Bittker et al., “Religion and the State in American Law”

In October, Cambridge University Press will release “Religion and the State in American Law” by Boris I. Bittker (Yale Law School), Scott Idleman (Marquette University), Frank S. Ravitch (Michigan State University). The publisher’s description follows:

Religion and the State in American Law provides a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of religion and government in the United States, from historical origins to modern laws and rulings. In addition to extensive coverage of the religion clauses of the First Amendment, it addresses many statutory, regulatory, and common-law developments at both the federal and state levels. Topics include the history of church-state relations and religious liberty, religion in the classroom, and expressions of religion in government. This book also covers the role of religion in specific areas of law such as contracts, taxation, employment, land use regulation, torts, criminal law, and domestic relations as well as in specialized contexts such as prisons and the military. Accessible to the general as well as the professional reader, this book will be of use to scholars, judges, practicing lawyers, and the media.

Valentine, “Force and Fanaticism: Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia and Beyond”

In August, Hurst Publishing released “Force and Fanaticism: Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia and Beyond” by Simon Ross Valentine (Leeds University and Bradford University). The publisher’s description follows:

Wahhabism is an Islamic reform movement found mainly in Saudi Arabia. Closely linked to the Saudi monarchy, it enforces a strict code of morality and conduct monitored by mutawa (religious police), and governs every facet of Saudi life according to its own strict interpretation of Shariah, including gender segregation. Wahhabism also prohibits the practice of any other faith (even other forms of Islam) in Saudi Arabia, which is also the only country that forbids women from driving.

But what exactly is Wahhabism? This question had long occupied Valentine, so he lived in the Kingdom for three years, familiarizing himself with its distinct interpretation of Islam. His book defines Wahhabism and Wahhabi beliefs and considers the life and teaching of Muham-mad ibn Abd’al Wahhab and the later expansion of his sect. Also discussed are the rejection of later developments in Islam such as bid’ah; harmful innovations, among them celebrating the prophet’s birthday and visiting the tombs of saints; the destruction of holy sites due to the fear of idolatry; Wahhabi law, which imposes the death sentence for crimes as archaic as witch-craft and sorcery, and the connection of Wahhabism with militant Islam globally.

Drawing on interviews with Saudis from all walks of life, including members of the feared mutawa, this book appraises of one of the most significant movements in contemporary Islam.

Around the Web this Week

Some interesting law and religion news stories from around the web this week:

Roby, “The Mizrahi Era of Rebellion”

In November, the Syracuse University Press releases “The Mizrahi Era of Rebellion: Israel’s Forgotten Civil Rights Struggle, 1948–1966,” by Bryan K. Roby (New York University). The publisher’s description follows:

During the postwar period of 1948–56, over 400,000 Jews from the Middle East and Asia immigrated to the newly established state ofIsrael. By the end of the 1950s, Mizrahim, also known as Oriental Jewry, represented the ethnic majority of the Israeli Jewish population. Despite their large numbers, Mizrahim were considered outsiders because of their non-European origins. Viewed as foreigners who came from culturally backward and distant lands, they suffered decades of socioeconomic, political, and educational injustices.

In this pioneering work, Roby traces the Mizrahi population’s struggle for equality and civil rights in Israel. Although the daily “bread and work” demonstrations are considered the first political expression of the Mizrahim, Roby demonstrates the myriad ways in which they agitated for change. Drawing upon a wealth of archival sources, many only recently declassified, Roby details the activities of the highly ideological and politicized young Israel. Police reports, court transcripts, and protester accounts document a diverse range of resistance tactics, including sit-ins, tent protests, and hunger strikes. Roby shows how the Mizrahi intellectuals and activists in the 1960s began to take note of the American civil rights movement, gaining inspiration from its development and drawing parallels between their experience and that of other marginalized ethnic groups. The Mizrahi Era of Rebellion shines a light on a largely forgotten part of Israeli social history, one that profoundly shaped the way Jews from African and Asian countries engaged with the newly founded state of Israel.

