“Buddhist Extremists and Muslim Minorities” (Holt, ed.)

In October, the Oxford University Press will release “Buddhist Extremists and Muslim Minorities: Religious Conflict in Contemporary Sri Lanka,” edited by John Clifford Holt (Bowdoin College).  The publisher’s description follows:

The year 2009 brought the end of the protracted civil war in Sri Lanka, and observers hoped to see the re-establishment of harmonious religious and ethnic relations 9780190624378among the various communities in the country. Immediately following the war’s end, however, almost 300,000 Tamil people in the Northern Province were detained for up to a year’s time in hurriedly constructed camps where they were closely scrutinized by military investigators to determine whether they might pose a threat to the country. While almost all had been released and resettled by 2011, the current government has not introduced, nor even seriously entertained, any significant measures of power devolution that might create meaningful degrees of autonomy in the regions that remain dominated by Tamil peoples. The Sri Lankan government has grown increasingly autocratic, attempting to assert its control over the local media and non-governmental organizations while at the same time reorienting its foreign policy away from the US, UK, EU, and Japan, to an orbit that now includes China, Burma, Russia and Iran. At the same time, hardline right-wing groups of Sinhala Buddhists have propagated-arguably with the government’s tacit approval-the idea of an international conspiracy designed to destabilize Sri Lanka. The local targets of these extremist groups, the so-called fronts of this alleged conspiracy, have been identified as Christians and Muslims. Many Christian churches have suffered numerous attacks at the hands of Buddhist extremists, but the Muslim community has borne the brunt of the suffering.

Buddhist Extremists and Muslim Minorities presents a collection of essays that investigate the history and current conditions of Buddhist-Muslim relations in Sri Lanka in an attempt to ascertain the causes of the present conflict. Readers unfamiliar with this story will be surprised to learn that it inverts common stereotypes of the two religious groups. In this context, certain groups of Buddhists, generally regarded as peace-oriented , are engaged in victimizing Muslims, who are increasingly regarded as militant , in unwarranted and irreligious ways. The essays reveal that the motivations for these attacks often stem from deep-seated economic disparity, but the contributors also argue that elements of religious culture have served as catalysts for the explosive violence. This is a much-needed, timely commentary that can potentially shift the standard narrative on Muslims and religious violence.

Grote & Roder, “Constitutionalism, Human Rights, and Islam after the Arab Spring”

This month, the Oxford University Press releases “Constitutionalism, Human Rights, and Islam after the Arab Spring,” by Rainer Grote (University of Heidelberg) and Tilmann J. Röder (Max Planck Foundation for International Peace and the Rule of Law).  The publisher’s description follows:

Constitutionalism, Human Rights, and Islam after the Arab Spring offers a comprehensive analysis of the impact that new and draft constitutions and amendments – such as 9780190627645those in Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Egypt, and Tunisia – have had on the transformative processes that drive constitutionalism in Arab countries.

This book aims to identify and analyze the key issues facing constitutional law and democratic development in Islamic states, and offers an in-depth examination of the relevance of the transformation processes for the development and future of constitutionalism in Arab countries. Using an encompassing and multi-faceted approach, this book explores underlying trends and currents that have been pivotal to the Arab Spring, while identifying and providing a forward looking view of constitution making in the Arab world.

Arjmand, “Public Urban Space, Gender and Segregation”

In September, Routledge will release “Public Urban Space, Gender and Segregation: Women-only Urban Parks in Iran,” by Reza Arjmand (Lund University). The publisher’s description follows:

Public spaces are the renditions of the power symmetry within the social setting it resides in, and is both controlling and confining of power. In an ideologically-laden 9781472473370context, urban design encompasses values and meanings and is utilized as a means to construct the identity and perpetuate visible and invisible boundaries. Hence, gendered spatial dichotomy based on a biological division of sexes is often employed systematically to evade the transgression of women into the public spaces.

The production of modern urban space in the Middle East is formed in the interplay between modernity, tradition and religion. Examining women in public spaces and patterns of interaction with gender -segregated and -mixed space, this book argues that gendered spaces are far from a static physical spatial division and produce a complex and dynamic dichotomy of men/public and women/private. Taking the example of Iran, normative and ideologically-laden gender segregated public spaces have been used as a tool for the Islamization of everyday life. The most recent government effort includes women-only parks, purportedly designed and administered through women’s contributions, as well as to accommodate their needs and provide space for social interaction and activities. Combining research approaches from urban planning and social sciences, this book analyses both technical and social aspects of women-only parks. Addressing the relationships between ideology, urban planning and gender, the book interprets power relations and how they are used to define and plan public and semi-public urban spaces.

