Gregorian, “The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan: Politics of Reform and Modernization, 1880-1946”

This January, Stanford University Press will publish The Emergence of Modern Afghanistan: Politics of Reform and Modernization, 1880-1946 with a new introduction by Vartan Gregorian (President of Carnegie Corporation of New York). The publisher’s description follows.

 Long heralded as a seminal work on the history of Afghanistan, this book traces the evolution of the modern Afghan state by studying the politics of reform and modernization that started in 1880 through World War II. This history is marked with persistent attempts by the Afghan ruling dynasty to assert and strengthen its rule—both against the great imperial powers, as well as over the various Afghan tribes within its territory.

In this reissue, Vartan Gregorian offers a new introduction that places the key themes of the book in the context of contemporary events, addressing questions of tribalism, nationalism, Islam, and modernization, as well as the legacies of the Cold War and the various exit strategies of occupying powers. The book remains as distinctive today as when it was first published. It is the only broad work on Afghan history that considers ethnicity as the defining influence over the course of the country’s history, rather than religion. In light of today’s ongoing struggle to develop a coherent national identity, the question of Afghan nationalism remains a particularly significant issue.

Davis & Miroshnikova, “The Routledge International Handbook of Religious Education”

This August, Routledge published The Routledge International Handbook of Religious Education edited by Derek Davis (Baylor University) and Elena Miroshnikova (Tula Leo Tolstoy State Pedagogical University). The publisher’s description follows.

How and what to teach about religion is controversial in every country. The Routledge International Handbook of Religious Education is the first book to comprehensively address the range of ways that major countries around the world teach religion in public and private educational institutions. It discusses how three models in particular seem to dominate the landscape.

Countries with strong cultural traditions focused on a majority religion tend to adopt an “identification model,” where instruction is provided only in the tenets of the majority religion, often to the detriment of other religions and their adherents. Countries with traditions that differentiate church and state tend to adopt a “separation model,” thus either offering instruction in a wide range of religions, or in some cases teaching very little about religion, intentionally leaving it to religious institutions and the home setting to provide religious instruction. Still other countries attempt “managed pluralism,” in which neither one, nor many, but rather a limited handful of major religious traditions are taught. Inevitably, there are countries which do not fit any of these dominant models and the range of methods touched upon in this book will surprise even the most enlightened reader. Read more

Stanislaw Kunicki, “Between the Brown and the Red: Nationalism, Catholicism, and Communism in Twentieth-Century Poland”

This August, Ohio University Press published Between the Brown and the Red: Nationalism, Catholicism, and Communism in Twentieth-Century Poland by Mikolaj Stanislaw Kunicki (University of Notre Dame). The publisher’s description follows.

 In this study of the relationship of nationalism, communism, authoritarianism, and religion in twentieth-century Poland, Mikołaj Kunicki shows how the country’s communist rulers tried to adapt communism to local traditions, particularly ethnocentric nationalism and Catholicism. Focusing on the political career of Bolesław Piasecki, a Polish nationalist politician who started his journey as a fascist before the war and ended it as a procommunist activist, Kunicki demonstrates that Polish Communists reinforced the ethnocentric self-definition of Polishness and—as Piasecki’s case proves—prolonged the existence of the nationalist Right.

Read more

DeGirolami on Hate Speech in America and France

Here’s an interview with CLR’s Marc DeGirolami in France-Amérique on the differences between the legal treatment of hate speech in France and the United States. Check it out (in French).

Today at St. John’s: Manhattan Declaration Panel

Today at St. John’s, the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn will host a panel discussion, “The Manhattan Declaration Crosses the River: Support the Preservation of Religious Liberty.” Speakers include Marjorie Dannenfelser (Susan B. Anthony List), Robert George (Princeton), Alan Sears (ADF), and Eric Teetsel (Manhattan Declaration). Details are here.

Rights and Judgment

This story reports that the Obama Administration has issued a statement questioning the “judgment” of the magazine Charlie Hebdo in publishing insulting pictures of the Prophet Mohammed (discussed by Mark immediately below).  The Administration — through its “porte-parole” Jay Carney — was careful to distinguish the issue of the magazine’s constitutional “right” to publish the pictures and its judgment in doing so because the Administration “know[s] that these images will be very shocking for many people,” and “might provoke violent reactions.”

The reaction of the Administration reminds me very much of the controversy over the construction of the so-called September 11 mosque in New York City.  I recall distinctly that the position of some at the time was that though there was and surely should be no legal barrier to the use of particular property vaguely proximate to the site of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, it would be unwise, or evince a lack of good judgment, for the rights-holders to exercise their rights.  I recall the cute statement, made somewhere by someone, that it is “not a question of rights, but a question of what is right.”  I also remember that the President came out at first quite strongly in support of the mosque and cultural center (as did Mayor Michael Bloomberg), but then backed off a bit when the issue was put not in terms of rights, but of judgment: ““I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” the President said. “I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.” 

How about it readers?  Are the situations formally identical (with the exception that the President has commented negatively on the wisdom of publishing the cartoons, while he declined to do so with respect to the Ground Zero mosque)?  If so, are there nevertheless other salient differences between them?  Are there categorical differences, for example, between the wisdom of exercising a speech right and the wisdom of exercising the freedom of religion?

Agent Provocateur

It’s getting hard to keep up with developments surrounding “The Innocence of Muslims,” the YouTube video that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad and has sparked violent protests throughout the Muslim world. On Tuesday, Egypt announced that it had issued arrest warrants for several Americans connected with the film’s production and distribution, including Florida Pastor Terry Jones, who promoted the film. Jones was last in the news for putting the Quran “on trial” and threatening to burn it. Egypt’s action followed Germany’s announcement that it would forbid Jones, who has been invited to speak by far-right political parties, from entering the county. The Interior Ministry argues that allowing the “hate preacher” in the country would upset public order. So that’s another country the pastor must cross off his vacation list.

Then, yesterday, the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, entered the fray over the film, running a series of cartoons mocking the Prophet. The French government, which had asked Charlie Hebdo not to run the cartoons, responded by announcing that it would close embassies in twenty countries this Friday as a precaution. The Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabuis, said the cartoons were “a provocation,” and called on “all” people — by “all,” Fabius presumably had in mind particularly Charlie Hebdo‘s editor, Stephane Charbonnier — “to behave responsibly.”

For his part, Chabonnier is unrepentant. Already under police guard as a result of an earlier episode in which his magazine ran a caricature of the Prophet, Charbonnier says he sees a double standard developing in France, according to which it is considered acceptable to mock some religions but not others. “We have the impression that it’s officially allowed for Charlie Hebdo to attack the Catholic far-right but we cannot poke fun at fundamental Islamists,” he explained. It’s an interesting point that other commentators, including in the US, as making, too. Charbonnier should be calling his lawyer. Unlike the US, France has laws that ban speech that insults a group because of its religion. In 2006, in fact, Charlie Hebdo was prosecuted when the newspaper  reprinted some of the infamous cartoons of the Prophet that had appeared in a Danish newspaper. In that case, Charlie Hebdo was acquitted on the ground that the cartoons insulted terrorists, not Muslims generally. It wouldn’t be surprising if Charlie Hebdo faced prosecution again now.