Luehrmann, “Religion in Secular Archives”

In August, the Oxford University Press releases “Religion in Secular Archives: Soviet Atheism and Historical Knowledge,” by Sonja Luehrmann (Simon Fraser University).  The publisher’s description follows:

What can atheists tell us about religious life? Russian archives contain a wealth of information on religiosity during the Soviet era, but most of it is written from the hostile perspective of officials and scholars charged with promoting atheism. Based on archival research in locations as diverse as the multi-religious Volga region, Moscow, and Texas, Sonja Luehrmann argues that we can learn a great deal about Soviet religiosity when we focus not just on what documents say but also on what they did. Especially during the post-war decades (1950s-1970s), the puzzle of religious persistence under socialism challenged atheists to develop new approaches to studying and theorizing religion while also trying to control it. Taking into account the logic of filing systems as well as the content of documents, the book shows how documentary action made religious believers firmly a part of Soviet society while simultaneously casting them as ideologically alien. When juxtaposed with oral, printed, and samizdat sources, the records of institutions such as the Council of Religious Affairs and the Communist Party take on a dialogical quality. In distanced and carefully circumscribed form, they preserve traces of encounters with religious believers. By contrast, collections compiled by western supporters during the Cold War sometimes lack this ideological friction, recruiting Soviet believers into a deceptively simple binary of religion versus communism. Through careful readings and comparisons of different documentary genres and depositories, this book opens up a difficult set of sources to students of religion and secularism.

“The Sunna and its Status in Islamic Law” (Duderija, ed.)

In October, Palgrave Macmillan will release “The Sunna and its Status in Islamic Law: The Search for a Sound Hadith” edited by Adis Duderija (University Malaya, Malaysia). The publisher’s description follows:

The concept of Sunna, as one of the two normative fountainheads of the 9781137376459
Islamic tradition, is of fundamental importance to the understanding of nearly all of the branches of Islamic knowledge including Islamic law and politics. This volume equips readers with a comprehensive overview of the nature and the scope of the concept of Sunna both in pre-modern and modern Islamic contexts and discussions. The various contributors each examine how Sunna was understood and possibly evolved during the formative (the first three centuries Hijri) and classical periods (ending at beginning of sixth century Hijri) of Islamic religious thought. The book focuses on shedding more light on the context in which the term Sunna in the major works of Islamic law and legal theory across all of the major madhahib was employed during the first six centuries Hijri. The Sunna and its Status in Islamic Law delves into and deconstructs the conceptual, epistemological, and hermeneutical relationship between the concepts of Sunna and the concept of sound (sahih) hadith as understood in various Sunni madhahib as well as in early Islamic history and theology.

“The Politics and Anti-Politics of Social Movements: Religion and AIDS in Africa” (Patterson et al., eds.)

In September, Routledge will release “The Politics and Anti-Politics of Social Movements: Religion and AIDS in Africa” edited by Amy Patterson (University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee), Marian Burchardt (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany), and Louise Mubanda Rasmussen (Roskilde University, Denmark). The publisher’s description follows:

This book explores the nature, significance and consequences of the religious activism surrounding AIDS in Africa. While African religion was relatively marginal in inspiring or contributing to AIDS activism during the early days of the epidemic, this situation has changed dramatically. In order to account for these changes, contributors provide answers to pressing questions. How does the entrance of religion into public debates about AIDS affect policymaking and implementation, church-state relations, and religion itself? How do religious actors draw on and reconfigure forms of transnational connectivity? How do resource flows from development and humanitarian aid that religious actors may access then affect relationships of power and authority in African societies? How does religious mobilization on AIDS reflect contestation over identity, cultural membership, theology, political participation, and citizenship?

Addressing these questions, the authors draw on social movement theories to explore the role of religious identities, action frames, political opportunity structures, and resource mobilization in African religions’ reaction to the AIDS epidemic. The book’s findings are rooted in fieldwork conducted in Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, and Mozambique, among a variety of religious organizations.

