Tag Archives: Religious Minorities

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.

Baran, “Dissent on the Margins: How Soviet Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It”

Next month, Oxford will publish Dissent on the Margins:9780199945535_140
How Soviet Jehovah’s Witnesses Defied Communism and Lived to Preach About It, by Emily B. Baran (Middle Tennessee State University). The publisher’s description follows.

Emily B. Baran offers a gripping history of how a small, American-based religious community, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, found its way into the Soviet Union after World War II, survived decades of brutal persecution, and emerged as one of the region’s fastest growing religions after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. In telling the story of this often misunderstood faith, Baran explores the shifting boundaries of religious dissent, non-conformity, and human rights in the Soviet Union and its successor states.

Soviet Jehovah’s Witnesses are a fascinating case study of dissent beyond urban, intellectual nonconformists. Witnesses, who were generally rural, poorly educated, and utterly marginalized from society, resisted state pressure to conform. They instead constructed alternative communities based on adherence to religious principles established by the Witnesses’ international center in Brooklyn, New York. The Soviet state considered Witnesses to be the most reactionary of all underground religious movements, and used extraordinary measures to try to eliminate this threat. Yet Witnesses survived, while the Soviet system did not. After 1991, they faced continuing challenges to their right to practice their faith in post-Soviet states, as these states struggled to reconcile the proper limits on freedom of conscience with European norms and domestic concerns.

Dissent on the Margins provides a new and important perspective on one of America’s most understudied religious movements.

 

Panel: The Coptic Question (April 10)

Fordham’s Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work will host a panel discussion, “The Coptic Question: Protecting Minorities During Periods of Upheaval,” in New York on April 10:

Coptic Christians, who make up more than 10% of the Egyptian population, were partners with their Muslim fellow citizens in Tahrir Square and Arab Spring. However, since 2011, scores of Coptic churches, monasteries, shops, schools, clubs and orphanages had been plundered and burned, and over the past year more than 100,000 Christians have fled Egypt with their families, leaving everything they know behind.

This program will explore the experience of the Coptic Christians as religious minority in Egypt and consider the potential for protecting Christian minorities in majority Muslim countries.

Details are here.

Two Updates on Syria’s Christians

Holy Mother of God Armenian Apostolic Church in Kessab, Syria

Two updates on last week’s post about the persecution of Christians in Syria, one hopeful, one much less so.

First the hopeful one. As I wrote last week, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaeda affiliate fighting with Syrian opposition, has succeeded in capturing the town of Raqqa and imposing the classical dhimma on the town’s Christian inhabitants. The dhimma is a notional contract that Christians make with the Islamic community; it offers Christians protection and some autonomy in exchange for their agreement to pay a poll tax called the jizya and to accept restrictions on their dress, movement, construction of churches, etc. Although the historical origins are obscure, the dhimma was a standard concept in classical Islamic law. The Ottomans abandoned the concept only in the 19th century. Its revival now, even in this limited way, is a very worrying sign.

In a response to my post, a post at Andrew Sullivan’s blog points to comments condemning ISIL by a scholar at Egypt’s al-Azhar University, the leading center of Sunni Islamic learning. The scholar, Sheikh Abdul Zahir Shehata, maintains that Islamic law makes imposition of the dhimma illegal in these circumstances. ISIL’s collection of the jizya , he says, is “a form of theft that uses religion as a cover.”

It’s gratifying to see someone from al-Azhar making the point. But there is a certain ambiguity in Shehata’s remarks. If you read them closely, you see that he is not necessarily condemning the jizya as such, only its collection by a renegade group:

“ISIL contradicts itself,” Shehata said. “On the one hand they say they are implementing the provisions of Islamic sharia, including the ‘jizya’, however the Islamic state must be a full-fledged state and recognised by its citizens and subjects, which is not the case in the areas where ISIL is imposing its control by force and bloodshed.”

Maybe it’s a problem with the translation, or perhaps one has to read the whole interview to understand Shehata’s point. But it’s important to focus on the nuances. Perhaps Shehata’s real point is that only a true Islamic law state, not a band of rebels acting outside government authority, may impose the jizya–in which case, Syria’s Christians may find his rejection of ISIL’s actions less reassuring than first appears.

