This month, Cambridge University Press will publish A Most Masculine State: Gender, Politics and Religion in Saudi Arabia by Madawi Al-Rasheed (University of London). The publisher’s description follows.
Women in Saudi Arabia are often described as either victims of patriarchal religion and society or successful survivors of discrimination imposed on them by others. Madawi Al-Rasheed’s new book goes beyond these conventional tropes to probe the historical, political, and religious forces that have, across the years, delayed and thwarted their emancipation. The book demonstrates how, under the patronage of the state and its religious nationalism, women have become hostage to contradictory political projects that on the one hand demand female piety, and on the other hand encourage modernity. Drawing on state documents, media sources, and interviews with women from across Saudi society, the book examines the intersection between gender, religion, and politics to explain these contradictions and to show that, despite these restraints, vibrant debates on the question of women are opening up as the struggle for recognition and equality finally gets under way.
This October, Macmillan Publishing has published Ruling, Resources and Religion in China by Elizabeth Van Wie Davis (Colorado School of Mines). The publisher’s description follows.
China is not an easy country to rule: it is experiencing rapid growth and with it rapid social change. Resources and religion are two of the most difficult of its challenges, and their combination with ethnicity is not unique to China. It may well be one of the major underlying currents of the 21st century, and is present throughout Asia—with the Baloch of Pakistan, the Kurds of Iraq and Turkey, and the Timorese of the former island of East Timor in Indonesia, now Timor-Lest. In all these nations, as in China, ethnic identity, often united with religious differences, is driven by the presence of valuable resources to create a nationalism with economic underpinnings. With China, however, the outcome is vital, as how it copes with the pressures for good governance with the Asian economic model, treats its ethnic minorities under scrutiny, and gathers resources to fuel its dynamic economy impacts us all.
This month, Princeton University Press will publish Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks by Jenny White (Boston University). The publisher’s description follows.
Turkey has leapt to international prominence as an economic and political powerhouse under its elected Muslim government, and is looked on by many as a model for other Muslim countries in the wake of the Arab Spring. This book reveals how Turkish national identity and the meanings of Islam and secularism have undergone radical changes in today’s Turkey, and asks whether the Turkish model should be viewed as a success story or cautionary tale.
Jenny White shows how Turkey’s Muslim elites have mounted a powerful political and economic challenge to the country’s secularists, developing an alternative definition of the nation based on a nostalgic revival of Turkey’s Ottoman past. These Muslim nationalists have pushed aside the Republican ideal of a nation defined by purity of blood, language, and culture. They see no contradiction in pious Muslims running a secular state, and increasingly express their Muslim identity through participation in economic networks and a lifestyle of Islamic fashion and leisure. For many younger Turks, religious and national identities, like commodities, have become objects of choice and forms of personal expression.
This provocative book traces how Muslim nationalists blur the line between the secular and the Islamic, supporting globalization and political liberalism, yet remaining mired in authoritarianism, intolerance, and cultural norms hostile to minorities and women.
Richard Moon (University of Windsor Law) has posted Christianity, Multiculturalism, and National Identity: A Canadian Comment on Lautsi v. Italy. The abstract follows.
The Lautsi decision reflects the deep ambivalence in Western liberal democracies about religion and its relationship to politics. Like the Canadian courts, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) seems to recognize that religion and politics should be separated but that this separation can never be total. While the ECtHR and the Supreme Court of Canada rely at least formally on a similar test for determining a breach of religious freedom (a test that emphasizes the state’s obligation to remain neutral in spiritual matters) their application of the test is guided by different understandings of the public/political significance of religion and more particularly the relationship between religion, civic values, and national identity. The Court in Lautsi seems to accept, or at least acquiesce in, two claims made by the Italian government about the meaning of the crucifix: that it symbolizes the Italian national identity, which is tied to its history as a Christian or Roman Catholic nation, and that it symbolizes the Christian foundation of the civic/secular values of the Italian political community – the values of democracy and tolerance. Behind the claim that the crucifix is not simply a religious symbol but also a symbol of the Italian identity and political culture, is the draw of a thicker or richer form of national identity than that offered by civic nationalism. The assumption is that Italians are held together in a political community not simply by their shared commitment to liberal values or democratic institutions but by a common culture rooted in a religious tradition. Religion and politics are joined at the core of national identity and the root of political obligation. This link between religion and politics, though, rests on the problematic claim that the values of democracy and tolerance emerged directly from Christianity (and are the logical, even necessary, outcome of Christian doctrine) and the disturbing claim that Christianity is uniquely tied to these values. While religion does sometimes intersect with politics in Canada, it no longer plays a role in the definition of the country’s national identity. Canada, sometime ago, embraced multiculturalism as the defining feature of its national identity and liberal-democratic values as its political bond. There is no doubt that Canada’s moral/social culture has been shaped in different ways by the Christian faith of earlier generations, nevertheless any attempt to formally link Canadian national identity to a particular religious tradition would run against the country’s self-conception as a multicultural (multi-faith) society.