Tag Archives: Secularism

Barras, “Refashioning Secularisms in France and Turkey”

9780415821780This month, Routledge publishes Refashioning Secularisms in France and Turkey: The Case of the Headscarf Ban by Amelie Barras (University of Montreal). The publisher’s description follows.

Over the past few years, secularism has become an intrinsic component of discussions on religious freedom and religious governance. The question of whether states should restrict the wearing of headscarves and other religious symbols has been particularly critical in guiding this thought process.

Refashioning Secularisms in France and Turkey documents how, in both countries, devout women have contested bans on headscarves, pointing to how these are inconsistent with the ‘real’ spirit of secularism. These activists argue that it is possible to be simultaneously secular and religious; to believe in the values conveyed by secularism, while still remaining devoted to their faith. Through this examination, the book highlights how activists locate their claims within the frame of secularism, while at the same time revisiting it to craft a space for their religiosity.

Addressing the lacuna in literature on the discourse of devout Muslims affected by these restrictions, this book offers a topical analysis on an understudied dimension of secularism and is a valuable resource for students and researchers with an interest in Religion, Gender Studies, Human Rights and Political Science.

French & Nathan (eds.), Buddhism and Law: An Introduction

This June, Cambridge University Press will publish Buddhism and Law: An Introduction edited by Rebecca Redwood French (SUNY Buffalo) and Mark A. Nathan (SUNY Buffalo). The publisher’s description follows.buddhism

As the first comprehensive study of Buddhism and law in Asia, this interdisciplinary volume challenges the concept of Buddhism as an apolitical religion without implications for law. Buddhism and Law draws on the expertise of the foremost scholars in Buddhist studies and in law to trace the legal aspects of the religion from the time of the Buddha to the present. In some cases, Buddhism provided the crucial architecture for legal ideologies and secular law codes, while in other cases it had to contend with a preexisting legal system, to which it added a new layer of complexity. The wide-ranging studies in this book reveal a diversity of relationships between Buddhist monastic codes and secular legal systems in terms of substantive rules, factoring, and ritual practices. This volume will be an essential resource for all students and teachers in Buddhist studies, law and religion, and comparative law.

Barry & Abo-Zena (eds.), “Emerging Adults’ Religiousness and Spirituality”

9780199959181This April, Oxford University Press will publish Emerging Adults’ Religiousness and Spirituality: Meaning-Making in an Age of Transition edited by Carolyn McNamara Barry (Loyola University Maryland) and Mona M. Abo-Zena (Brown University). The publisher’s description follows.

Although most American children are raised in a faith tradition, by the time they reach their early twenties their outward religious expression declines significantly, with many leaving the faith in which they were raised in favor of another faith or none at all, though many still claim that religion and spirituality are important. Reasons for this change in religious behavior include adolescents’ forging their own identities, increased immersion in contexts beyond the family, and exposure to media. As emerging adults encounter events such as attending university, breaking up with a romantic partner, and traveling, they are likely to make sense out of them, a process known as meaning-making. Thus, coming into one’s own takes on great prominence during the years of emerging adulthood (18-29), making it ripe for religious and spiritual development.

Emerging Adults’ Religiousness and Spirituality seeks to understand how the developmental process of meaning-making encompasses American emerging adults’ religiousness and spirituality. This volume does not focus on disentangling religion and spirituality conceptually, but rather emphasizes their centrality in the psychology of human development. It highlights the range of experiences and perspectives of emerging adults in the U.S. grounded in social context, social position, and religious or spiritual identification. Chapters are written by an interdisciplinary group of authors and explore topics such as the benefits and detriments of religiousness and spirituality to emerging adults; contexts and socializing agents such as parents and peers, the media, religious communities, and universities; and variations of religiousness and spirituality concerning gender, sexuality, culture, and social position. Using a developmental lens and focusing on a significant period within the lifespan, this volume embodies the key aspects of a developmental perspective by highlighting specific domains of development while considering themes of continuity and discontinuity across the lifespan.

Abbas, “At Freedom’s Limit: Islam and the Postcolonial Predicament”

Next month, Fordham University will publish At Freedom’s Limit: Islam9780823257850_4 and the Postcolonial Predicament, by Sadia Abbas (Rutgers University).  The publisher’s description follows.

The subject of this book is a new “Islam.” This Islam began to take shape in 1988 around the Rushdie affair, the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the first Gulf War of 1991. It was consolidated in the period following September 11, 2001. It is a name, a discursive site, a signifier at once flexible and constrained—indeed, it is a geopolitical agon, in and around which some of the most pressing aporias of modernity, enlightenment, liberalism, and reformation are worked out.