The less hopeful update: over the weekend, fighters with a different al-Qaeda offshoot in the opposition, a rival of ISIL known as the Nusra Front, captured the Armenian Christian town of Kessab. The fighters crossed the border from Turkey, where their bases are located, and attacked the town on Friday. By Sunday, it had fallen. Thousands of Kessab’s Christians–some of whom had sought refuge from Raqqa–have fled to the nearby city of Latakia, where they receiving assistance from the local community, the Red Cross, and Red Crescent. Eyewitnesses report that the Nusra Front has looted Christian homes and stores and desecrated churches in Kessab.

Many Armenian Christians in Kessab descend from refugees who fled the last great persecution of Christians in the region, the Armenian Genocide of 1915–itself a byproduct, in part, of a jihad the Ottoman Empire declared against Christians during World War I. The sad ironies will not escape any of the Christians in Syria today.

Falk, “The German Jews in America: A Minority within a Minority”

german jewsThis April, University Press of America will publish, The German Jews in America: A Minority within a Minority  by Gerhard Falk (Buffalo State College). The publisher’s description follows.

This book describes the assimilation and acculturation of a small minority who immigrated to the United States in the nineteenth century and again in the twentieth century. Gerhard Falk focuses on refugees who fled from Nazi tyranny in the 1930s, immigrated to America, and succeeded despite immense obstacles. This book includes a review of the most prominent academics that made major contributions to science, medicine, art, and literature in America. The German Jews in America demonstrates that America is still the land of opportunity for everyone who makes an effort, no matter what their religion, ethnicity, or race.  In addition, this book is a key to understanding immigration and the role of community in providing the support needed in becoming an American.

Hinojosa, “Latino Mennonites”

Next month, Johns Hopkins University Press will publish Latino Mennonites: Civil Rights, Faith & Evangelical Culture by Felipe Hinojosa (Texas A&M University). The publisher’s description follows.book cover

Felipe Hinojosa’s parents first encountered Mennonite families as migrant workers in the tomato fields of northwestern Ohio. What started as mutual admiration quickly evolved into a relationship that strengthened over the years and eventually led to his parents founding a Mennonite Church in South Texas. Throughout his upbringing as a Mexican American evangélico, Hinojosa was faced with questions not only about his own religion but also about broader issues of Latino evangelicalism, identity, and civil rights politics.

Latino Mennonites offers the first historical analysis of the changing relationship between religion and ethnicity among Latino Mennonites. Drawing heavily on primary sources in Spanish, such as newspapers and oral history interviews, Hinojosa traces the rise of the Latino presence within the Mennonite Church from the origins of Mennonite missions in Latino communities in Chicago, South Texas, Puerto Rico, and New York City, to the conflicted relationship between the Mennonite Church and the California farmworker movements, and finally to the rise of Latino evangelical politics. He also analyzes how the politics of the Chicano, Puerto Rican, and black freedom struggles of the 1960s and 1970s civil rights movements captured the imagination of Mennonite leaders who belonged to a church known more for rural and peaceful agrarian life than for social protest.

Whether in terms of religious faith and identity, race, immigrant rights, or sexuality, the politics of belonging has historically presented both challenges and possibilities for Latino evangelicals in the religious landscapes of twentieth-century America. In Latino Mennonites, Hinojosa has interwoven church history with social history to explore dimensions of identity in Latino Mennonite communities and to create a new way of thinking about the history of American evangelicalism.

Garrioch, “The Huguenots of Paris and the Coming of Religious Freedom, 1685-1789″

Next month, Cambridge University Press will publish The Huguenots of Paris and the Coming of Religious Freedom, 1685-1789 by David Garrioch (Monash University). The publisher’s description follows.