Lack of communication across disciplinary boundaries as result of complexities of urban life has been one of the major hindrances in studying urban spaces in the Middle East. Addressing the concern, the cross-disciplinary approach employed in this volume is an amalgamation of methods informed by urban planning and social sciences, which includes an in-depth analysis of the morphological, perceptual, social, visual, functional, and temporal dimensions of the public space, the women-only parks in Iran. Based on critical ethnography, this volume uses a phenomenological approach to understating women in gendered spaces. Interaction of women in women-only parks in Iran, a gendered space which is growing in popularity across the Muslim world is discussed thoroughly and compared vis-à-vis gender-neutral public spaces. The book targets scholars and students within a wide range of academic disciplines including urban studies, urban planning, gender studies, political science, Middle Eastern studies, cultural studies, urban anthropology, urban sociology, Iranian studies and Islamic studies.

Ali, “Modern Challenges to Islamic Law”

In October, Cambridge University Press will release Modern Challenges to Islamic Law by Shaheen Sardar Ali (University of Warwick). The publisher’s description follows:Modern Challenges to Islamic Law.png

The diversity of interpretation within Islamic legal traditions can be challenging for those working within this field of study. Using a distinctly contextual approach, this book addresses such challenges by combining theoretical perspectives on Islamic law with insight into how local understandings impact on the application of law in Muslim daily life. Engaging with topics as diverse as Islamic constitutionalism, Islamic finance, human rights and internet fatawa, Shaheen Sardar Ali provides an invaluable resource for scholars, students and practitioners alike by exploring exactly constitutes Islamic law in the contemporary world. Useful examples, case studies, a glossary of terms and the author’s personal reflections accompany traditional academic critique, and together offer the reader a unique and discerning discussion of Islamic law in practice.

Marglin, “Across Legal Lines”

In October, Yale University Press releases Across Legal Lines: Jews and Muslims in Modern Morocco by  Jessica M. Marglin (University of Southern California). The publisher’s description follows:The Rise of Thomas Cromwell

A previously untold story of Jewish-Muslim relations in modern Morocco, showing how law facilitated Jews’ integration into the broader Moroccan society in which they lived

Morocco went through immense upheaval in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Through the experiences of a single Jewish family, Jessica Marglin charts how the law helped Jews to integrate into Muslim society—until colonial reforms abruptly curtailed their legal mobility. Drawing on a broad range of archival documents, Marglin expands our understanding of contemporary relations between Jews and Muslims and changes the way we think about Jewish history, the Middle East, and the nature of legal pluralism.

Hussain, “Muslims and the Making of America”

In October, Baylor University Press will release “Muslims and the Making of America,” by Amir Hussain (Loyola Marymount University). The publisher’s description follows:

Muslims and the Making of America“There has never been an America without Muslims”—so begins Amir Hussain, one of the most important scholars and teachers of Islam in America. Hussain, who is himself an American Muslim, contends that Muslims played an essential role in the creation and cultivation of the United States.  Memories of 9/11 and the rise of global terrorism fuel concerns about American Muslims. The fear of American Muslims in part stems from the stereotype that all followers of Islam are violent extremists who want to overturn the American way of life. Inherent to this stereotype is the popular misconception that Islam is a new religion to America.

In Muslims and the Making of America Hussain directly addresses both of these stereotypes. Far from undermining America, Islam and American Muslims have been, and continue to be, important threads in the fabric of American life. Hussain chronicles the history of Islam in America to underscore the valuable cultural influence of Muslims on American life. He then rivets attention on music, sports, and culture as key areas in which Muslims have shaped and transformed American identity. America, Hussain concludes, would not exist as it does today without the essential contributions made by its Muslim citizens.

Ghamari-Tabrizi, “Foucault in Iran”

In August, the University of Minnesota Press will release “Foucault in Iran” by Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign). The publisher’s description follows:

Focault in IranWere the thirteen essays Michel Foucault wrote in 1978–1979 endorsing the Iranian Revolution an aberration of his earlier work or an inevitable pitfall of his stance on Enlightenment rationality, as critics have long alleged? Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi argues that the critics are wrong. He declares that Foucault recognized that Iranians were at a threshold and were considering if it were possible to think of dignity, justice, and liberty outside the cognitive maps and principles of the European Enlightenment.

