Fenwick, “Blasphemy, Islam and the State”

This month, Routledge releases “Blasphemy, Islam and the State: Pluralism and Liberalism in Indonesia,” by Stewart Fenwick (University of Melbourne).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book draws on the work of Rawls to explore the interaction between faith, law and the right to religious freedom in post-41-vyprpsgl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Soeharto Indonesia, the world’s largest democracy after India and the United States. It argues that enforcement of Islamic principles by the state is inconsistent with religious diversity and the country’s liberal constitution. The book thus contributes to understanding the role of religion in the development of democracy in the world’s largest Muslim nation. A key objective is to test the argument that Rawls’ thinking about public reason cannot apply to the case of Indonesia, and Muslim states more broadly. The book therefore contributes to emerging scholarship that considers Rawls in a Muslim context. In addition to examining public reason in detail and considering critiques of the concept, the work highlights the fact that the theory was created to deal with value pluralism and is therefore relevant in any religious setting, including an Islamic one. In doing so, it emphasises that Islam is multifaceted and demonstrates the difficulties, and negative consequences, of integrating faith and law in a liberal state.

Shiffrin, “What’s Wrong with the First Amendment?”

In November, Cambridge University Press will release “What’s Wrong with the First Amendment?” by Steven Shiffrin (Cornell University).  The publisher’s description follows:

What is Wrong with the First Amendment? argues that the US love affair with the First Amendment has mutated into free speech idolatry. Free speech has been placed on soWhat's Wrong with the First Amendment high a pedestal that it is almost automatically privileged over privacy, fair trials, equality and public health, even protecting depictions of animal cruelty and violent video games sold to children. At the same time, dissent is unduly stifled and religious minorities are burdened. The First Amendment benefits the powerful at the expense of the vulnerable. By contrast, other Western democracies provide more reasonable accommodations between free speech and other values though their protections of dissent, and religious minorities are also inadequate. Professor Steven H. Shiffrin argues that US free speech extremism is not the product of broad cultural factors, but rather political ideologies developed after the 1950s. He shows that conservatives and liberals have arrived at similar conclusions for different political reasons.

Around the Web This Week

Here are some news stories involving law and religion from this past week:

Malik, “Foundations of Islamic Governance”

In December, Routledge Publishing will release Foundations of Islamic Governance: A Southeast Asian Perspective by Maszlee Malik (International Islamic University Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur). The publisher’s description follows:

foundations-of-islamic-governanceThe aim of this book is to explore and analyze the Islamic axioms, foundation principles and values underpinning the field of governance in an attempt to construct the architectonics of a new systemic and dynamic theory and formulate the articulation of ‘Islamic governance’. This discursive and abstract, rather than being an empirical exercise, assumes to produce a ‘good governance’ framework within its own formulation through a value-shaped dynamic model according to maqasid al-Shari’ah (higher objective of Shari’ah) by going beyond the narrow remit of classical and contemporary discussions produced on the topic, which propose a certain institutional model of governance based on the classical juristic (fiqh) method. Through an exclusive analytical discursive approach in this book, readers will find that Islam as one of the major religions in the contemporary world with the claim of promising the underpinning principles and philosophical foundations of worldly affairs and institutions through a micro method of producing homo Islamicus could contribute towards development of societies by establishing a unique model of governance from its explicit ontological worldview through a directed descriptive epistemology.

Lewis, “City of Refuge”

In December, Princeton University Press will release City of Refuge: Separatists and Utopian Town Planning by Michael J. Lewis (Williams College). The publisher’s description follows:

city-of-refugeThe vision of Utopia obsessed the nineteenth-century mind, shaping art, literature, and especially town planning. In City of Refuge, Michael Lewis takes readers across centuries and continents to show how Utopian town planning produced a distinctive type of settlement characterized by its square plan, collective ownership of properties, and communal dormitories. Some of these settlements were sanctuaries from religious persecution, like those of the German Rappites, French Huguenots, and American Shakers, while others were sanctuaries from the Industrial Revolution, like those imagined by Charles Fourier, Robert Owen, and other Utopian visionaries.

