End-Times Politics

Uri Ariel

Walter Russell Mead had an interesting post this past weekend about Israeli cabinet minister Uri Ariel’s call for rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. Ariel (left) has a reputation as a provocateur, and it’s hard to take his demand at face value. Rebuilding the Temple would require demolition of two famous Muslim shrines, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, both dating from the Arab conquest. One can’t imagine any responsible Israeli government undertaking such an operation, for reasons that are obvious. In real-world political terms, one should probably understand Ariel’s comments as a a bit of rhetoric meant to encourage the settler movement and discomfit their adversaries.

As Mead points out, however, hundreds of millions of people around the world will not see Ariel’s demand in real-world political terms. They will see it in end-times political terms. According to the “end-times theology” endorsed by many Evangelicals in the US and abroad, the Apocalypse awaits the re-establishment of the Jewish state and reconstruction of the Temple. This theology explains much Evangelical support for Israel in the US and elsewhere. Here’s Mead:

Any sign that the Temple issue is moving to the fore in Israeli politics today will engage the attention of evangelical and Pentecostal Protestants around the world. In Africa, Brazil, the United States and many other places, this news, combined with the stories about unrest in the Arab world, will be read as a sign that the End Times are approaching and that God is at work.

This is all familiar to students of contemporary Christianity. But Mead points out that there are Muslim end-times theologies too:

In Islam as in Christianity, many strains of apocalyptic thinking see the End Times as an era of apostasy and rebellion against God, of the forces of evil assembling themselves for one last battle against God and true religion. The fall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the bitter war between Sunnis and Shiites that now embraces the entire Fertile Crescent, and what will be seen by many as evidence that Israel is preparing to restore the Temple on a site holy to Islam: these developments will further strengthen apocalyptic, End Times thinking in the Muslim world.

In other words, although Ariel’s demand may not count for much in Israeli politics, it will reinforce the end-times theologies of hundreds of millions of Christians and Muslims around the world. And that could be very significant. Let’s say only ten percent of people who believe in end-times theologies take Ariel seriously. That amounts to tens of millions of people. These tens of millions are not likely to support compromise in the Middle East. Quite the opposite: they are likely to push their governments to take hard-line positions in the conflict. Even apart from the Arab-Israeli conflict, the belief that Armageddon is near may intensify hostilities and make peaceful coexistence less likely elsewhere–between Christians and Muslims in Africa, for example. What seems an insignificant, provocative remark by a fairly obscure politician may have ramifications far beyond Israel’s borders.

The Top Five New Law & Religion Papers on SSRN

From SSRN’s list of most frequently downloaded law and religion papers posted in the last 60 days, here are the current top five.  Since last week, all articles have remained in the same positions.

1.  Must We Be Faithful to Original Meaning?  by Jack M. Balkin (Yale U., Law School) [247 downloads]

2.  No Compelling Interest: The ‘Birth Control’ Mandate and Religious Freedom by Helen M. Alvare (George Mason U., School of Law) [185 downloads]

3.  The Morality of Human Rights by Michael J. Perry (Emory U., School of Law) [126 downloads]

4.  Designing Islamic Constitutions: Past Trends and Options for a Democratic Future by Clark B. Lombardi (U. of Washington, School of Law) [113 downloads]

5.  Islam in Egypt’s New Constitution by Clark B. Lombardi (U. of Washington, School of Law) and Nathan Brown (George Washington U.)     [97 downloads]

Mahmoud, “The Sources of Islamic Jurisprudence: Justice and Law in Islam”

This July, Edwin Mellen Press will publish The Sources of Islamic Jurisprudence: Justice and Law in Islam by Mahgoub El-Tigani Mahmoud (Tenn. State U.).  The publisher’s description follows.

Islamic jurisprudence and its sources are brilliantly explained in this compelling and instructive book. The reader comes away with a clearer sense of the meaning of Shari’a principles and jihad, and how social justice theories translate into practical actions and practical reality in today’s global community.

Wickham, “The Muslim Brotherhood: Evolution of an Islamist Movement”

j9948This July, Princeton University Press will publish The Muslim Brotherhood: Evolution of an Islamist Movement by Carrie Rosefsky Wickham (Emory U.). The publisher’s description follows.

The Muslim Brotherhood has achieved a level of influence nearly unimaginable before the Arab Spring. The Brotherhood was the resounding victor in Egypt’s 2011-2012 parliamentary elections, and six months later, a leader of the group was elected president. Yet the implications of the Brotherhood’s rising power for the future of democratic governance, peace, and stability in the region is open to dispute. Drawing on more than one hundred in-depth interviews as well as Arabic language sources not previously accessed by Western researchers, Carrie Rosefsky Wickham traces the evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt from its founding in 1928 to the fall of Mubarak and the watershed elections of 2011-2012. Further, she compares the Brotherhood’s trajectory with those of mainstream Islamist groups in Jordan, Kuwait, and Morocco, revealing a wider pattern of change. Wickham highlights the internal divisions of such groups and explores the shifting balance of power among them. She shows that they are not proceeding along a linear path toward greater moderation. Rather, their course has been marked by profound tensions and contradictions, yielding hybrid agendas in which newly embraced themes of freedom and democracy coexist uneasily with illiberal concepts of Shari’a carried over from the past. Highlighting elements of movement continuity and change, and demonstrating that shifts in Islamist worldviews, goals, and strategies are not the result of a single strand of cause and effect, Wickham provides a systematic, fine-grained account of Islamist group evolution in Egypt and the wider Arab world.