Tag Archives: Religious Minorities

Emon, “Religious Pluralism and Islamic Law”

In September, Oxford University Press will release Religious Pluralism and Islamic Law: Dhimmis and Others in the Empire of Law by Anver M. Emon (University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religious Pluralism and Islamic LawThe question of tolerance and Islam is not a new one. Polemicists are certain that Islam is not a tolerant religion. As evidence they point to the rules governing the treatment of non-Muslim permanent residents in Muslim lands, namely the dhimmi rules that are at the center of this study. These rules, when read in isolation, are certainly discriminatory in nature. They legitimate discriminatory treatment on grounds of what could be said to be religious faith and religious difference. The dhimmi rules are often invoked as proof-positive of the inherent intolerance of the Islamic faith (and thereby of any believing Muslim) toward the non-Muslim.

This book addresses the problem of the concept of ‘tolerance’ for understanding the significance of the dhimmi rules that governed and regulated non-Muslim permanent residents in Islamic lands. In doing so, it suggests that the Islamic legal treatment of non-Muslims is symptomatic of the more general challenge of governing a diverse polity. Far from being constitutive of an Islamic ethos, the dhimmi rules raise important thematic questions about Rule of Law, governance, and how the pursuit of pluralism through the institutions of law and governance is a messy business.

As argued throughout this book, an inescapable, and all-too-often painful, bottom line in the pursuit of pluralism is that it requires impositions and limitations on freedoms that are considered central and fundamental to an individual’s well-being, but which must be limited for some people in some circumstances for reasons extending well beyond the claims of a given individual. A comparison to recent cases from the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Court of Human Rights reveals that however different and distant premodern Islamic and modern democratic societies may be in terms of time, space, and values, legal systems face similar challenges when governing a populace in which minority and majority groups diverge on the meaning and implication of values deemed fundamental to a particular polity.

Kazemipur, “The Muslim Question in Canada”

This past May, University of British Columbia Press released The Muslim Question in Canada: A Story of Segmented Integration by Abdolmohammad Kazemipur (University of Lethbridge).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Muslim Question in CanadaTo those who study the integration of immigrants in Western countries, both Muslims and Canada are seen to be exceptions to the rule. Muslims are often perceived as unable or unwilling to integrate into liberal democracies, mostly due to their religious beliefs; Canada is portrayed as a model for successful. This book addresses the intersection of these two types of exceptionalism through an empirical study of the experiences of Muslims in Canada.

Drawing on data from large-scale surveys as well as face-to-face interviews, Kazemipur draws a detailed picture of four major domains of immigrant integration: institutional, media, economic, and social/communal. His findings indicate that, in contrast to the situation in Europe and the United States, the integration of Muslims in Canada is currently not problematic, particularly in the institutional and media domains. However, there are serious problems in the economic and social domains, which need to be addressed to avoid the European scenario in Canada.

A fresh account of the lives and experiences of Muslim immigrants in Canada, this book gets at the roots of the Muslim question in Canada. Replete with practical implications, the analysis shows that instead of fixating on religion, the focus should be on economic and social challenges faced by Muslims in Canada.

“Sites of European Antisemitism in the Age of Mass Politics, 1880–1918″ (Nemes et al., eds.)

In August, Brandeis University Press will release “Sites of European Antisemitism in the Age of Mass Politics, 1880–1918″, edited by Robert Nemes (Colgate University) and Daniel Unowsky (University of Memphis). The publisher’s description follows:

This innovative collection of essays on the upsurge of antisemitism across Europe in the decades around 1900 shifts the focus away from intellectuals and well-known incidents to less-familiar events, actors, and locations, including smaller towns and villages. This “from below” perspective offers a new look at a much-studied phenomenon: essays link provincial violence and antisemitic politics with regional, state, and even transnational trends. Featuring a diverse array of geographies that include Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, Romania, Italy, Greece, and the Russian Empire, the book demonstrates the complex interplay of many factors—economic, religious, political, and personal—that led people to attack their Jewish neighbors.

“Religious Minorities and Cultural Diversity in the Dutch Republic” (den Hollander et al., eds.)

Last month, Brill Publishers released “Religious Minorities and Cultural Diversity in the Dutch Republic,” edited by August den Hollander, Alex Noord, Mirjam van Veen & Anna Voolstra. The publisher’s description follows:

Religious Minorities and Cultural Diversity in the Dutch Republic explores various aspects of the religious and cultural diversity of the early Dutch Republic and analyses how the different confessional groups established their own identity and how their members interacted with one another in a highly hybrid culture.

