Posts Tagged ‘international affairs’

April 3rd, 2014

Faith in diplomacy

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When Secretary of State John Kerry launched the Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives (OFBCI), he extolled the importance and urgency of religious studies: “In fact if I went back to college today I think I would probably major in comparative religion because that’s how integrated it is in everything we are working on, and deciding, and thinking about in life today.” Despite these claims about the virtue and political utility of religious studies, many academics voiced critique and caution about how OFBCI might be haunted by political agendas, subjected to idealistic visions of liberal democracy, and premised on a particular concept of religion as an analytical category. The Immanent Frame’s “off the cuff“ feature provided insightful critiques by an impressive group of scholars across the academic spectrum. I would like to revisit some of these anxieties about OFBCI and offer preliminary insights about the vision and strategy of its director, Professor Shaun Casey.

March 7th, 2014

“After the Shipwreck”: Interpreting religion in international relations

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Having been invited to reflect upon the themes of this forum, first raised during the European University Institute (EUI) workshop “Beyond Critique,” I hope the reader will not mind if I begin my essay with a story about shipwrecks.

In a now-famous talk, the Columbia University historian Carol Gluck suggestively argued that history finds itself, temporally and conceptually, “after the shipwreck.” The “shipwreck,” for Gluck, stands as a metaphor for the destruction of the major metanarratives (scientific objectivism, progress, modernity, chronological linearity, historical materialism, the nation) and paradigms (Marxism, Liberalism, Nationalism) that have underpinned much of modern historiography. The deconstruction of such metanarratives is inseparable from the scholarly turn to critical theory, post-structuralism, and post-colonial approaches to the study of history starting in the late 1980s.

February 20th, 2014

The Charter of Quebec Values

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On November 7th, 2013, on the heels of a heated public debate about the role of religion in public life, the government of Quebec tabled its controversial Bill 60, “Charte affirmant les valeurs de laïcité et de neutralité religieuse de l’État ainsi que d’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes et encadrant les demandes d’accommodement” (Charter affirming the values of state secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests). The legislation, introduced by Bernard Drainville, the minister for Democratic institutions and active citizenship, seeks to affirm the religious neutrality of the state, specifically by prohibiting public sector employees—including those working in hospitals, schools, daycare centers, and universities—from wearing “signes ostentatoires” [conspicuous religious symbols], examples of which include hijabs, kippas, Sikh turbans, and “large” crucifixes. The legislation also proposes to amend Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, in order to enshrine the equality of men and women as the highest human right, to which other rights (e.g. freedom of religious expression) would be subordinated.

October 8th, 2013

The “good” and the “bad” Muslims of China

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The slim crescent that rose above the skyline on July 9th signifies the beginning of this year’s holy month of Ramadan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where I have been teaching for the last four years. Pious Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking, sex, swearing, and other unlawful behaviors from dawn to dusk, following the traditions of the Prophet to get closer to God. During this sacred month of spiritual renewal, the ritual of sharing food after sunset, known as Iftar, serves important social functions such as bringing families together and reinforcing community bonds. As the last strands of sunlight disappear from the horizon, many celebrate the day by enjoying a lavish dinner with friends and family. In the UAE, as everywhere else, Iftar parties have also become an opportunity for Muslims to reach out to non-Muslims and for non-Muslims to reciprocate the hospitality.

I have been fortunate enough to attend a number of Iftars parties this Ramadan, hosted by several institutions, both secular and religious. The most recent Iftar party that I attended was hosted by the Chinese Consulate General in Dubai, in a popular family restaurant situated on the legendary Sheikh Zayed Road. To strengthen the Unified Front and in the interest of building harmonious relationships among Chinese communities overseas, the Consul General extended invitations to more than 150 Chinese expatriates from various walks of life and different ethnic backgrounds, both Muslims and non-Muslims.

