Hendrick, “Gülen: The Ambiguous Politics of Market Islam in Turkey and the World”

This August, New York University Press will publish Gülen: The Ambiguous 9780814770986_FullPolitics of Market Islam in Turkey and the World by Joshua D. Hendrick (Loyola University Maryland).  The publisher’s description follows.

The “Hizmet” (“Service”) Movement of Fethullah Gülen is Turkey’s most influential Islamic identity community. Widely praised throughout the early 2000s as a mild and moderate variation on Islamic political identity, the Gülen Movement has long been a topic of both adulation and conspiracy in Turkey, and has become more controversial as it spreads across the world. In Gülen, Joshua D. Hendrick suggests that when analyzed in accordance with its political and economic impact, the Gülen Movement, despite both praise and criticism, should be given credit for playing a significant role in Turkey’s rise to global prominence

M. Fethullah Gülen, the movement’s founder, moved to the U.S in 1998. Following their leader across the Atlantic, loyalists in the Gülen network have expanded their operations in the U.S., where they are now active in intercultural outreach, commerce, political lobbying, and charter school education. Hendrick argues that it is the Gülen Movement’s growth and impact both inside and outside Turkey that has helped Turkey emerge as a regional power in the twenty-first century.

Drawing on 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Turkey and the U.S., Hendrick examines the Gülen Movement’s role in Turkey’s recent rise, as well as its strategic relationship with Turkey’s Justice and Development Party-led government. He argues that the movement’s growth and impact both inside and outside Turkey position both its leader and its followers as indicative of a “post political” turn in twenty-first century Islamic political identity in general, and as illustrative of Turkey’s political, economic, and cultural transformation in particular.

Künkler & Stepan (eds.), “Democracy and Islam in Indonesia”

This September, Columbia University Press will publish Democracy and Islam indemocracyindonesia Indonesia edited by Mirjam Künkler (Princeton University) and Alfred Stepan (Columbia University).  The publisher’s description follows.

Indonesia’s military government collapsed in 1998, igniting fears that economic, religious, and political conflicts would complicate any democratic transition. Yet in every year since 2006, the world’s most populous Muslim country has received high marks from international democracy-ranking organizations. In this volume, political scientists, religious scholars, legal theorists, and anthropologists examine the theory and practice of Indonesia’s democratic transition and its ability to serve as a model for other Muslim countries. They compare the Indonesian example with similar scenarios in Chile, Spain, India, and Tunisia, as well as with the failed transitions of Yugoslavia, Egypt, and Iran. Essays explore the relationship between religion and politics and the ways in which Muslims became supportive of democracy even before change occurred, and they describe how innovative policies prevented dissident military groups, violent religious activists, and secessionists from disrupting Indonesia’s democratic evolution. The collection concludes with a discussion of Indonesia’s emerging “legal pluralism” and of which of its forms are rights-eroding and rights-protecting.

Walsh on the Third Circuit’s Contraception Mandate Decision

Center for Law and Religion friend Kevin Walsh has a thoughtful and informative post about the Third Circuit’s recent decision in Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. US Department of Health and Human Services, which I noted and discussed here. One thing that Kevin’s post makes me think is that given the nature of the legislative purpose for enacting RFRA, it is probable that the meaning of “exercise” was intended to be close to the constitutional meaning (pre-Smith). It would have been useful to have more statutory analysis of this type from the Third Circuit. From Kevin’s post:

Consider the facts of Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963), one of the two cases singled out in RFRA. The exercise of religion in that case was Adele Sherbert’s religion-based refusal to work on Saturday. See id. at 403 (describing the relevant conduct as “appellant’s conscientious objection to Saturday work”).

A corporation can engage in this kind of “exercise of religion” if a corporation can refuse, for religious reasons, to do something otherwise required by law. And it plainly can. Suppose a federal law requiring fast-food restaurants located near interstate highways to be open seven days a week. Chick-fil-A’s religion-based refusal to operate on Sundays in violation of this law would surely be an “exercise of religion” akin to Ms. Sherbert’s refusal to work on Saturdays.

The profit-making character of the corporation does not change the analysis of whether the corporation can make a religion-based decision. Chick-fil-A is a profit-making business. Yet it foregoes the profits it would otherwise make through Sunday operation because its religion-based corporate policy controls the manner in which it seeks to make a profit. Similarly, Ms. Sherbert was working for money (and later seeking unemployment benefits). Yet her religious obligation not to work on Saturday conditioned the manner in which she could go about earning money.

The panel majority opinion simply does not address this line of argument. One way in which its failure to address RFRA independently may have contributed to this failure to analyze what counts as a protected “exercise of religion” emerges from a word search for that phrase. It does not appear until page 28, after the majority has already concluded its Free Exercise analysis. In the course of its Free Exercise analysis, the Third Circuit panel majority does not ask whether a corporation can engage in the “exercise of religion” (RFRA’s words), but rather whether corporations can “engage in religious exercise” [11] or whether corporations can “exercise religion” [15]. The wording shift is subtle and almost certainly unintentional, but it nevertheless tends to lead analysis in the wrong direction. For the panel majority’s rephrasing suggests asking whether a corporation can engage in religious exercises like prayer, worship, participation in sacraments, and so on. But that is not what the governing law requires.

Stark, “America’s Blessings”

I spent last weekend reading Baylor University sociologist Rodney Stark’s most recent book, America’s Blessings: How Religion Benefits Everyone, Including Atheists (Templeton Press 2012). I’ve benefited greatly from Stark’s work in the past; the book he wrote in 2005 with Roger Finke, The Churching of America, is a must for anyone interested in the history of American religion. America’s Blessings is very helpful, too. It puts into context the results of some recent surveys on religion in America.

For example, Stark explains that, although the number of persons who tell pollsters they have no religion has increased since 1990–the much-discussed Rise of the Nones–the number of people who belong to religious congregations has gone up as well. In fact, about 70% of Americans now belong to religious congregations, the highest percentage in our history. (One possible explanation: some Evangelical Christians who are members of free-standing congregations, without denominational ties, do not think they belong to a “religion”). Many of the Nones are quite religious; they pray frequently. Only a small group of Americans, around four percent, say they are atheists–a percentage that hasn’t changed in several decades.

Stark also shows that the academic literature routinely ignores evidence of religion’s beneficial social effects. For example, he says, reliable statistical studies show that religious people are much less likely to commit crimes, much more likely to contribute to charities, including secular charities, and more likely to say they have satisfying marriages. Findings like these almost never appear in the scholarly literature–or in the media, for that matter.

Some of these claims do seem stronger than others. For example, the claim about the lower propensity of religious people to commit crimes seems robust, as it is based on objective data about crime rates.  The claim about marital happiness, in contrast, doesn’t seem so compelling, at least to me, since it relies on what people tell surveyors about their marriages. It’s true that people who attend church regularly are more likely than non-churchgoers to say their marriages are “very happy,” but perhaps that’s because of social pressure. The churchgoers may feel they’re expected to say positive things about their family lives. In Stark’s defense, regular churchgoers also have a much lower divorce rate than people who never attend church, and that is an objective measure.

In any event, Stark’s new book is a valuable contribution to the burgeoning empirical literature on religion in America. Worth reading.