This volume is to honour Dr. Piet Visser on the occasion of his 65th birthday. Piet Visser has become a leading scholar in the field of the Anabaptist and Mennonite History. Since January 1, 2002, he served as the chair of Anabaptist/Mennonite History and Kindred Spirits at the Doopsgezind Seminarium, VU-University, Amsterdam.

 

America’s Duty to Iraq’s Christians

At The Week, columnist Michael Brandon Dougherty has a hard-hitting piece on America’s responsibility to Iraq’s Christians. In light of the fact that America’s invasion, occupation, and withdrawal created a situation of great and continuing peril for Christians, America should be doing much more to help them. For example, he writes:

Although I’m generally inclined toward a more restrictive position on immigration, the U.S. should, as a matter of practice, be especially generous in granting refugee status to the collateral victims of the war we started in Iraq. It should even offer some refugees of ISIS persecution the material resources to emigrate to America if they so desire.

The dream of transforming Iraq into an incubator of Arab liberalism has turned into a nightmare for religious minorities. America’s intervention in Iraq, and its support of Syrian and Libyan rebels, have created a disastrous disorder in which Islamist threats thrive.

Mosul was a home for Christians for as long as Christianity existed. Not anymore. Now, the U.S. cannot restore these people to their homes, or reverse the desecration of Christian shrines. But our diplomatic, financial, and moral energies should be used to protect them from any further harm.

Read the whole thing.

Ndzovuis, “Muslims in Kenyan Politics”

In September, Northwestern University Press will publish Muslims in Kenyan Politics: Political Involvement, Marginalization, and Minority Status by Hassan Ndzovuis (Moi University, Kenya).  The publisher’s description follows:

Muslims in KenyaMuslims in Kenyan Politics explores the changing relationship between Muslims and the state in Kenya from precolonial times to the present, culminating in the radicalization of a section of the Muslim population in recent decades. The politicization of Islam in Kenya is deeply connected with the sense of marginalization that shapes Muslims’ understanding of Kenyan politics and government policies.

Kenya’s Muslim population comprises ethnic Arabs, Indians, and black Africans, and its status has varied historically. Under British rule, an imposed racial hierarchy affected Muslims particularly, thwarting the development of a united political voice. Drawing on a broad range of interviews and historical research, Ndzovu presents a nuanced picture of political associations during the postcolonial period and explores the role of Kenyan Muslims as political actors.

The Dhimma Returns in Iraq

al arabiya

Photo: Al Arabiya

Sad news from Iraq this weekend. In response to an ultimatum from ISIS–the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” or, if you prefer, just the “Islamic State–Christians have evacuated the northern city of Mosul. For thousands of years, Mosul has been a center of Christianity, particularly the various Syriac Christian communions: Chaldean-rite Catholics, Syriac Orthodox, and the Assyrian Church of the East, a church that once spread as far as China. As recently as a decade ago, tens of thousands of Christians lived in Mosul. After this weekend, virtually none remain.

The expulsion of Christians from Mosul suggests something very worrying about the possible future of Islamism. And it serves as a reminder of what can happen to religious minorities when secular dictatorships in the Arab world collapse.

Mosul lies within the territory of the “caliphate” that ISIS, a militant Sunni Islamist group, has proclaimed in parts of Iraq and Syria. Its ultimatum to the Christians of Mosul is the same it gave the Christians of Raqqa, Syria, last spring. “We offer them three choices,” ISIS announced last week: “Islam; the dhimma contract – involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.” In recent days, ISIS operatives went through Mosul marking the homes of Christians with the Arabic letter “Nun” for “Nasara,” from “Nazarenes,” a word that refers to Christians. The implications were clear.

Some readers may be unfamiliar with the term dhimma. The dhimma is the notional contract that governs relations between the Muslim umma and Christians (and Jews) in classical Islamic law. Theoretically, it dates back to the “agreement” one of the early caliphs made with the Christian community of Syria. The dhimma allows Christian communities to reside in Muslim society in exchange for payment of a poll tax called the jizya—in Mosul, ISIS was requiring a jizya of about $500—and submission to various social and legal restrictions. The dhimma forbids Christians from attracting attention during worship, for example, from building new churches, and generally from asserting equality with Muslims.

It’s wise to take ISIS at its word. On Saturday, ISIS operatives expelled the 52 Christian families who remained in the city–after first requiring them to leave all their valuables behind. For good measure, ISIS also burned an 1800-year-old church and the Catholic bishop’s residence, along with its library and manuscript collection.