At this discursive site are many metonyms for Islam: the veiled or “pious” Muslim woman, the militant, the minority Muslim injured by Western free speech. Each of these figures functions as a cipher enabling repeated encounters with the question “How do we free ourselves from freedom?” Again and again, freedom is imagined as Western, modern, imperial—a dark imposition of Enlightenment. The pious and injured Muslim who desires his or her own enslavement is imagined as freedom’s other.

At Freedom’s Limit is an intervention into current debates regarding religion, secularism, and Islam and provides a deep critique of the anthropology and sociology of Islam that have consolidated this formation. It shows that, even as this Islam gains increasing traction in cultural production from television shows to movies to novels, the most intricate contestations of Islam so construed are to be found in the work of Muslim writers and painters.

This book includes extended readings of jihadist proclamations; postcolonial law; responses to law from minorities in Muslim-majority societies; Islamophobic films; the novels of Leila Aboulela, Mohammed Hanif, and Nadeem Aslam; and the paintings of Komail Aijazuddin.

Bilgrami, “Secularism, Identity, and Enchantment”

Next month, Harvard will publish Secularism, Identity, and Enchantment, by 9780674052048Akeel Bilgrami (Columbia University). The publisher’s description follows.

Bringing clarity to a subject clouded by polemic, Secularism, Identity, and Enchantment is a rigorous exploration of how secularism and identity emerged as concepts in different parts of the modern world. At a time when secularist and religious worldviews appear irreconcilable, Akeel Bilgrami strikes out on a path distinctly his own, criticizing secularist proponents and detractors, liberal universalists and multicultural relativists alike.

Those who ground secularism in arguments that aspire to universal reach, Bilgrami argues, fundamentally misunderstand the nature of politics. To those, by contrast, who regard secularism as a mere outgrowth of colonial domination, he offers the possibility of a more conceptually vernacular ground for political secularism. Focusing on the response to Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, Bilgrami asks why Islamic identity has so often been a mobilizing force against liberalism, and he answers the question with diagnostic sympathy, providing a philosophical framework within which the Islamic tradition might overcome the resentments prompted by its colonized past and present.

Turning to Gandhi’s political and religious thought, Bilgrami ponders whether the increasing appeal of religion in many parts of the world reflects a growing disillusionment not with science but with an outlook of detachment around the rise of modern science and capitalism. He elaborates a notion of enchantment along metaphysical, ethical, and political lines with a view to finding in secular modernity a locus of meaning and value, while addressing squarely the anxiety that all such notions hark back nostalgically to a time that has past.

Clarke, “The Justification of Religious Violence”

religious violenceNext month, Wiley-Blackwell will publish The Justification of Religious Violence by Steve Clarke (Charles Sturt University & University of Oxford).  The publisher’s description follows.

How are justifications for religious violence developed and do they differ from secular justifications for violence? Can liberal societies tolerate potentially violent religious groups? Can those who accept religious justifications for violence be dissuaded from acting violently? Including six in-depth contemporary case studies, The Justification of Religious Violence is the first book to examine the logical structure of justifications of religious violence.

  • The first book specifically devoted to examining the logical structure of justifications of religious violence
  • Seeks to understand how justifications for religious violence are developed and how or if they differ from ordinary secular justifications of violence
  • Examines 3 widely employed premises used in religious justifications of violence – ‘cosmic war’, the importance of the afterlife, and ‘sacred values’
  • Considers to what extent liberal democratic societies should tolerate who hold that their religion justifies violent acts
  • Reflects on the possibility of effective policy measures to persuade those who believe that violent action is justified by religion, to refrain from acting violently
  • Informed by recent work in psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience and evolutionary biology
  • Part of the Blackwell Public Philosophy Series

Grubiak, “White Elephants on Campus: The Decline of the University Chapel in America, 1920–1960″

Next month, Notre Dame will publish White Elephants on Campus: The dddDecline of the University Chapel in America, 1920–1960, by Margaret M. Grubiak (Villanova University). The publisher’s description follows.

 In White Elephants on Campus: The Decline of the University Chapel in America, 1920–1960, Margaret M. Grubiak persuasively argues, through a careful selection of case studies, that the evolution of the architecture of new churches and chapels built on campuses reveals the shifting and declining role of religion within the mission of the modern American university. According to Grubiak, during the first half of the twentieth century, university leaders tended to view architecture as a means of retaining religion within an increasingly scientific and secular university. Initially, the construction of large-scale chapels was meant to advertise religion’s continued importance to the university mission. Lavish neo-Gothic chapels at historically Protestant schools, although counter to traditional Protestant imagery, were justified as an appeal to students’ emotions. New cathedral-style libraries and classroom buildings also re-imagined a place for religion on campuses no longer tied to their founding religious denominations.

