Disciplining the Violent

buddhist monkMonks in Myanmar encouraging violence, while that image challenges common assumptions about those who identify as Buddhists, accounts of such events often actually reinforce those assumptions. On April 30 people identified as Buddhists burned mosques and homes of a minority group identified as Muslim, reportedly resulting in injuries and one death. A recent BBC account of this ongoing conflict in Myanmar reiterates the trope that Buddhists follow a non-violent tradition. The author, a fellow at Brasenose College of Oxford who has studied conflict in Sri Lanka, drew parallels with Sri Lanka to argue that political interests corrupted the ideal teachings of nonviolence and justified violent action to protect position and power. Continue reading “Disciplining the Violent”

Islamophobia

Beck-brotherhood1The recent round of criticism of FOX News’s online interview of Reza Aslan has got me thinking a little more about this charge of Islamophobia that you often hear leveled by those on the political left — as in those who criticized any analysis of this episode that failed to out the FOX network (or other media personalities) as stirring the embers of hatred among some segments of the U.S. population of Muslims, either at home or abroad. While the bizarre questions posed to Aslan about not disclosing an identity that he in fact routinely discusses in the media — insinuating, it would seem, that some worldwide conspiracy would finally be evident if the American public knew that a Muslim author had written a book on Jesus?! — or the breath-taking conspiracy theories of some commentators on the political right (such as Glenn Beck, in action above) are quite troubling to me in a number of ways, I’m not so sure about this label of Islamophobia.  Continue reading “Islamophobia”

Misplaced Agency

Reza AslanThe assumptions within the assertions of identification in the Reza Aslan/Fox News interview have received some attention this week, including Craig Martin’s “Identity Claims Play out on Fox” and Russell McCutcheon‘s “Are You Buying It?” both on this blog. A different comment from Aslan, though, grabbed my attention (unfortunately not for its uniqueness). In addition to emphasizing his academic credentials to defend his study of the historical Jesus, published as Zealot, he argues that his identification as Muslim is irrelevant because his book “overturns pretty much everything that Islam also thinks about Jesus.” Since his work is not trying to promote Islamic orthodoxy, it seems that his religious identification is irrelevant.

Continue reading “Misplaced Agency”

We Can’t All Be Exceptional

Picture 12National Public Radio — yes, I’ve been listening to it while driving to work in the morning and yes, I do contribute — has started a year long series on what they’re simply calling sacred music — listen to the first installment here. It’s on an actor in Hollywood — Ben Youcef (pictured in the middle, above) — originally from Algeria, who is also a muezzin (one who calls other Muslims to prayer). Continue reading “We Can’t All Be Exceptional”

How Devoted Are You?

As soon as the topic of religion enters our understanding of current affairs it allows one to begin to judge the degree to which a person is or is not supposedly involved in politics and history, and thereby judge whether they are safe (i.e., like me) or not (i.e., not like me). While it may be obvious on the political right, those on the left employ much the same vocabulary and judgments, but we often don’t seem to see it. Continue reading “How Devoted Are You?”

Marketing and Competing Essentialisms

Picture 2An Idaho company has demonstrated the marketing power of a little religious studies knowledge, producing Jihawg Ammo, which is coated in pork-infused paint. The company asserts, “With Jihawg Ammo, you don’t just kill an Islamist terrorist, you also send him to hell. That should give would-be martyrs something to think about before they launch an attack.” The company tags the product “Peace through pork” because it “promotes peace through the natural deterrence of pork infused ballistic coating.” Continue reading “Marketing and Competing Essentialisms”