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Swahili Poetry of Commitment by Ustadh Mahmoud Mau
The present volume is a pioneering collection of poetry by the outstanding Kenyan poet, intellectual and imam Ustadh Mahmmoud Mau (1952 - ) from Lamu island, once an Indian Ocean hub, now on the edge of the nation state. By means of poetry in Arabic script, the poet raises his voice against social ills and injustices troubling his community on Lamu. The book situates Mahmoud Mau’s oeuvre within transoceanic exchanges of thoughts so characteristic of the Swahili coast. It shows how Swahili Indian Ocean intellectual history inhabits an individual biography and writings while also portraying a unique African Muslim thinker and his poetry in the local language, which has so often been neglected as major site for critical discourse in Islamic Africa. The authors’ approaches highlight the relevance of local epistemologies as archives for understanding the relationship between reform Islam and local communities in contemporary Africa.
The selected poetry is clustered around the following themes: jamii: societal topical issues, ilimu: the importance of education, huruma: social roles and responsabilities, matukio: biographical events and maombi: supplications. Prefaced by Prof. Rayya Timamy (Nairobi University), the volume includes contributions by Jasmin Mahazi, Kai Kresse and Kadara Swaleh, Annachiara Raia and Clarissa Vierke.
Serendipities in the Production of Danish Islams
Author: Jesper Petersen
In the last decade a number of women-led mosques have emerged in Europe and North America. In The Making of a Mosque with Female Imams Jesper Petersen documents the serendipitous, yet predictable, emergence of the Mariam Mosque in Copenhagen. The study first demonstrates that individuals’ facing the unpredictable plays a decisive role in social processes. This leads to an investigation of how serendipities are erased when narratives are erected retrospectively in the form of commodified products, autobiographical narratives, and research. Furthermore, Petersen conceptualizes non-Muslims’ theological productions of Islam – Islam without the worship of Allah, so to speak – and demonstrates how this influences Muslim productions of Islam.
Dynamics of Islam in the Modern World scrutinizes and analyzes Islam in context. It posits Muslims not as independent and autonomous, but as relational and interactive agents of change and continuity who interplay with Islamic(ate) sources of self and society as well as with resources from other traditions. Representing multiple disciplinary approaches, the contributors to this volume discuss a broad range of issues, such as secularization, colonialism, globalization, radicalism, human rights, migration, hermeneutics, mysticism, religious normativity and pluralism, while paying special attention to three geographical settings of South Asia, the Middle East and Euro-America.
Is there a “return to the religious” in post-Communist Eastern Europe that differs from religious trends in the West and the Middle East? Looking beyond immediate events, this book situates public talk about religion and religious practice in the longue durée of the two entangled pasts —Byzantine and Ottoman—that implicitly underpin contemporary politics. Islam, Christianity, and Secularism situates Bulgaria in its wider region, indicating ongoing Middle Eastern, Russian, and other European influences shaping patterns of religious identity. The chapters point to overlapping and complementary views of ethno-religious belonging and communal practices among Orthodox Christians and Muslims throughout the region. Contributors are Dale F. Eickelman, Simeon Evstatiev, Kristen Ghodsee, Galina Evstatieva, Ilia Iliev, Daniela Kalkandjieva, Plamen Makariev, Momchil Metodiev, Daria Oreshina, Ivan Zabaev and Angeliki Ziaka.

Abstract

The chapter tackles the patterns of religion and identity in the Balkans with a special emphasis on Bulgaria to foreground the concept of secularities instead of the “fixed” notion of a single path of secularism matching the classical Western ideal. Discussing the religious underpinnings of Balkan secularities and the lack thereof, we draw on Benedict Anderson’s notion of imagined communities, which marked a new way of using the term “imagined” in understanding politics and political action. Anderson’s concept is straightforward, arguing that ideas of political community are not given but are actively constructed, and contested, by those who hold them, and historically situated. Anderson’s insightful term was readily expanded by analogy from describing how nations took shape to the analysis of religious experience—not only for Christians and Muslims but also for other faiths. There has been resistance to use of the term “imagined” because it suggests to some an unreality. However, as the chapter argues, the term highlights how social and political forms get shaped by individuals and collectivities to become social facts. The notion of politics as centered on power relations and interests alone cannot account for how members of a society interact, cooperate, and sustain social cohesion. Overt political struggle is framed by implicit understandings of belonging and, of course, the arbitrary enforcement of what is permitted and forbidden. Pursuing this struggle about people’s imaginations, the chapter elucidates the relevance of two concepts invoking both Byzantine and Ottoman notions implicitly underpinning modern politics—symphonic and milletic secularism.

