Category: India

Nile Green on Islam in Bombay and Beyond

We celebrate our 300th episode by going back in time to look at how industrialization and globalization affected the Islamic religious landscape of Bombay, India, and what effect those changes had on a larger geography and period of time. Prof. Nile Green, a historian at UCLA, joins us to take us on this interesting journey. Instead of seeing modernization leading to a standardized and “Protestant” form of Islamic faith (as Max Weber might predict), Nile argues that the laissez faire approach of the British towards non-Christian religions combined with Christian missionaries resulted in numerous forms of Islam, from “reformist” to “customary.” He notes how this “religious economies” approach also explains the expansion of Islam into places such as Japan and the United States.

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Eleanor Power on Rituals, Community, and Signaling

Why would anyone walk across hot coals, pierce themselves with sharp objects, or engage in other costly sacrifices when their resources are meager? Using data collected from two years of fieldwork in India, Dr. Eleanor Power of the Santa Fe Institute explains how individuals signal their credibility, trustworthiness, and helpfulness in their communities via these public rituals. Elly also explains how this ritualistic behavior is perceived by others in the community and how it connects various individuals. Along the way, we also talk about possession, not in terms of ownership but wherein your body is taken over by demons or gods.

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Rebecca Shah on Religion & the Enterprising Poor in India

Rebecca Shah of Georgetown University’s Berkley Center discusses her research on how religious belief and practice affects the economic prospects of the enterprising poor in India. We review the particular challenges facing women entrepreneurs in the poorest neighborhoods of Bangalore, the role that different types of loans play on their financial success (or lack thereof), and how their faith interacts with microfinancing to help improve their lot. The important role of tithing and rituals are highlighted.

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Christian Novetzke on Kung Fu Fighting & Eastern Religions

Get into the octagon with Prof. Christian Novetzke as we spar intellectally about the relationship between the martial arts and Eastern religions. Karate, jujitsu, tai chi, tae kwon do, and even yoga are discussed in our fascinating interview that also explores Buddhism, Zen, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism and the connection between Christianity and the mixed martial arts (i.e., cage fighting). We discover the importance of self-actualization that connects all these different philosophies and martial activities.

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Timothy Shah on the Case for Religious Liberty

What case can be made for promoting religious freedom worldwide? Prof. Timothy Shah discusses the moral, political, and strategic reasons why religious liberty is a crucial human right and why it is often called “the first freedom.” He reviews the justifications for religious freedom from three different faith traditions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — as well as the ontological reasons why religion should be considered for special consideration in debates about human rights. Tony even uses the word ontology in the discussion, but don’t let that scare you off since he didn’t know what it meant until very recently and our conversation is both enlightening and extremely accessible.

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Timur Kuran on Islamic Economics

Timur Kuran (Duke University) discusses the movement known as Islamic economics, focusing on its origins, policy prescriptions, and consequences. We survey the thought of Sayyid Abul-Ala Mawdudi in the middle part of the 20th century, how his ideas spread and were institutionalized in the 1970s. Attention is paid specifically to Islamic banking, interest rates, and social welfare policies.

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Allen Hertzke on Religious Liberty

Prof. Allen Hertzke of the University of Oklahoma joins us to discuss religious liberty around the world. We cover why religious liberty has become an increasingly important issue in foreign affairs and why many intellectual and government elites tend to dismiss its importance. The conversation also includes current threats to religious freedoms in many parts of the world and what positive effects might arise from the spread of religious liberties.

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Monica Toft on Religion, Terrorism, and Civil War

A week before the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Prof. Monica Toft of Harvard University joins us to discuss what we have learned about religiously-motivated violence over the past decade. She discusses findings from her new book “God’s Century” on terrorism, informal violence, and civil war. Our conversation covers a wide range of geographic territory and faith traditions, touching upon the IRA in Ireland, Hindu nationalism in India, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, as well as movements in the Arab Middle East.

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