Saturday, January 5, 2019

Islamism as a social movement

Islam is the second largest religion in the world, and the fastest growing. Roughly one-quarter of the world's population is Muslim, and over one-third of all sovereign states are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, most of them in the so-called global South. 
In the course of its thirteen centuries of expansion and consolidation, Islam has infused, absorbed, supplanted, and dialogued with a wide range of local cultures and experiences. In the process, it has become not only a transnational, but also an intensely local source of identity to its adherent around the world. Yet in the modern era, it is only in the last three decades -- coinciding with the failure of third worldism and advent of globalization -- that Islam has been propelled from the sidelines of third world politics to a defining role on the global stage. Its political manifestations feed into, and are fed by real socioeconomic concerns around the globe; local injustices as well as regional and global imbalances, real or perceived. Its representatives have emerged as self-styled defenders of the downtrodden, restorers of local autonomy, and defenders against neo-colonial impositions. 
Grounded in the experiences and narratives of real communities, Islamic political leaders have come to champion a range of oftentimes contradictory parochial narratives. Framed by the universal claims of a common confession, they also constitute a global movement that encompasses and transcends any and all of its local manifestations.

-Anders Strindberg & Mats Warn, Islamism: Religion, Radicalization, and Resistance, (Cambridge UK and Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2011), p. 1.

"Islamism: Religion, Radicalization, and Resistance presents political Islam as one of the most  powerful social movements of our time. Those who are interested in a critical and non-conventional study of Islamism will benefit greatly from reading this book."

-Ali Mirsepassi, New York University

MSNBC: "The military-industrial complex is now run by women" (Jan 3, 2019)

Intellectual humility: the importance of knowing you might be wrong (Jan 4, 2019)

NYT: American Jews and Israeli Jews Are Headed for a Messy Breakup (Jan 4, 2019)

Correcting ‘Hamilton’: Acclaimed musical doesn’t know its history, notes HLS Prof. & historian Gordon-Reed (2016)

Historian Annette Gordon-Reed would like to make clear that she likes “Hamilton,” the Broadway hip-hop musical phenomenon about Alexander Hamilton, which audiences and critics have adored and some scholars and writers have scorned.  
 But she would like to make clearer that she found the show problematic in its portrayals of Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, the Founding Fathers, and the issue of slavery. The musical is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, who in Chernow’s view has been the most underrated and misunderstood of the Founding Fathers.   
“A Broadway show is not a documentary,” said Gordon-Reed, a history professor in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences who also holds the Charles Warren Professorship of American Legal History at Harvard Law School and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professorship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. “Artists have the right to create,” she added, speaking last week at a student-sponsored event about the musical, “but historians have the right to critique.” And so she did.

Burke and Paine on roots of political division in America

Judy Woodruff talks to Yuval Levin about his new book, "The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left,"

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

Born in Thetford in the English county of Norfolk, Paine migrated to the British American colonies in 1774 with the help of Benjamin Franklin, arriving just in time to participate in the American Revolution. Virtually every rebel read (or listened to a reading of) his powerful pamphlet Common Sense(1776), proportionally the all-time best-selling[5][6] American title, which crystallized the rebellious demand for independence from Great Britain. His The American Crisis (1776–1783) was a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series. Common Sense was so influential that John Adams said: "Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain".[7] 
Paine lived in France for most of the 1790s, becoming deeply involved in the French Revolution. He wrote Rights of Man (1791), in part a defense of the French Revolution against its critics. His attacks on Irish conservative writer Edmund Burke led to a trial and conviction in absentia in England in 1792 for the crime of seditious libel. 
The British government of William Pitt the Younger, worried by the possibility that the French Revolution might spread to England, had begun suppressing works that espoused radical philosophies. Paine's work, which advocated the right of the people to overthrow their government, was duly targeted, with a writ for his arrest issued in early 1792.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Thinking about Religion, Belief and Politics with Talal Asad

Dr. Cornel West on the Global Shift Right (Dec 31, 2018)

"This is hardly a religion of comfortable accommodation with sin and evil.

To say Allāhu akbar while preferring one's own opinions and desires is to invite the charge of hypocrisy. For Muhammad, the rejection, not acceptance, of violent struggle would have denied God's supremacy. Is peace, even tainted with widespread justice, preferable to justice secured through some limited violence? Muhammad was never seduced by such over-refined but coward hypocrisy that insinuates a devious justification for lapsing from the rigours of authentic idealism. 
--Shabbir Akhtar, Islam as Political Religion: The future of an imperial faith (New York: Routledge, 2011), p. 104. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Video: Usaama al-Azami - "Law & Ethics in the Wake of the Arab Revolutions" (2016)


The Independent: Toblerone becomes target of far-right boycott after halal certification (Dec 20 2018)

Swiss chocolate maker attacked by anti-Islam protesters after revealing its products are suitable for Muslims

Talal Asad on the effect of claiming a Christian heritage for European secularism

This view of the Christian origins of secularism, of secular ideas as a modern translation of Christianity, has been contested by those who argue that secularization has its own genealogy, one that represents a profound break from religion and enchantment -- a break that is marked by the emergence of modern science and modern politics. 
I'll turn briefly to this debate in a moment, but first I want to pose a question. Why is it important for self-described secularists to claim a Christian heritage? Personal motives are obviously difficult to establish at this level, but one can clearly see what the effect of such a claim is: the political exclusion of all those who cannot claim that heritage.
What proponents of this thesis mean when they refer to Christianity is, of course, European Christianity, which, in the early encounter of Europeans with non-Europeans (especially with the construction of European empires dominating non-Europeans), became an important part of their identity.  
There were of course forms of Christianity in Eastern Europe, Northeast Africa, and West Asia, but these were dismissed as irrational or decadent forms of essential Christianity. 
The redefinition of the heritage from which Europe claims to derive secularity as Judeo-Christian comes at the end of a long history of Christian ambivalence towards Jews, ending with the Nazi Holocaust; the new term is, like so many other connected moves, designed to be taken as a sign of genuine repentance and reconciliation, but it is a Christian perspective on the outmoded place of Jews in theological history. [3] The claim to a Judeo-Christian heritage is now invoked by secularists in the European Union as a grammatical exclusion of Muslims
--Talal Asad, Secular Translations: Nation-State, Modern Self, and Calculative Reason (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018), 2-3.

Hartford Seminary Alum Maggie Siddiqi Has New Job with Center for American Progress