In: Islam, Christianity, and Secularism in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe

Abstract

On 10 November 1989, the removal of Todor Zhivkov from the state and party leadership in Bulgaria marked the end of its Communist regime. In the religious sphere, the political change shook the decades-old monopoly of militant atheism, thus creating conditions for a return of religion to the public square. Among other things, this process stimulated a restitution of buildings and real estate which the Communist regime had taken away from religious communities. A set of laws adopted in the early 1990s instigated the mass return of arable lands, forests, industries as well as office and residential buildings to physical persons and judicial entities. Being major landholders before the Communist rule, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the Muslim community benefited the most from this process.

In 2012, the restitution of the economically valuable tangible assets to religious denominations was over. Regarded as part of the restoration of historical justice, this process was generally welcomed by society in post-Communist Bulgaria. In 2013, however, people opposed the attempts of some political forces to spread the restitution over religious edifices ‘nationalized’ by the former totalitarian regime under the pretext of their preservation as monuments of national history and world cultural heritage. In this regard, Bulgarians faced difficulties that many contemporary secular societies have experienced in dealing with their religious cultural heritage. As this heritage bears special cultural and historical value for both the public and the sacred realms, the questions of its ownership and management often provoke tensions and conflicts between the corresponding religious institutions and the state authorities. In the case of post-atheist countries, this process is additionally complicated by the legacy of the totalitarian past. By presenting the debate of Bulgarian society over its religious cultural heritage, the chapter sheds light on this particular national case.

In: Islam, Christianity, and Secularism in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe
Author: Ilia Iliev

Abstract

The Muslim community in Bulgarian Muslim villages share many of the characteristics of local Orthodox communities. It encompasses both explicitly religious people and more secular ones. The non-believers and the distant members get involved due to the symbolic sacrifices of their more religious relatives, while the virtuosi of religion get entangled and tempered in the small everyday practices of deference and respect offered by other villagers. After several centuries of cohabitation, Muslim and Orthodox Christian communities in Bulgaria share some important implicit notions about the ideal religious community.

In: Islam, Christianity, and Secularism in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe

Abstract

Muslims in Bulgaria—male and female—struggle over the “authentic” meaning of hijab against the backdrop of modern secular society by explaining it as a religious duty. My aim is to reveal the role of major Sunni Muslim views on hijab as part of the ongoing broader process shaping a shared Islamic identity in post-Communist Bulgaria. The chapter traces its multiple meanings among interpretations proposed by Sunni religious authorities, domestic cultural codes, and the perceptions of veiling by Bulgarian Muslim women themselves. The study analyzes two types of evidence. First, it brings to the fore the discourses as documented by two periodicals with the same name, issued by the Chief Muftiship of the Muslim Denomination in the Republic of Bulgaria—the newspaper and the more recent bilingual magazine Myusyulmani/Müslümanlar (“Muslims”), issued simultaneously in both Bulgarian and Turkish. The examination of this magazine’s issues 1999–2016 indicates that nearly 20 percent of the articles deal with topics related to Muslim women, with one-third of the publications written by Muslim women or representing their opinions. The second type of evidence is ethnographic, drawing on fieldwork among Bulgarian Muslims in several localities of the Rhodopes Mountains. Finally, the chapter highlights attitudes toward the parliament’s passage of the 2016 Law Prohibiting the Wearing of Clothing Concealing the Face (known as the “burqa ban”). In sum, the study shows how Muslims are seeking to rediscover what they believe is the authentic meaning of hijab through a process of re-Islamization—a “piety movement” for stricter observance of Islamic rules. The need to return to “true” Islamic teachings is often publicly explained as a fundamental human right for practicing religion without state interference.

In: Islam, Christianity, and Secularism in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe
In: Islam, Christianity, and Secularism in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe
Author: Angeliki Ziaka

Abstract

The present chapter discusses religious education and whether it advances co-existence, cultivates critical thinking in childhood and youth, and facilitates religious diversity. Its fundamental proposition is that religion and the co-existence of religions in the public sphere is again becoming imperative due to rapid changes in Europe and throughout the world, the “return of religion”—mainly through Islam—and the growing impoverishment of many regions. Religion as a subject matter in public schools has become the focus of heated debate. The chapter focuses on the Greek case against the backdrop of other major European models of religious education. It looks at the political and ideological debates on religious education, the new curricula and teachers’ study-guides, and the place of Christianity and Islam in the public and educational domains. Subsequently this chapter provides a brief presentation of the teaching of Islam in Western Thrace, an area of Greece where various Muslim groups account for about a third of the population, focusing on the way Islam is taught in Muslim-minority schools, mosques, and lately in public schools. It proposes an innovative operational program for education and lifelong learning that would benefit Christian and Muslim teachers of religion and religious officials in Thrace and elsewhere. This learning program is designed to bring Christian and Muslim Greek citizens together through the course of religious education (RE) and joint training in an intercultural process of religious education.

In: Islam, Christianity, and Secularism in Bulgaria and Eastern Europe