Sociology and Anthropology

Sociology and Anthropology

More Than the Ummah: Religious and National Identity in the Muslim World

Many scholars argue that Muslims are more likely to identify themselves in religious terms than as members of particular national political communities. As such, since they are more likely to claim a transnational, religious identity, they should consistently show weaker claims of national, regional, and municipal identity; be less willing to fight for their country; and show lower levels of national pride, regardless of country, region, and majority or minority status. Using data from the 1995-1997 World Values Survey from ten countries, which were supplemented by data from Zogby International and the Pew Research Center, I found that while Muslims tend to be very religious, they do not embrace transnationalism or lack strong national feelings to an exceptional degree when compared with non-Muslims. In fact, many are proud of their country and willing to fight for it. O Mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). (Qur’an 49:13)1


Citizens Abroad: Emigration and the State in the Middle East and North Africa

This book explores a critical and often neglected aspect of emigration from Middle Eastern countries. Rather than focusing on the policies of the states receiving Middle Eastern immigrants, Brand’s research studies the policies of those Middle Eastern states from which emigration originates. She attributes this neglect to the chauvinism of scholars writing from the Americas and Western Europe who have made their own countries the central actors of their research. Her other theoretical contribution is to challenge and deconstruct simplistic and outdated conceptions of state sovereignty. She selects four case  studies (viz., Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Jordan), noting each one’s varied levels of involvement in the expatriates’ lives, the emigrants’ different destinations, and the dissimilar relationships between the expatriates and their countries of origin. By bringing together four disparate cases in one book, Brand addresses the larger question of how emigration from states impacts the originating states’ conceptions of their own sovereignty.  

Animals in Islamic Tradition and Muslim Cultures

In his peculiarly self-abasing preface to Animals in Islamic Tradition and Muslim Cultures, Richard Foltz speculates that the audience for his book will probably consist of “non-Muslims who are sympathetic to Muslim culture and interested in learning more about what it has to offer in terms of animal rights” (p. xii). This appears to be less of a prediction than a presupposition guiding the book. Appropriately, Animals in Islamic Tradition is a very broad outline of representations of non-human animals from the pre-Islamic era to the present in as many fields as a 192-page book can encompass. As a result, his study tends to be kaleidoscopic, treating each subject in a very general manner, hastily running through the basics and garnishing them with selected curiosities. For perhaps the same reason, the book is written in a very simple style, neither extremely engaging nor boringly obscure, and tends to provide summary rather than analysis. 

Sufism in the West

This edited volume, along with David Westerlund’s edited Sufism in Europe and North America (RoutledgeCurzon: 2004), are pioneering works, since the systematic study of this topic is still in its infancy. Its introduction and nine chapters bring together anthropological, historical, Islamicist, and sociological perspectives on questions of identity as regards Sufism’s double marginalization within a non-Muslim majority environment and within the broader Islamic discourse. The Sufis’ need to position themselves against and reconcile themselves with a variety of others causes western Sufis to employ a fascinating kaleidoscope of strategies ranging from assimilation to confrontation and appropriation.

The Cultural Roots of American Islamicism

Perceptions of the “other” are a powerful force in day-to-day human interaction, as well as in domestic and international politics. Since the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism almost three decades ago, many scholars have appropriated and debated his thesis about the reality-changing power of European (and American) discourses on Muslims and Arabs. In the book under review, Timothy Marr, professor of English in the American Studies Curriculum department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, simultaneously broadens and criticizes Said’s ideas.

Palestinians Born in Exile: Diaspora and the Search for a Homeland

There is a striking lack of studies on the Palestinian diaspora. Undoubtedly the pioneering work of Edward Said (“Reflections on Exile,” in Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures, eds. Russell Ferguson [The MIT Press: 1990]) on exile and Rashid Khalidi (Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness [Columbia University Press: 1997]) both touch on many of the related issues of collective memory, cultural identity, and the relationship between the “center” (the homeland) and the diasporic communities and how these issues manifested themselves in the Palestinian case. More recently, Abbas Shiblak (Reflections on Palestinian Diaspora in Europe [2000]), Sari Hanafi (Here and There: Analyses of the Relationship between Diaspora and the Centre [2001: in Arabic]), and Helena Schulz and Juliane Hammer (The Palestinian Diaspora: Formation of Identities and Politics of Homeland [Routledge: 2003]) explore different aspects of the Palestinian diaspora. 

Towards Understanding the Relation between Religions and Cultures in Southeast Asia

In the face of modernity and its erosion of traditional values, we need to preserve something of the wisdom of traditional culture. The traditional cultures have taken thousands of years to evolve and  are necessary to preserve. They are the carriers of the accumulated wisdom of the people since Antiquity. They give man a sense of belonging, acceptance, and assurance. They enshrine the values, which define meaning, guide, motivate, and lead people to fulfillment. We find cultural traditions still alive in the rural communities of Southeast Asia. It is to these communities that we need to turn to guide us on our road to the future.

Muslims in Europe: Precedent and Present

Muslims and Islam have been at the center of some of the most vital post-9/11 debates. In Europe, the controversy has intensified due to the conflation of the aforementioned discussions and the arguments currently raging in Europe surrounding European identity. In such parleys, the assumption has been that Muslims in Europe are an alien presence with a short and temporary history. This article seeks to demonstrate that historically speaking, this is not necessarily a foregone conclusion. The integration of Muslims and the recognition of Islam may take place through a variety of different ways owing to the specificities of individual European nation-states. However, they will need to consider the past precedents of the Muslim presence in order to appropriately organize the present and in looking to the future.

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