September 30th, 2013

Law’s fragile state

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Mark Fathi Massoud, Assistant Professor of Politics and Legal Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, examines the trials and tribulations of law in Sudan in his new book, Law’s Fragile State: Colonial, Authoritarian, and Humanitarian Legacies in Sudan. In an interview with Jadaliyya, Massoud speaks about his motivation to uncover the essence of how law—and lawlessness—operate in the context of fragile states. Massoud also elaborates on his topic in a blog post at the Critical Investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa Blog.

September 27th, 2013

Treating religions (un)equally

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Earlier this summer, The Immanent Frame published an off the cuff exchange about the State Department’s new initiative to engage religious communities in US diplomacy. Conversation and critiques are still going strong; Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, an original contributor to “Engaging religion at the Department of State,” has penned a commentary for Al Jazeera America in which she critiques US faith-based engagement abroad as a violation of the separation of church and state.

September 12th, 2013

CFP: Religion and the Liberal Order

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The Transatlantic Academy is seeking candidates to serve as resident Fellows from September 2014-June 2015 to examine the research theme, Religion and the Liberal Order.

August 21st, 2013

More takes on the Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives

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For those of you following The Immanent Frame‘s off the cuff discussion of the new State Department’s office of religious engagement, officially announced as the Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives, another perspective can be added into the mix.

August 16th, 2013

Engaging whose religion?

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In late July, The Immanent Frame published a set of reflections on the Department of State’s plans for a new office dedicated to engaging religion. Following an official announcement by Secretary Kerry on August 7th, scholars and policy commentators have continued to weigh in on the implications, challenges, and potential of the new Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives.

August 10th, 2013

Department of State launches Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives

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Following on talk of earlier plans to create a new “office of religious engagement,” the Department of State has formally launched the Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives.

July 31st, 2013

The religious dimension of Morsi’s mandate

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The Immanent Frame contributor Mbaye Lo writes at Mondoweiss on ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s claim of legitimacy and its underlying religious nature, drawing upon narratives from Islamic history.

July 31st, 2013

New report on religion and international relations

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working group on “international relations and religion,” convened by Michael Desch and Daniel Philpott, recently released released a detailed report.

July 30th, 2013

Engaging religion at the Department of State

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This past week, the US Department of State announced the creation of a new office that “will focus on engagement with faith-based organizations and religious institutions around the world to strengthen US development and diplomacy and advance America’s interests and values.” Citing widespread religious persecution and violence overseas, proponents of the new office of “religious engagement” hope to further institutionalize an official US commitment to globalize religious freedom, marginalize extremism, and promote interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance. Yet this initiative also raises concerns regarding the intersection of religious freedom, religious establishment, and foreign policy.

What are the prospects for the new office, and what are the potential implications of its efforts for the politics of religious diversity, both locally and transnationally? What assumptions about “religion” underlie these efforts, and what are the implications for civil society, including organizations and associations that do not self-identify as religious?

July 16th, 2013

Crisis in Egypt roundup

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The public protests and ouster of elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi by the Egyptian military followed by the appointment of interim President Adli Monsour left Egypt with continued protests, violence, and an uncertain future for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Islamist politics across the Middle East. The following roundup culls the various religious and political motivations and interests of multiple parties, both within and surrounding Egypt.

May 6th, 2013

CFP: Bridging Voices

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The British Council has recently announced the launch of Bridging Voices, a grants program aimed at promoting improved understanding of the role religion plays in public life and international affairs through a series of transatlantic academic and policy dialogues and outreach activities.

January 23rd, 2013

Global reflex

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As both Marcia Pally and David Gushee note, there is no historical reason why evangelicalism should identify with a single political orientation. There is also no global reason. Research on evangelicals in Asia, Africa, and Latin America is uncovering startling political diversity. Paul Freston, one of the most informed scholars on the subject, dismisses “facile equations of evangelicalism with conservative stances.” Historical and contemporary conditions, he writes, demonstrate “the distance of these actors—indeed, total independence of these actors—from the American evangelical right.”

