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 →
LISTEN: Alice Kang on “Bargaining for Women’s Rights” in Niger
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by HEATH BROWN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on DECEMBER 16, 2015:
Alice J. Kang has written Bargaining for Women’s Rights: Activism in an Aspiring Muslim Democracy (University of Minnesota Press, 2015). Kang is assistant professor of political science and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Much attention is paid to Muslim-majority countries across the Middle East, especially the contentious role of women’s rights in those countries. Less attention has been paid to Muslim democracies in Africa. Kang’s book focuses on the politics of women’s rights in one such country: Niger. Women’s rights activists in Niger have fought to participate in democratic governance, but haven’t won every recent battle. Kang highlights several successes as well as policy areas where women’s organizations have failed to win policy victories. The book has much to say about social movements and also the evolving way Muslim majority democracies grapple with human rights.
LISTEN TO INTERVIEW WITH KANG
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LISTEN: Saba Mahmood on “Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report”
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by SHERALI TAREEN for NEW BOOKS IN ISLAMIC STUDIES on DECEMBER 7, 2015:
It is commonly thought that violence, injustice, and discrimination against religious minorities, especially in the Middle East, are a product of religious fundamentalism and myopia. Concomitantly, it is often argued, that more of secularism and less of religion represents the solution to this problem.
In her stunning new book Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report (Princeton University Press, 2015), Saba Mahmood, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, brings such a celebratory view of secularism into fatal doubt. Through a careful and brilliant analysis, Mahmood convincingly shows that far from a solution to the problem of interreligious strife, political secularism and modern secular governance are in fact intimately entwined to the exacerbation of religious tensions in the Middle East. Focusing on Egypt and the experience of Egyptian Copts and Bahais, Mahmood explores multiple conceptual and discursive registers to highlight the paradoxical qualities of political secularism, arguing that majority/minority conflict in Egypt is less a reflection of the failure of secularism and more a product of secular discourses and politics, both within and outside the country. Continue reading →