One could say much about this sad uprooting of Christianity from a place where it has survived for millennia, but here are two observations. First, a psychological line has been crossed, and this may have dire consequences in future. For the moment, ISIS is unique among Islamist groups in calling for formal reinstatement of the dhimma. Although Islamists everywhere reject the idea of equality for Muslims and Christians, they typically avoid calling for the dhimma, as they understand that most contemporary Muslims find the concept abhorrent. Nothing succeeds like success, however. ISIS has now shown that it is possible to reestablish the dhimma at the center of the Muslim world. Other Islamist groups will no doubt take notice. Christians who remain in the Middle East have great cause for worry.

Second, although principal responsibility for this outrage lies with ISIS, and with Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, whose misgovernment has created a situation in which ISIS can gain a following, the United States bears responsibility as well. Its invasion of, and hasty withdrawal from, Iraq set in motion a chain of events that has allowed radical groups like ISIS to succeed. In the Middle East, secular dictatorships can be very brutal. But they are often the only thing that stands in the way of the absolute destruction of minority religious communities. Toppling such dictatorships and hoping for their replacement by “moderate” elements is not a good bet. Incredibly, this seems to be a lesson the United States still has to learn.

Bramadat & Dawson (eds.), “Religious Radicalization and Securitization in Canada and Beyond”

In August, University of Toronto Press will publish Religious Radicalization and Securitization in Canada and Beyond, edited by Paul Bramadat (University of Victoria) and Lorne Dawson (University of Waterloo). The publisher’s description follows.Religious Radicalization and Securitization in Canada and Beyond:

After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, those in
London and Madrid, and the arrest of the “Toronto 18,” Canadians have changed how they think about terrorism and security. As governments respond to the potential threat of homegrown radicalism, many observers have become concerned about the impact of those security measures on the minority groups whose lives are “securitized.”

In Religious Radicalization and Securitization in Canada and Beyond, Paul Bramadat and Lorne Dawson bring together contributors from a wide range of academic disciplines to examine the challenges created by both religious radicalism and the state’s and society’s response to it. This collection takes a critical look at what is known about religious radicalization, how minorities are affected by radicalization from within and securitization from without, and how the public, media, and government are attempting to cope with the dangers of both radicalization and securitization.

Religious Radicalization and Securitization in Canada and Beyond is an ideal guide to the ongoing debates on how best to respond to radicalization without sacrificing the commitments to multiculturalism and social justice that many Canadians hold dear.

Lewis & Petersen (eds.), “Controversial New Religions”

In July, Oxford University Press will publish the second edition of Controversial New Religions, edited by James Lewis (University of Tromsø) and Jesper Petersen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology). The publisher’s description follows.Cover for<br /><br /><br />
Controversial New Religions<br /><br /><br />
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In terms of public opinion, new religious movements are considered controversial for a variety of reasons ranging from how they speak, dress, and eat, to the way they think and their sense of community. Their social organization often runs counter to popular expectations by experimenting with communal living (or strict individualism), alternative leadership roles (or flat network structures), unusual economic dispositions, and new political and ethical values. As a result the general public views new religions with a mixture of curiosity, amusement, and anxiety, sustained by lavish media emphasis on oddness and tragedy rather than familiarity and lived experience. This updated and revised second edition of Controversial New Religions offers a scholarly, dispassionate look at those groups that have generated the most attention, including some very well-known classical groups like The Family, Unification Church, Scientology, and Jim Jones’ People’s Temple; some relative newcomers such as the Kabbalah Centre, the Order of the Solar Temple, Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate, and the Falun Gong; and some interesting cases like contemporary Satanism, the Raelians, Black nationalism, and various Pagan groups. Written by established scholars as well as younger experts in the field, each essay combines an overview of the history and beliefs of each organization or movement with original and insightful analysis. By presenting decades of scholarly work on new religious movements in an accessible form, this book will be an invaluable resource for all those who seek a view of new religions that is deeper than what can be found in sensationalistic media stories.

American Christians Issue Call to Action on Behalf of Mideast Christians

Yesterday, more than 200 American Christians issued a statement calling for action on behalf of persecuted Mideast Christians. The statement explains that the rise of Islamist extremism in the region threatens the presence of the Christian community, especially in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. It details atrocities recently suffered by Mideast Christians and calls for specific actions on the part of the United States government.

Signers of the statement include Cardinal Donald Wuerl, National Association of Evangelicals’ chair Leith Anderson, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, Secretary General Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe of the United Methodists, and Armenian Orthodox Archbishop Oshagan Cholayan. Among lay civic leaders, signers include Robert George of Princeton University, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, journalist Kirsten Powers, George Marlin, chair of Aid to the Church in Need-USA, and Lynne Hybels of Global Engagement of the Willow Creek Church.

I am honored to be among the statement’s signers. For the full text of the statement, please click here.