December 14th, 2012

Morsi’s moves

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On November 21st, a Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took effect, bringing an end to eight days of particularly fierce fighting between the two.

December 13th, 2012

Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs

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A central source of support for the Social Science Research Council’s program on religion and the public sphere (including ongoing support for the efforts of The Immanent Frame), the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs “seeks to deepen understanding of religion as a critical but often neglected dimension of national and international policies and politics.” […]

December 6th, 2012

Conference on René Girard and international relations

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On May 23-24, 2013, the University of Central Lancashire will convene a conference on “Politics, Violence and the Sacred: Exploring René Girard’s thought in Security and International Studies.”

November 15th, 2012

The discourse of Islamic militancy

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Over at ISLAMiCommentary, TIF contributor Mbaye Lo sees a clear disconnect and calls for a retrospective analysis in the wake of the furor created by the film Innocence of Muslims.

November 13th, 2012

On the freedom of the concepts of religion and belief

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This short piece attempts to come at the current debate on law and religious freedom from two unusual angles. I end by looking at the strange and revealing positioning of “religion or belief” in current legislation in England and Wales. And I begin by putting a different spin on religious freedom by exploring the terrifying freedom of the concepts of religion and belief. We have never needed the rise of Al Qaeda, so-called Islamicism or a hardline religious right to terrify us with a resurgent specter of specifically religious (as opposed to purely “political”) “terror.” Instead of bearing down on us like some old specter of the Turk or Moor at Europe’s gates, the terror of religion emerges—or insurges (if “insurge” can be made into a verb)—from within the normative conceptualizations of religion in the so-called modern West.

October 18th, 2012

Elizabeth Hurd on reimagining religious freedom as resistance

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Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, co-Guest Editor of the TIF discussion series The politics of religious freedom, reflects on the sometimes paradoxical effects of the state promotion of religious freedom—and argues that Canada’s proposed Office of Religious Freedom should adopt a more nuanced, less top-down approach.

September 14th, 2012

Death in the Middle East: What happens next?

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On the 11th anniversary of the September 11, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt and U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya were attacked amidst protests over a trailer for a purported film entitled Innocence of Muslims.

September 11th, 2012

The secular as space, the secular as process: The 2012 UCSIA summer school

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At the end of August, the two of us joined approximately 30 scholars from around the world in Antwerp, Belgium for the 2012 Universitair Centrum Sint-Ignatius Antwerpen (UCSIA) Religion, Culture and Society Summer School. UCSIA annually invites select early-career researchers (doctoral and post-doctoral) and senior scholars for a weeklong program designed to stimulate interdisciplinary and international discussion on a theme, this year’s being “secularism(s) and religion in society.”

June 20th, 2012

Ethno-religious clashes in Myanmar

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Last week in Myanmar,  ethnic and religious clashes between majority-group Rakhine Buddhists and minority-group Rohingya Muslims left at least a dozen dead and thousands displaced.

June 19th, 2012

Is religion free?

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To this stimulating and learned series of posts I cannot add much about the genealogy of religious freedom or its fate in the US courts, never mind predict the consequences of judicial decisions, or even address a larger question raised by Winni Sullivan and others which, I take it, has to do with the general effects of submitting questions of religious practice to a particular kind of legal system, one that works by means of precedents, binding decisions, etc. I make two comments as an anthropologist.

June 19th, 2012

Muslim Brotherhood candidate wins Egyptian election

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The New York Times reports on the atmosphere in Cairo today, after news came in that Mohamed Morsi is the winner of the presidential race in Egypt.

June 19th, 2012

Tunisian modernities

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Over at the University of Notre Dame’s Contending Modernities blog, Michael Driessen takes lessons from the secular-Islamist negotiation happening in Tunisia.