Because of their differences in ideology and theology, these settlements have traditionally been viewed separately, but Lewis shows how they are part of a continuous intellectual tradition that stretches from the early Protestant Reformation into modern times. Through close readings of architectural plans and archival documents, many previously unpublished, he shows the network of connections between these seemingly disparate Utopian settlements—including even such well-known town plans as those of New Haven and Philadelphia.

The most remarkable aspect of the city of refuge is the inventive way it fused its eclectic sources, ranging from the encampments of the ancient Israelites as described in the Bible to the detailed social program of Thomas More’s Utopia to modern thought about education, science, and technology. Delving into the historical evolution and antecedents of Utopian towns and cities, City of Refuge alters notions of what a Utopian community can and should be.

McCallum, “Christian Communities in the Middle East”

In December, Routledge Publishing will release Christian Communities in the Middle East: Faith, Identity, and Integration by Fiona McCallum (University of St. Andrews). The publisher’s description follows:

routledge-logoThe Christian communities in the Middle East exist in an environment where religion has retained strong social significance but society is dominated by a different faith. This work explores the different historical processes of state building to examine regime policies towards the Christian presence in Syria and Jordan, identifying the methods used to accommodate groups with a distinct identity and integrate them into the nation state. This volume aims to give an overview of the under-studied Christian groups in this area, providing much-needed information on these minorities, assessing the implications of these policies on the two countries with reference to the question of regime legitimacy and determining if they can prove insightful for other regional governments in their efforts to integrate Middle Eastern Christian communities.

By examining different approaches such as secular nationalism, cultural pluralism, protected minority (dhimmi) and coercion, it would appear that there is a constant dilemma between attaining regime stability by promoting a national identity and allowing minority groups to retain their own identity. As indigenous communities, the case studies of the Christians of Syria and Jordan demonstrate to what extent the two regimes have successfully addressed this dilemma. The two countries offer interesting comparisons, and McCallum is able to highlight both the contrasting regimes and the similarities in the ongoing crises facing the region – economic problems, cultural change, the growth of political Islam and challenges posed by regional conflict. This new research will demonstrate that their role as interlocutors continues today and that their experience of living in this region has provided them with a rich knowledge and understanding of their coreligionist that is crucial to our understanding of Middle Eastern society.

Tackling issues central to the relationship between religion and politics including secularization, religious revival and the legal status of religions and their adherents, this work will be of great interest to all scholars of Religion, Comparative Politics and the Middle East.

Baldwin, “Islamic Law and Empire in Ottoman Cairo”

In December, Edinburgh University Press will release Islamic Law and Empire in Ottoman Cairo by James E. Baldwin (University of London). The publisher’s description follows:

islamic-law-and-empire-in-ottoman-cairoWhat did Islamic law mean in the early modern period, a world of great Muslim empires? Often portrayed as the quintessential jurists’ law, to a large extent it was developed by scholars outside the purview of the state. However, for the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire, justice was the ultimate duty of the monarch, and Islamic law was a tool of legitimation and governance. James E. Baldwin examines how the interplay of these two conceptions of Islamic law – religious scholarship and royal justice – undergirded legal practice in Cairo, the largest and richest city in the Ottoman provinces. Through detailed studies of the various formal and informal dispute resolution institutions and practices that formed the fabric of law in Ottoman Cairo, his book contributes to key questions concerning the relationship between the shari‘a and political power, the plurality of Islamic legal practice, and the nature of centre-periphery relations in the Ottoman Empire.

Meshugas About Chickens

That’s the title of this post I have over at the Liberty Law blog, discussing a recent controversy in California related to Yom Kippur. A bit:

As a society becomes more secular, what happens to religious rituals, customs, and ways of life that cannot be explained or justified in secular terms? When the freedom to engage in such practices is no longer presumed to be a good because of a firm commitment to religion as a social value, little stands in the way of its becoming just one more special interest. Religious freedom is then thrown into the bin of social oddities, to be haggled over and negotiated against whatever other idiosyncratic predilections one happens to find in there.