Moore, “Founding Sins”

In September, the Oxford University Press will release “Founding Sins: How a Group of Antislavery Radicals Fought to Put Christ into the Constitution,” by Joseph S. Moore (Gardner-Webb University). The publisher’s description follows:

The Covenanters, now mostly forgotten, were America’s first Christian nationalists. For two centuries they decried the fact that, in their view, the United States was not a Christian nation because slavery was in the Constitution but Jesus was not. Having once ruled Scotland as a part of a Presbyterian coalition, they longed to convert America to a holy Calvinist vision in which church and state united to form a godly body politic. Their unique story has largely been submerged beneath the histories of the events in which they participated and the famous figures with whom they interacted, making them the most important religious movement in American history that no one remembers.

Despite being one of North America’s smallest religious sects, the Covenanters found their way into every major revolt. They were God’s rebels–just as likely to be Patriots against Britain as they were to be Whiskey Rebels against the federal government. As the nation’s earliest and most avowed abolitionists, they had a significant influence on the fight for emancipation. In Founding Sins, Joseph S. Moore examines this forgotten history, and explores how Covenanters profoundly shaped American’s understandings of the separation of church and state.

While modern arguments about America’s Christian founding usually come from the right, the Covenanters have a more complicated legacy. They fought for an explicitly Christian America in the midst of what they saw as a secular state that failed the test of Christian nationhood. But they did so on behalf of a cause–abolition–that is traditionally associated with the left. Though their attempts to insert God into the Constitution ultimately failed, Covenanters set the acceptable limits for religion in politics for generations to come.

Atwan, “Islamic State”

In September, the University of California Press will release “Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate,” by Abdel Bari Atwan (editor of the Rai al-Youm news website).  The publisher’s description follows: 

Islamic State stunned the world when it overran an area the size of Great Britain on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border in a matter of weeks and proclaimed the birth of a new Caliphate. In this timely and important book, Abdel Bari Atwan draws on his unrivaled knowledge of the global jihadi movement and Middle Eastern geopolitics to reveal the origins and modus operandi of Islamic State.

Based on extensive field research and exclusive interviews with IS insiders, Islamic State outlines the group’s leadership structure, as well as its strategies, tactics, and diverse methods of recruitment. Atwan traces the Salafi-jihadi lineage of IS, its ideological differences with al Qaeda and the deadly rivalry that has emerged between their leaders. He also shows how the group’s rapid growth has been facilitated by its masterful command of social media platforms, the “dark web,” Hollywood blockbuster-style videos, and even jihadi computer games, producing a powerful paradox where the ambitions of the Middle Ages have reemerged in cyberspace.

As Islamic State continues to dominate the world’s media headlines with horrific acts of ruthless violence, Atwan considers the movement’s chances of survival and expansion and offers indispensable insights on potential government responses to contain the IS threat.

Announcing the Third Biennial Colloquium in Law and Religion

The Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s Law School isCLR Logo pleased to announce its third biennial Colloquium in Law and Religion, scheduled for Spring 2016. This seminar invites leading law and religion scholars to make presentations to a small audience of students and faculty.

The following speakers have confirmed:

February 1: Brett G. Scharffs (Brigham Young University School of Law)

February 16: Robin Fretwell Wilson (University of Illinois School of Law)

February 29: Robert P. George (Princeton University)

March 14: Mark Tushnet (Harvard Law School)

April 4: Justice Samuel A. Alito (United States Supreme Court)

April 18: Elizabeth H. Prodromou (Boston University & Tufts University Fletcher School of Diplomacy)

Topics will be announced at a future date.

For more information or if you would like to attend the sessions, please contact the colloquium’s organizers, Marc DeGirolami (degirolm@stjohns.edu) and Mark Movsesian (movsesim@stjohns.edu). For information about past colloquia, please click here, Spring 2012, and here, Spring 2014 (hosted with Villanova Law School).