Context Matters (Sometimes)

Picture 11So many articles have already been written on the awful events that transpired in Paris this past week — articles flying fast and furious around Facebook, including my own wall — that there didn’t seem much to be added by penning yet another post here at the Edge. Continue reading “Context Matters (Sometimes)”

Supporting Jihadists

575px-Kalashnikov_AK-47_assault_rifles_lay_stacked_in_a_warehouse_in_Bosnia_and_Herzegovinia_awaiting_transportation_to_a_steel_works_for_smelting_MOD_45148207When Sam Harris argues that we need to “defend them [nominal Muslims],” he fails to realize that the way he constructs Islam actually defends the ideas of those he labels “jihadists”. On Bill Maher’s HBO show a few days ago, Harris joined Ben Affleck and others in a robust discussion about representations of Islam, which followed Maher’s controversial comments a week earlier (which were the topic of Reza Aslan’s generalizing critique of generalizations on CNN which I discussed on Friday). While Harris and Maher both employed the language of “facts,” assertions like the following reflect their choices more than any facts. Continue reading “Supporting Jihadists”

Bill Maher and Reza Aslan, Two Peas in a Pod

800px-President_Megawati_Sukarnoputri_-_IndonesiaA scholar, a comedian, and two CNN anchors. While they contrasted their assertions vehemently, were they really so different? Reza Aslan’s take down of Bill Maher on CNN Tonight on Monday focused on Maher’s “unsophisticated” oversimplification of Muslims (which CNN anchors Don Lemon and Alisyn Camerota continued in their repeated generalization of “Muslim countries”). But, to attack them for oversimplifying, Aslan used his own problematic oversimplifications. Continue reading “Bill Maher and Reza Aslan, Two Peas in a Pod”

Can a State Be Fundamentalist?

Following the recent Supreme Court decision on Hobby Lobby, this image — created by a conservative young woman who wanted to signal defiance to American liberals — received a lot of attention:

twitter gun bible

One response was to point out that this is little different from other forms of “religious fundamentalism.” The story — posted by a friend of mine on Facebook with the comment “Checkmate” — posted a photo comparison with commentary: Continue reading “Can a State Be Fundamentalist?”

Consequential Maps

second rel mapThis recent map making the social media rounds depicts the runner-up religions for each U.S. state, based on data from the US Religious Census project. NPR, among others, has discussed the map, attempting to explain the anomalies in the map. Why is South Carolina’s second largest religion listed as Bahai and Tennessee’s Judaism when every other southeastern state is Islam? Why are Delaware and Arizona the only states with Hinduism as the second largest religion? Continue reading “Consequential Maps”

Who Supports Persecution?

Hadhrat_Mirza_Ghulam_Ahmad2The persecution of Ahmadis has hit the news again with the killing of an American Ahmadi doctor in Pakistan last week while he was volunteering in an Ahmadi hospital. Having written on the issues of labels in relation to the Ahmadi before at the Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog, I found the careful phrasing of the Reuters article about the shooting of the doctor impressive. Describing the Ahmadi as “a group that says it is Muslim but whose religion is rejected by the state,” I appreciated the precision with which the author acknowledged who described the Ahmadi as Muslim and who rejected that label. This phrasing is similar to what I have advocated generally. To acknowledge that labels are both contested and consequential by stating with precision who applies and contests particular labels is imperative. Continue reading “Who Supports Persecution?”

Islam, Islamic, Islamist

4998846448_711a839455_mRecently, Omid Safi, a professor at UNC Chapel Hill, advanced several points about the identifying labels commonly used in memorialization, including the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and news accounts. He responds to one question posed to him about critiques of labels, “What should we call it when acts of terrorism are committed by Muslims?” by explaining his concern with the application of the “Islamic terrorist” label, Continue reading “Islam, Islamic, Islamist”

A Slap in Which Face?

Ayaan-Hirsi-AliHave you followed the controversy at Bandeis University over its invitation of Ayaan Hirsi Ali (the former Dutch parliamentarian and outspoken critic of, for example, what she sees as the mistreatment of women in Islam or Islam’s role in Europe) to receive an honorary degree this year? Continue reading “A Slap in Which Face?”

“It’s Not a Religion”

Picture 9The latest installment of the “religion” wars (i.e., over what gets to count as, and receive the social perks of, religion) comes to us from right in the middle of Tennessee. The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, whose construction began in the summer of 2010 after heated disputes over whether it should even be allowed to be built, is in the news again, with its hopes to add a cemetery to its property. Predictably, perhaps, local opponents are trying to stop it in court. Continue reading ““It’s Not a Religion””

It’s Not Fair!

lensA brief news story on Alabama Public Radio recently discussed the delay of an Alabama State School Board vote on social studies textbook adoption because of some complaints that several of the texts demonstrated bias. The groups petitioning for the exclusions, including the Eagle Forum of Alabama and Act for America asserted that several texts contained anti-Christian and pro-Muslim statements. Continue reading “It’s Not Fair!”