent among the points addressed are the crippling nomenclatural confusions that have so hampered not only secularism as a political ideology, but secularism as an academic construct. This reader-friendly volume also offers a critical and nuanced look at how women are impacted by secular governance. Though secularism is often equated with modernity and progress, including with regard to gender equality, our contributors find that the truth is infinitely more complicated.

Anderson, “Conservative Christian Politics in Russia and the United States”

This October, Routledge Press will release “Conservative Christian Politics in Russia and the United States: Dreaming of Christian Nations” by John Anderson (University of St. Andrews).  The publisher’s description follows:

Conservative Christian PoliticsThis book explores the politics of conservative Christian churches and social movements in Russia and the United States, focusing on their similar concerns but very different modes of political engagement.

Whilst secularisation continues to chip away at religious adherence and practice in Europe, religion is often, quite rightly, seen as an influential force in the politics of the United States, and, more questionably, as a significant influence in contemporary Russia. This book looks at the broad social movement making up the US Christian Right and the profoundly hierarchical leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church as socially conservative actors, and some of the ways they have engaged in contemporary politics. Both are seeking to halt the perceived drift towards a more secular political order; both face significant challenges in handling the consequences of secularism, pluralism and liberal individualism; and both believe that their nations can only be great if they remain true to their religious heritage. In exploring their experience, the book focuses on shared and different elements in their diagnosis of what is wrong with their societies and how this affects their policy intervention over issues such as religious and ethnic belonging, sexual orientation and education.

Drawing on political, sociological and religious studies, this work will be a useful reference for students and scholars of religion and politics, Russian politics and American politics.

Chak, “Islam and Pakistan’s Political Culture”

This September, Routledge Press will release “Islam and Pakistan’s Political Culture” by Farhan Mujahid Chak (Qatar University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Islam and Pakistan's Political CultureThis 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.

Tas, “Legal Pluralism in Action”

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:

Legal Pluralism in ActionThis 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.

A Little Political Theology Courtesy of Benjamin Franklin

From his “Petition of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery,” presented in the House of Representatives on February 12, 1790:

The memorial respectfully showeth,

That from a regard for the happiness of mankind, as association was formed several years since in this State, by a number of her citizens, of various religious denominations, for promoting the abolition of slavery, and for the relief of those unlawfully held in bondage. A just and acute conception of the true principles of liberty, as it spread through the land, produced accessions to their numbers, many friends to their cause, and a Legislative cooperation with their views, which, by the blessing of Divine Providence, have been successfully directed to the relieving from bondage a large number of their fellow-creatures of the African race. They have also the satisfaction to observe, that in consequence of that spirit of philanthropy and genuine liberty which is generally diffusing its beneficial influence, similar institutions are forming at home and abroad.

That mankind are all formed by the same Almighty Being, alike objects of his care, and equally designed for the enjoyment of happiness, the Christian religion teaches us to believe, and the political creed of Americans fully coincides with the position.

The Cynical Mr. Cruz

This week in Washington, a major conference took place on the persecution of Mideast Christians. The conference brought together Christians from around the region, including many church hierarchs. Many of the attendees had experienced Islamist persecution firsthand. The overarching theme was unity, and the overall purpose was to raise awareness about what Christians in the region are going through.

On Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) addressed the gathering. Rather than focus on the plight of Christians, the subject of the conference, he decided to take the opportunity to lecture the crowd on its failure sufficiently to support Israel. After saying his purpose was to highlight the suffering of Christians, he abruptly and unaccountably segued to the story of Israel’s founding in 1948. “And, today,” he continued, “Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state.” At this point, some in the crowd – some, not all – began to boo and tell him to “move on.” Instead, Cruz dug in, accusing the crowd of being unchristian and consumed with hatred for Jews. “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews,” he told the crowd, “then I will not stand with you.” And he left the stage.

When I first read the story, I shook my head at Cruz’s naiveté. Rightly or wrongly, Israeli policy towards Palestine is a sore point for many Mideast Christians, not a few of whom are Palestinians. Some Christians have been forced by circumstance to reach accommodations with Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, two foes of Israel. And, although Israel does not persecute Christians – it would be obtuse to suggest it does – many Christians in Israel feel that they are not particularly welcome, either. There are repeated reports of kids defacing churches and harassing Christian processions in the Old City of Jerusalem, for example. It would be convenient to blame these incidents on Islamists, but the perpetrators typically turn out to be students from ultraconservative yeshivas. And there are complaints that the government is quietly trying to push Christians out by denying building permits, professional licenses, etc. William Dalrymple’s classic book about Mideast Christians, From the Holy Mountain, details these complaints.

This week’s conference was not the place to discuss all this, and the organizers clearly wished to avoid criticizing Israel. In fact, the conference wasn’t about Israel at all. So, most attendees were stunned by Cruz’s comments and embarrassed at the reaction to them. Why interrupt a conference about Mideast Christians to talk about Israel’s struggles, a subject bound to divide people? It’s worth repeating, not everyone booed Cruz. Some in the crowd applauded him.

As I say, my first thought was that Cruz had been exceptionally inept. How could he fail to anticipate that he would derail the conference by taking this line? It seems, however, that he had the episode planned. Before giving the speech, Cruz met with the editorial board of the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website, which then ran an obligingly alarmist account of the upcoming event with the headline “Cruz Headlines Conference Featuring Hezbollah Supporters.” Apparently, the whole thing was a setup, a farce to make Cruz look good with his base and shore up his credibility as a pro-Israel hawk. Mollie Hemingway has the evidence over at The Federalist.

People will move on from this sad episode, and the good work of the conference in raising the plight of Mideast Christians will no doubt bear fruit. But what are we to make of such a man, who hijacks an event focused on the suffering of a mostly forgotten group of people, sandbags his hosts, preens self-righteously, and deliberately provokes an ugly reaction to score political points? No doubt, Cruz and his staff will trumpet his brave conduct in standing up to bullies. In fact, what he did was humiliate the powerless, and there’s another word for that than brave.