Category: Islam


Ron Hassner on Sacred Spaces & Holy Conflict

Why are conflicts over holy shrines and other sacred spaces so often violent and intractable? Prof. Ron Hassner (UC-Berkeley, political science) offers an intringuing answer that revolves around the nature and various characteristics of sacred ground. Our discussion covers the breakdown of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in 2000, the recent controversy over the “Ground Zero mosque” in New York City and several other examples.

This is an encore performance of an interview that aired in the fall of 2010. We will be back with a fresh interview next week.

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Ann Wainscott on the Politics of Islam in Morocco

What explains the emergence of political Islam, particularly a Salafi variant of this movement, in Morocco? Ann Wainscott, a graduate student at the University of Florida, advances a novel explanation relating to educational reform. In an attempt to forestall advancing leftist influence in society during the 1960s and ’70s, the regime of King Hasan II promoted greater Islamic education within the country’s public school system that had the unintended consequence of creating new space for Islamists. While this is not the only reason for the emergence of an Islamist movement in Morocco, it represents an often-overlooked piece of the puzzle.

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Carolyn Warner on Religion & Generosity

Why and how do religious groups motivate generosity? We visit with Prof. Carolyn Warner (ASU) who is involved in a multi-national, cross-faith, and interdisciplinary investigation exploring why religious individuals give money and volunteer time to help others. As part of a larger team of scholars, she has conducted interviews with Catholics and Muslims in France, Ireland, Italy, and Turkey using both person-to-person interviews and an experimental design to see if there are differences across these to faith traditions. She and her team discover that Catholics tend to be motivated by “love of God” whereas Muslims are moved to give out of a “duty to God.” This sheds light on whether organizations need to provide close monitoring and sanctioning of volunteer behavior or whether individuals can be counted to be generous on their own.

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Alessandra González on Islamic Feminism

Does the term “Islamic Feminism” sound counter-intuitive? Dr. Alessandra González explores how women in Kuwait are finding ways to empower themselves and advocate for their interests in an environment where political Islam (or Islamism) is resurgent. She contrasts notions of Islamic feminism with how feminism is perceived in the West and reveals a number of fascinating insights on gender roles in a Muslim society. Changes in educational opportunities and changing perceptions among younger generations play a role in promoting this movement, as well as the surprising impact of Iraq’s invation of Kuwait in 1990. We also talk about the important role of conforming to traditional community norms and how men might actually be helping facilitate the struggle for women’s rights and empowerment.

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Ani Sarkissian on Religious Liberty in the Post-Soviet World

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 heralded what many thought would be a new era of liberty in a region of the world that has known little freedom for most of its history. However, many of the new regimes that emerged from the Soviet rubble have slipped back into autocracy. We review these political developments and what this has meant for religious freedom in the region with Prof. Ani Sarkissian (Michigan State University). Interestingly, we observe a fairly wide variation in how governments react to religious organizations with some governments supressing all faiths whereas as others picking and choosing which religions to allow and which to repress. Albania, of all places, emerges as the most religiously free of the post-Soviet “competitive dictatorships.” Find out why.

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Matthew Derrick on the Geography of the Umma

The notion of “the umma” — the community of Islamic believers — is often thought to be at odds with modern (post-Westphalian) notions of national territory. Islam, it is said, transcends the geographic boundaries of the nation-state and this may present unique problems for how societies understand and interact with one another. Prof. Matthew Derrick discusses the role of territory in history and how the umma fits into this, taking on scholars such as Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis who see a disjuncture between the umma and national territory. Prof. Derrick, a geographer, argues that territory is still important and often trumps transnational religious identity, or is at least a concept that cannot be discarded so easily.

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Timur Kuran on Islamic Law & Economic Development

In the 10th century, Europe and the Middle East had comparable levels of economic development. Over the next several centuries, however, Christian Europe raced ahead of Muslim societies, developing the institutions that led to the Industrial Revolution and modern capitalism. Timur Kuran (Duke University) explains the role that Islamic Law played in this “long divergence.”

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William Inboden on Religious Liberty, Foreign Policy, & the Arab Spring

With events in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East changing rapidly, we take a look at how the issue of religious liberty is taking form in countries touched by the Arab Spring (or Arab Awakening). Prof. William Inboden of the University of Texas, and a former policy advisor, explains what the Arab Spring is, how it came about, and how issues of religious freedom play into the political changes we are witnessing in that region of the world. We also discuss whether the US should be promoting religious liberty in its foreign policy as a means of limiting extremism and violence.

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Fletcher Harper on GreenFaith

What does religious faith have to do with environmental stewardship? Rev. Fletcher Harper of GreenFaith joins us to discuss the history and work of his ecumenical environmental advocacy organization. We cover the biblical basis for environmental stewardship and explore why religious groups have been relative latecomers to the “green movement.” Rev. Harper also discusses the various projects GreenFaith has been involved in and how his group has been received by members of other religious communities and the secular environmental movement. Our podcast also explores the relationship between religious individuals and the government when it comes to improving environmental quality. Rev. Harper makes the case that it is important not only to change the culture, but to get the incentives right if Christians and other faith traditions want to make a positive impact on society.

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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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