by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on JANUARY 26, 2015:
Pakistan is often caricatured and stereotyped as a volatile nuclear country on the precipice of disaster. Such depictions are often especially acerbic when comes to the issue of Women’s rights in the country. In her important new book, Interpreting Islam, Modernity, and Women’s Rights in Pakistan (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), Anita Weiss, Professor of International Studies at the University of Oregon, provides a much-needed corrective to such sensationalist stereotypes. By exploring how multiple state and non-state actors have engaged the question of gender and women’s rights over time and space, Weiss demonstrates ways in which a diversity of voices in Pakistan conduct what she calls “everyday Ijtihad,” thus offering a much more nuanced and informed perspective.
In our conversation, we talked about a range of issues such as the history of the Pakistani state’s approach towards defining and engaging women’s rights, the role of Progressive NGOs like the Aurat Foundation, Orthodox Islamist voices on this question, and the Tehrik-i Taliban in Swat. This lucidly written book contains a plethora of useful information and analysis for specialists and non-specialists alike.
by KRISTIAN PETERSEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on JANUARY 12, 2016:
In the current political moment there is widespread anti-Muslim rhetoric and it would be easy to conclude that a large portion of white Americans see Islam at odds with American values. But a longer view of history reveals a long-standing appreciation for Islam and even conversion to the tradition among white Americans.
Patrick D. Bowen, and independent scholar, uncovers this rich history in A History of Conversion to Islam in the United States, Volume 1: White American Muslims before 1975 (Brill, 2015). Bowen outlines Americans view Islam in 19th century and early 20th century and demonstrates the various motivations for conversion. Early converts who ‘Turned Turk’ were seen as renegades by most of their peers but the broadening of American liberal religiosity throughout the 19th century fostered further intellectual engagement with the tradition. Early 20th century saw significant changes in the social landscape that shaped conversion. It was now social relationships rather than esoteric interests that aided white Americans in their conversion. Greater contact with immigrant Muslims and greater participation in Islamic organizations, publications, and social activities further increased conversion throughout the second half of the century. Continue reading →
by ROXANNE PANCHASI for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on JANUARY 5, 2016:
Mayanthi Fernando‘s The Republic Unsettled: Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism (Duke University Press, 2014) is an important and provocative book. Drawing on years of field work, the book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the complex interactions between religion and politics in contemporary France. Considering the Islamic revival and public debates provoked initially by the “headscarf crisis” of the late 1980s, the book examines the ethical, social, and political lives of the Muslim French men and women whose religiosity is so often regarded as “incommensurable” with the democratic culture and politics of the nation. Continue reading →
by JOSEPH RICHARD PREVILLE and JULIE POUCHER HARBIN for ISLAMiCommentary on JANUARY 7, 2016:
Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) was a colossus among Muslim scholars. Stephen Frederic Dale gives us a portrait of this extraordinary man in his new intellectual biography, The Orange Trees of Marrakesh: Ibn Khaldun and the Science of Man (Harvard University Press, 2015). “Ibn Khaldun,” he writes, “created the world’s first known example of historical sociology, a philosophically inspired discipline commonly thought to have originated in Western Europe.”
Dale’s book stands out in the large library of books and studies about Ibn Khaldun for its sharp focus on the philosophical foundations of his work. Philosophy is at the heart of Ibn Khaldun’s method, according to Dale. He states that Ibn Khaldun “forcefully and repeatedly indicates he has adopted Greco-Islamic philosophical ideas and methodology to revolutionize historical research, which he then employs to produce a comprehensive study of North African Muslims in his era.” Continue reading →