Despite such attempts to reframe religion for the modern university, Grubiak shows that by the 1960s the architectural styles of new religious buildings had changed markedly. Postwar university chapels projected a less distinct image, with their small scale and intentionally nondenominational focus. By the mid-twentieth century, the prewar chapels had become “white elephants.” They are beautiful, monumental buildings that nevertheless stand outside the central concerns of the modern American university. Religious campus architecture had lost its value in an era where religion no longer played a central role in the formation and education of the American student.

Andes, “The Vatican and Catholic Activism in Mexico and Chile: The Politics of Transnational Catholicism, 1920–1940″

This month, Oxford published The Vatican and Catholic Activism in mmmMexico and Chile: The Politics of Transnational Catholicism, 1920-1940, by Stephen J. C. Andes (Louisiana State University). The publisher’s description follows.

As in Europe, secular nation building in Latin America challenged the traditional authority of the Roman Catholic Church in the early twentieth century. In response, Catholic social and political movements sought to contest state-led secularisation and provide an answer to the ‘social question’, the complex set of problems associated with urbanisation, industrialisation, and poverty. As Catholics mobilised against the secular threat, they also struggled with each other to define the proper role of the Church in the public sphere. This study utilizes recently opened files at the Vatican pertaining to Mexico’s post-revolutionary Church-state conflict known as the Cristero Rebellion (1926-1929). However, looking beyond Mexico’s exceptional case, the work employs a transnational framework, enabling a better understanding of the supranational relationship between Latin American Catholic activists and the Vatican. To capture this world historical context, Andes compares Mexico to Chile’s own experience of religious conflict. Unlike past scholarship, which has focused almost exclusively on local conditions, Andes seeks to answer how diverse national visions of Catholicism responded to papal attempts to centralize its authority and universalize Church practices worldwide.

The Politics of Transnational Catholicism applies research on the interwar papacy, which is almost exclusively European in outlook, to a Latin American context. The national cases presented illuminate how Catholicism shaped public life in Latin America as the Vatican sought to define Catholic participation in Mexican and Chilean national politics. It reveals that Catholic activism directly influenced the development of new political movements such as Christian Democracy, which remained central to political life in the region for the remainder of the twentieth century.

Fakhri, “Fatwas and Court Judgments: A Genre Analysis of Arabic Legal Opinion”

Next month, Ohio State University will publish Fatwas and Court61Fh-piM65L._SY300_ Judgments: A Genre Analysis of Arabic Legal Opinion, by Ahmed Fakhri (West Virginia University). The publisher’s description follows.

Fatwas and Court Judgments: A Genre Analysis of Arabic Legal Opinion uses a genre analysis approach to investigate how Arabic legal opinion is linguistically and rhetorically constructed in two culturally significant types of texts: secular court judgments and fatwas, the Islamic edicts based on sharii’a law. Ahmed Fakhri’s analysis shows that the court judgments exhibit several Western-inspired features, particularly the complexity of syntax and the rhetorical moves utilized to construct arguments. But the fatwas maintain conventional Arabic patterns of persuasion, such as citing religious texts, relying on affective appeal, and offering moral advice. Showing how these two radically different rhetorical traditions coexist, Fatwas and Court Judgments totally re-conceptualizes Arabic legal argumentation by highlighting its diverse sources and hybridity.

The differences between the two genres stem from elements of their socio-cultural context, such as the role relations of the participants and the characteristics of the institutions to which the genres belong. Moving beyond these contexts, Fatwas and Court Judgments reveals generic practices that have broad implications for understanding various aspects of wider Arab culture, including the tension between modern secular ideologies and traditional religious beliefs, the male-dominated access to discourse, and the prevalence of utilitarian attitudes exhibited in “fatwa shopping.”

Animal Rights Trump Religious Rights

The Great Synagogue, Copenhagen

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

The World Jewish Congress reported late last week that the Danish Minister of Food and Agriculture, a 38 year old Social Democrat named Dan Jorgensen, had signed a regulation effectively banning the Jewish ritual slaughter of animals for food. Jorgensen explained the ban on Danish television by saying “animal rights come before religion” – or, according to another translation, “animal rights precede religious rights.”

Under the new regulation, all animal slaughter must be carried out after stunning, which is contrary to the Jewish practice of shechita, or ritual slaughter. Denmark’s Jewish community (which numbers a mere 6,000 persons) opposes the minister’s decision. The European Commissioner on Health, Tonio Borg, questioned the legality of the ban, saying that it “contradicts European law.” On the other hand, Jorgensen’s decision was acclaimed by the Animal Welfare Intergroup, of which he had been President.

If the Danish government and parliament let the decision stand, Denmark will join several other western European nations, including Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Poland and Switzerland in prohibiting such ritual slaughter. (Holland had attempted to ban shechita, but a Continue reading