June 15th, 2012

“Twin tolerations” today: An interview with Alfred Stepan

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Alfred Stepan is Wallace S. Sayre Professor of Government at Columbia University and founder and director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration, and Religion. He has written extensively on democratic transitions, military regimes, and the relationship between religion and democracy in countries throughout the world. His theory of the “twin tolerations,” which argues that healthy democracies require religious leaders to grant authority to elected officials, and that state authorities must not only guarantee freedom of private religious worship but allow democratic participation in civil and political society, has influenced political theorists, heads of state, and grassroots activists.

June 14th, 2012

Live online panel on Egypt elections

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This Friday, June 15, The Duke Islamic Studies Center’s Transcultural Islam Project is co-hosting a panel discussion on the upcoming Egyptian run-off elections.

June 12th, 2012

Council on Foreign Relations fellowship

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The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is currently accepting applications for the International Affairs Fellowship (IAF).

June 5th, 2012

Blurring the boundaries

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Four guided missiles packed with explosive material hurtled into the morning sky. Though the day was brilliant blue and cloudless, no one saw them coming. They were aimed at a nation that did not see itself at war. Moreover, it was a nation convinced that missiles fired in anger no longer posed a serious threat to its security. The weapons were conventional in the strict sense: they did not carry nuclear warheads.

June 1st, 2012

Multiculturalism in Europe

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After the rise of multicultural policies in the 1980s and 1990s, the winds have shifted in Europe. Terrorist attacks in Madrid, London, Norway, and, most recently, in Toulouse, have furthered the securitization of Islam across Europe, while increasing immigration (predominantly from Muslim countries) has caused societal tensions. As a result, existing ideas concerning multiculturalism, religious pluralism, and national authenticity are being challenged. Past policies of cordon sanitaire are no longer in full effect, as mainstream political parties have come to adopt some of the ideas of their populist and right-wing peers; witness outgoing president Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign rhetoric against immigration and Muslims following the strong showing by right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen.

We’ve invited a small handful of scholars to comment on the increasing influence of anti-immigration and anti-Islam ideas and parties across Europe and to offer their thoughts on how best to accommodate minority claims (especially those involving Islam) in a democratic and liberal Europe.

May 29th, 2012

Intolerance in Indonesia

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Last week at The New York Times, human rights advocate Benedict Rogers wrote an op-ed piece on the state of religious relations in Indonesia.

May 24th, 2012

Religious conflict in Nigeria?

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At GlobalPost, Heather Murdock explains that, for locals, conflict between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt” is not entirely about religion.

May 16th, 2012

Sunni-Shia discord on the rise?

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The Economist reported recently on the state of Sunni-Shia relations only a few years after a seemingly pivotal moment.

May 8th, 2012

Reading religious freedom in Sri Lanka

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As several contributors to this forum have pointed out, legal provisions regarding religious freedom do not emerge from history fully formed and self-interpreting. At their core, they are iterations of words and texts, (re)produced and (re)authorized by different persons or groups for different purposes. What they mean depends on local facts.

This contribution expands upon this observation by offering a different story about drafting religious rights in a particular place and time. I will show the ways in which religious rights, as rhetoric, serve not as apolitical instruments, but as indicia of political alliances; not as generic, universalizable norms, but as specific formulations of norms suited to particular moments and in service of particular political programs. In this version of the story, religious rights, rather than conclude conflict and harmonize societies, signpost disagreement.

May 3rd, 2012

United Methodist Church, Israel, and divestment

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Today at The New York TimesLaurie Goodstein reports on the United Methodist Church’s decision not to divest from companies that supply Israel with equipment used to enforce its control in the occupied Palestinian territories.

May 3rd, 2012

Misogyny and the Muslim woman

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At The Atlantic, Max Fisher considers the sources of misogyny in the Middle East in light of recent conversations surrounding Mona Eltahawy’s Foreign Policy piece on its prevalence across the region.

