In another example of how mass media shape and constrain what constitutes legitimate Islam and religion more generally, the New York Times published a news analysis on April 10, 2011, that explains Minister Louis Farrakhan’s recent support for Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi as an attempt to gain support, or at least attention, for his declining movement. I was a source for the story, but an exchange of twenty-three emails seems largely to have failed to convince the reporter of my analysis of the phenomenon as an example of pan-African politics.
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For most of the second half of the twentieth century development was assumed to be consonant with modernity and its attendant practices: secularism, reason, and science. However, it is increasingly apparent that the secularity of development should no longer be taken for granted. This is visible not only in recent initiatives for “faith-based development,” but also in movements that seek to develop faith by emphasizing religious ethics conducive to economic rationality.
I do not have much to add to the debate surrounding the Islamic Cultural Center that will surely be built near Ground Zero. But I do have a strangely delayed reaction to the word “Islamism”, whose short and pernicious history deserves more attention than it has been given. The suffix “ism” in this case is clearly not intended as a compliment. If you consult any word list on Google, it becomes clear that Islamism is a label for any variety of Islamic thought or action that can be judged to be inappropriately politicized, with the exemplary case being political violence.
What does the academic study of religion have to contribute to public discussions concerning Major Hasan’s religious identity? What do we know about religion and religious identity? We are worried about stereotypes and we are anxious, but what do we know?
President Obama's much-anticipated speech to the Muslim world in Cairo last Thursday demonstrated once again that he is an extraordinarily skilled orator working with fantastic speech writers. The speech also underscored the distinctly different approach his administration plans to take in handling U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Quoting the Koran, the Bible, and the Torah, President Obama laid out a plan that basically came down to a simple message: "We're all in this together and we must all do our part." But what exactly did he mean by "do our part"?
Here I want to briefly comment on Obama's discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian question. Two of Obama's statements in particular have been widely celebrated as marking a new direction in American foreign policy in this area: one, that "the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," and two, that the Palestinians should have "a state of their own." These are fine sentiments indeed. They are also an almost exact reiteration of the central positions of the so-called Road Map proposed by Bush and his Quartet.
One of the questions that plagues my study of American religion is why there is such a frequent close correspondence between American Christianity and war making. This question displays my own liberal Protestant belief that violence should always be a last resort, and that churches and religious leaders should not be in the business of cheerleading for war. After studying American religion for two decades, I should know better---liberal, mainline, and conservative Protestants have all done it, and yet, I keep asking why.
You see, the interview on Al Arabiya confirms that the politics of fear can safely endure, barely disguised as the politics of love. It's (Christian) politics as usual, in other words. The extended hand of love and friendship---for the enemy---continues to veil the indisputable fact that there is only one iron fist in "the region as a whole."
Despite disappointment in Obama's arm's length approach during the campaign, the vast majority of Arab and Muslim American voters supported him on Election Day. They felt his domestic and foreign policies would be a vast improvement over his predecessor's. Like other Americans, they were hopeful. His recent televised interview on the Arabic satellite network, Al Arabiya, infused new life into that hope---hope that had been waning rapidly in the weeks leading up to the inauguration.
President Barack Obama has moved quickly to follow up on his inaugural statement: "To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect." He appointed and sent his special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, to the region on an eight day trip. Then on January 28, on Al Arabiya, the prominent Arab satellite TV network, Obama addressed the Arab and Muslim worlds in his first televised interview from the White House.