Foucault in Iran centers not only on the significance of the great thinker’s writings on the revolution but also on the profound mark the event left on his later lectures on ethics, spirituality, and fearless speech. Contemporary events since 9/11, the War on Terror, and the Arab Uprisings have made Foucault’s essays on the Iranian Revolution more relevant than ever. Ghamari-Tabrizi illustrates how Foucault saw in the revolution an instance of his antiteleological philosophy: here was an event that did not fit into the normative progressive discourses of history. What attracted him to the Iranian Revolution was precisely its ambiguity.

Theoretically sophisticated and empirically rich, this interdisciplinary work will spark a lively debate in its insistence that what informed Foucault’s writing was not an effort to understand Islamism but, rather, his conviction that Enlightenment rationality has not closed the gate of unknown possibilities for human societies.

Saeed, “Politics of Desecularization”

In September, Cambridge University Press will release “Politics of Desecularization: Law and the Minority Question in Pakistan,” by Sadia Saeed (Boston University).  The publisher’s description follows: 

Over time the Pakistani state has moved from accommodating the Ahmadiyya community as full citizens of the state to forcibly declaring them non-Muslim and logoeventually criminalizing them for their religious beliefs. Politics of Desecularization deploys the ‘Ahmadi question’ to theorize a core feature of modern public Islam – its contested and unsettled relationship with the nation-state form. It posits that our current understandings of modern religious change have been shaped by a highly limited number of national cases in which states have been successful at arriving at stable ideologies about religion. Pakistan, however, epitomizes polities that are undergoing protracted political and cultural struggles over religion’s proper place in the state. The book’s gripping account shows that these struggles are carried out in social sites as diverse as courts, legislative assemblies, and newspapers. The result in Pakistan has been the emergence of a trajectory of desecularization characterized by official religious nationalism.

“Religions and Constitutional Transitions in the Muslim Mediterranean” (Ferrari & Toronto, eds.)

In September, Routledge will release “Religions and Constitutional Transitions in the Muslim Mediterranean: The Pluralistic Moment,” edited by Alessandro Ferrari (University of Insubria) and James Toronto (Brigham Young University).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book investigates the role of Islam and religious freedom in the constitutional transitions of six North African and Middle Eastern countries, namely Morocco, logo-rt-cAlgeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, and Palestine. In particular, the book, with an interdisciplinary approach, investigates the role of Islam as a political, institutional and societal force. Issues covered include: the role played by Islam as a constitutional reference – a “static force” able to strengthen and legitimize the entire constitutional order; Islam as a political reference used by some political parties in their struggle to acquire political power; and Islam as a specific religion that, like other religions in the area, embodies diverse perspectives on the nature and role of religious freedom in society. The volume provides insight about the political dimension of Islam, as used by political forces, as well as the religious dimension of Islam. This provides a new and wider perspective able to take into account the increasing social pluralism of the South-Mediterranean region. By analyzing three different topics – Islam and constitutionalism, religious political parties, and religious freedom – the book offers a dynamic picture of the role played by Islam and religious freedom in the process of state-building in a globalized age in which human rights and pluralism are crucial dimensions.

al-Anani, “Inside the Muslim Brotherhood”

al-Anani, “Inside the Muslim Brotherhood”

In October, Oxford University Press will release Inside the Muslim Brotherhood: Religion, Identity, and Politics by Khalil al-Anani (Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Qatar). The publisher’s description follows:Inside the Muslim Brotherhood.png

Over the past three decades, through rises and falls in power, regime repression and exclusion, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has endured, proving more resilient than any other Islamist movement in the world. In this book Khalil al-Anani explores the factors that have enabled the Brotherhood to survive so long within an ever-changing political landscape.

Inside the Muslim Brotherhood unpacks the principal factors that shape the movement’s identity, organization, and activism. Investigating the processes of socialization, indoctrination, recruitment, identification, networking, and mobilization that characterize the movement, al-Anani argues that the Brotherhood is not merely a political actor seeking power but an identity-maker that aims to change societal values, norms, and morals to line up with its ideology and worldview. The Brotherhood is involved in an intensive process of meaning construction and symbolic production that shapes individuals’ identity and gives sense to their lives. The result is a distinctive code of identity that binds members together, maintains their activism, and guides their behavior in everyday life. Al-Anani attributes the Brotherhood’s longevity to its tight-knit structure coupled with a complex membership system that has helped them resist regime penetration. The book also explores the divisions and differences within the movement and how these affect its strategy and decisions.

The culmination of over a decade of research and interviews with leaders and members of the movement, this book challenges the dominant narratives about Islamists and Islamism as a whole.

 

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