How did the Huguenots of Paris survive, and even prosper, in the eighteenth century when the majority Catholic population was notorious for its hostility to Protestantism? Why, by the end of the Old Regime, did public opinion overwhelmingly favour giving Huguenots greater rights? This study of the growth of religious toleration in Paris traces the specific history of the Huguenots after Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685. David Garrioch identifies the roots of this transformation of attitudes towards the minority Huguenot population in their own methods of resistance to persecution and pragmatic government responses to it, as well as in the particular environment of Paris. Above all, this book identifies the extraordinary shift in Catholic religious culture that took place over the century as a significant cause of change, set against the backdrop of cultural and intellectual transformation that we call the Enlightenment.

Jansen, “Secularism, Assimilation, and the Crisis of Multiculturalism”

9789089645968-yolande-jansen-secularism-assimilation-and-the-crisis-of-multiculturalism-178Next month, Amsterdam University Press will publish Secularism, Assimilation, and the Crisis of Multiculturalism: French Modernist Legacies by Yolande Jansen (Amsterdam Centre for Globalization Studies). The publisher’s description follows.

This remarkable study develops a theoretical critique of contemporary discourses on secularism and assimilation, arguing that the perspective of assimilating distinct religious minorities by incorporating them into a secular and supposedly neutral public sphere may be self-subverting. To flesh out this insight, Jansen draws on the paradoxes of assimilation as experienced by the French Jews in the late 19th century through a contextualised reading of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. She proposes a dynamic, critical multiculturalism as an alternative to discourses focusing on secularism, assimilation and integration.

Discussion on Banning “Islamophobia” (Jan. 17)

The Hudson Institute in Washington will host a discussion, “The Organization of Islamic Cooperation: Free Speech Implications of a Proposed Ban on ‘Islamophobia,’” on January 17:

“Islamophobia” is a widely used yet vague and controversial term referring to anti-Muslim bigotry. In recent years, identifying, monitoring, reporting on, and working to ban Islamophobia worldwide has been a major focus of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The OIC is an international body of 56 member states that is based in Saudi Arabia and active within the United Nations. While the United States has formally recognized its work in the past – US ambassadors have observed its sessions and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton co-chaired some of its meetings – American awareness of the organization remains scant.

 In 2007, the OIC began issuing regular “observatory” reports on Islamophobia, and since 2009 has published monthly bulletins that cite primarily Western examples of Islamophobia.

Is Islamophobia a serious problem, or is the term itself an ideological cudgel designed to incite fear and criminalize dissent?  Dr. Mark Durie will discuss these and other basic questions related to the OIC’s efforts to ban Islamophobia.

Details are here.

Cohen, “Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial Citizenship in the Modern Era”

This month, Oxford published Becoming Ottomans: Sephardi Jews and Imperial 9780199340408Citizenship in the Modern Era, by Julia Phillips Cohen (Vanderbilt University). The publisher’s description follows.

The Ottoman-Jewish story has long been told as a romance between Jews and the empire. The prevailing view is that Ottoman Jews were protected and privileged by imperial policies and in return offered their unflagging devotion to the imperial government over many centuries. In this book, Julia Phillips Cohen offers a corrective, arguing that Jewish leaders who promoted this vision were doing so in response to a series of reforms enacted by the nineteenth-century Ottoman state: the new equality they gained came with a new set of expectations. Ottoman subjects were suddenly to become imperial citizens, to consider their neighbors as brothers and their empire as a homeland.

Becoming Ottomans is the first book to tell the story of Jewish political integration into a modern Islamic empire. It begins with the process set in motion by the imperial state reforms known as the Tanzimat, which spanned the years 1839-1876 and legally emancipated the non-Muslims of the empire. Four decades later the situation was difficult to recognize. By the close of the nineteenth century, Ottoman Muslims and Jews alike regularly referred to Jews as a model community, or millet-as a group whose leaders and members knew how to serve their state and were deeply engaged in Ottoman politics. The struggles of different Jewish individuals and groups to define the public face of their communities is underscored in their responses to a series of important historical events.

Charting the dramatic reversal of Jews in the empire over a half-century, Becoming Ottomans offers new perspectives for understanding Jewish encounters with modernity and citizenship in a centralizing, modernizing Islamic state in an imperial, multi-faith landscape.