May 3rd, 2012

Secularism and the freedom to transform lives

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In this post I explore the case of Bangladesh: the state of secularism there and the tensions and polemics that accompany the pursuit of an ideal secular state and society. I do this by reflecting on reactions surrounding women’s turn to greater religious engagement fostered through their participation in Quranic discussion circles in Dhaka. In outlining some of the tensions underlying the reactions, I wish to draw attention to the stakes of remaining confined to a binary view of religion and secularism, especially as new religious forces and faces come into the public space with the intent of developing and transforming it.

May 2nd, 2012

Panchen Lama in Hong Kong

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On April 25th, 2012, Gyaltsen Norbu, the 11th Panchen Lama, delivered a speech for the first time outside of the Chinese mainland.

April 30th, 2012

Nahda’s return to history

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The Tunisian uprisings of December 2010 are often depicted in negative terms, as lacking leadership, ideology, and political organization. Nahda (the Tunisian Islamist movement that, after decades of exile and repression, won 40 percent of the seats in the elections of October 2011) members are now accused of working to turn Tunisia into a “sharia state,” in which religious freedom, women’s rights, and freedom of expression would cease to exist. While the fears of individuals and groups who disagree with Islamists have to be taken seriously, discussion of current changes needs to be based on a real engagement, not on caricature.

April 27th, 2012

Alawites, Alevis, and Assad

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n a recent article in The New RepublicSoner Cagaptay discusses how Syria’s sectarian divisions could exacerbate current divisions  in Turkey.

April 26th, 2012

The problem of translation: A view from India

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What is the politics of religious freedom? For the past decade and more, those who would like to see the active promotion of religious freedom at the “core” of foreign policy in the U.S. and now in Canada would have us understand that religious freedom is the foundation of democracy, the basis for political stability and first step to all other freedoms. The mission statement of the Office of International Religious Freedom in the U.S. Department of State links its promotion of religious freedom to human rights and to political “stability” for “all countries.” Referring to the establishment of a new Office of Religious Freedom within his government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in a statement to the United Nations last year, the Canadian UN Ambassador declared, “History has shown us that where religious freedom is strong, democratic freedom is strong.”

April 25th, 2012

Book launch: Rethinking Religion and World Affairs

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On Tuesday, May 1, the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs will host the launch of Rethinking Religion and World Affairs, featuring a panel discussion with the volume’s editors, Timothy Samuel Shah, Alfred Stepan, and Monica Duffy Toft, and three of its contributors, Michael Barnett, Thomas Farr, and Katherine Marshall.

April 18th, 2012

Contradictions of religious freedom and religious repression

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The collapse of the Soviet Union marked the end of seventy years of anti-religious policies—of a period in which religious expression was severely curtailed and religious institutions were always controlled, at times co-opted, and at other times brutally repressed, with the aim of effecting the demise of religion, an aim which was never fully realized. The post-1991 era was radically different, at least in those newly independent countries that adopted and implemented liberal laws regarding religious expression and organization. It might be expected that religious leaders and practitioners would have a straightforwardly positive view of this widening scope for religious activities, but this turned out not always to be the case.

April 17th, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to Cuba

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Last week at The New Republic, Carlos Eire reviewed the Pope’s recent visit to Cuba.

April 12th, 2012

On the secularist-Islamist divide

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At Al Jazeera EnglishElizabeth Shakman Hurd gives an abridged history of the past half-century of Tunisian politics, and relays the Enahddan notion that the revolution in Tunisia is neither unambiguously Islamist nor secularist.

April 11th, 2012

The year of the Islamist

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David Rohde, in Reuters’ Analysis and Opinion blog, designates 2012 as the year of the Islamist and discusses the likelihood that Islamists will remain in power in Tunisia and Egypt.

April 5th, 2012

New Peace Brief on the desecration of the Qur’an

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Following reports of NATO personnel burning copies of the Qu’ran in Afghanistan, the United States Institute of Peace convened a closed-door roundtable of scholars, practitioners, government officials, and policy experts to discuss the implications.