Witness the case of United Poultry Concerns v. Chabad of Irvine. The plaintiff is a California organization devoted to “promoting the respectful and compassionate treatment of domestic fowl” that leads protests, for example, against the use of eggs in the White House Easter-Egg Roll. Indeed, UPC seems to observe a fairly regular schedule of outrage, no doubt because many holidays, religious and otherwise, tend to involve an adversarial relationship with poultry. (With Thanksgiving on the horizon, the group’s web site is showcasing a book called More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality.)

Over the last two weeks, UPC has been involved in a legal effort to stop a Jewish practice called kaparot that is performed on the day before Yom Kippur. Only a small number of Jews in the United States perform this ceremony, and it involves a trained rabbi swinging a chicken in the air and then slaughtering the animal. (“Kaparot” means atonement.)

The tireless Josh Blackman, who has been involved with the case, has a very complete description of the proceedings. The long and short of it is that a federal District Court judge issued a temporary restraining order against the practice earlier this month, citing a California state animal-cruelty provision, though the judge would have been well advised to consider both the federal Humane Slaughter Act and the Supreme Court’s decision in Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah (1993) before acting. The judge ordered pre-trial conferences, briefs, and hearings to be conducted and filed immediately thereafter, right smack dab during the most important week in the Jewish calendar.

Perhaps most telling of all was that the hearing on the temporary restraining order was scheduled for October 13, the day after Yom Kippur, which Professor Blackman amusingly analogizes to scheduling a hearing for December 26 on an order to prohibit a ceremony performed on Christmas day. The judge eventually lifted the order just hours before sundown on October 12, rendering it impossible as a practical matter for the synagogue’s members to perform the ceremony.

Indeed, as Professor Blackman notes, the timing of the legal proceeding was obviously calculated by the plaintiffs to cause as much disruption and distress as it possibly could (the lawsuit could have been filed really at any other time), respectful treatment of chickens being one thing and respectful treatment of religious believers quite another. The judge seems to have been either utterly unaware of these issues or utterly uninterested in them.

Aasmundsen, “Pentecostals, Politics, and Religious Equality in Argentina”

In November, Brill Publishers will release Pentecostals, Politics, and Religious Equality in Argentina by Hans Geir Aasmundsen (University of Sødertørn). The publisher’s description follows:

pentecostals-politicsIn Argentina, Pentecostalism had a breakthrough in the early 1980s, and today more than 10 per cent of the population are Pentecostals. The revival coincided with a socio-political transformation of Argentinean society. After half a century of dictatorships and Perónism, democracy was restored, and structural changes paved the way for an autonomisation of the political, economic, scientific and religious spheres. The “new” form of society that developed resembles what in this study is called a Western model, which to a large degree has been, and still is, spread on a global scale. In this book, Aasmundsen examines the religious sphere and how Pentecostals relate to society at large, and the political and judicial spheres in particular.

Dodson, “Amarna Sunrise”

In December, Oxford University Press will release Amarna Sunrise: Egypt from Golden Age to Age of Heresy by Aidan Dodson (University of Bristol). The publisher’s description follows:

amarna-sunriseThe latter part of the fifteenth century BC saw Egypt’s political power reach its zenith, with an empire that stretched from beyond the Euphrates in the north to much of what is now Sudan in the south. The wealth that flowed into Egypt allowed its kings to commission some of the most stupendous temples of all time, some of the greatest dedicated to Amun-Re, King of the Gods. Yet a century later these temples lay derelict, the god’s images, names, and titles all erased in an orgy of iconoclasm by Akhenaten, the devotee of a single sun-god. This book traces the history of Egypt from the death of the great warrior-king Thutmose III to the high point of Akhenaten’s reign, when the known world brought gifts to his newly-built capital city of Amarna, in particular looking at the way in which the cult of the sun became increasingly important to even ‘orthodox’ kings, culminating in the transformation of Akhenaten’s father, Amenhotep III, into a solar deity in his own right.

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