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This chapter considers Rushdie’s columns, essays, and criticism to investigate the wider social, cultural, and political landscape with which his works engage. A prolific essayist, Rushdie has commented on key moments and events. These range from his own position as a diasporic Indian living in Britain to subcontinental politics, such as the assassination of Indira Gandhi, violence in Kashmir, and new emergent forms of racism in Britain. The chapter focuses especially on the collections, Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981–1991 and Step Across This Line: Collected Non-Fiction, 1992–2002, and columns and pieces he has written subsequently, and considers Rushdie’s role in internationalizing British literature and academia and his contributions to debates on race in Britain.
“Origin Myths,” explores how literary historians narrated the origins of Persian and Urdu languages and literary traditions. I challenge the nationalist narratives around these traditions, of Iranian continuity and Indo-Muslim rupture, which remain dominant today. Tracing the reception of evolutionary theories and Orientalist philology in Iran and India, I analyze fundamental differences in nationalist thought in the two contexts. Iranians articulated a vision of linear language history, emphasizing continuity with pre-Islamic precursors to modern Persian which the addition of an Arabic element did not fundamentally change. On the other hand, Indian Muslims offered a contrary account of Urdu’s origins, emphasizing rupture with the pre-Islamic past and the constitutive role of Persian, Arabic, and Turkish in Urdu’s formation. Through a comparative reading of these "origin myths" I demonstrate how historically contingent the dominant narratives around Persian and Urdu were.
Chapter 9 explores the recent re-politicisation of religion in France in more detail and finds that it was less linked to a revival of Catholicism than to the emergence of a new identity cleavage in French society, which itself is partly rooted in France’s rapid secularisation and Catholicism’s demise. Under the pressure of this new identity divide between cosmopolitans and communitarians, France’s political system has undergone a fundamental transformation, leading to a new bipolarity between the liberal-cosmopolitan camp of Macron’s La République en Marche and the populist-communitarian camp around the Rassemblement National and Éric Zemmour.
Based on the theoretical foundations established in Chapter 2, Chapter 3 presents the book’s overall argument. In response to the research questions formulated in the Introduction it makes four key claims. First, that far from being the result of reignited religious culture wars, the surge of right-wing populism in the West has been driven by the emergence of a new identity cleavage between cosmopolitans and communitarians. Second, that to capitalise on this new divide, right-wing populists employ references to Christianity in the context of a new brand of white identity politics as a secularised cultural identity marker, but often remain distanced from Christian values, beliefs and institutions. Third, that this strategy tends to be most successful amongst irreligious voters or non-practising ‘cultural Christians’ whereas practising Christians often remain comparatively ‘immune’ to right-wing populist appeals. And fourth, that the existence and strength of this ‘religious immunity’ against the populist right critically depends on the availability of a ‘Christian alternative’ in the political landscape and on churches’ and faith leaders’ willingness and ability to create a social taboo around the populist right. These four claims constitute the theoretical cornerstones of this book’s overall argument and serve as an underlying structure for each empirical case study.
Chapter 11 explores France’s Catholics’ reactions to the religiously laden references of the Rassemblement National (RN) and Éric Zemmour. It finds that in spite of historical animosities and the abiding policy clashes between the far right and Catholic values, beliefs and institutions identified in Chapter 10, French Catholics’ traditional religious immunity to the far right has begun to erode since the mid-2010s. Whilst this development chronologically coincided with the emergence of the conservative Catholic movement around the Manif pour Tous, the analysed evidence suggests that Catholics’ electoral opening towards the populist right was primarily driven by political and religious supply-side factors. In particular, the narrowing of electoral alternatives for Catholics and the softening of the bishops’ language against the populist right, in the context of the church’s gradual shift from a politically engaged national church, towards a more inward-looking minority church, have contributed to the relative dédiabolisation of the RN and Zemmour amongst Catholics.
Chapter 6 analyses the Alternative für Deutschland’s (AfD) use of religious themes in more detail. Relying on several dozen elite AfD leaders, mainstream party politicians and religious authorities in Germany, it shows how the AfDs renewed reference to Christianity is not necessarily representative of a return of religiosity to society, but rather of the attempt of a comparatively secular party to employ Christianity as a secularised national identity marker against Islam. In particular, AfD policies and ideas of Christian identity are revealed to stand in strong conflict with traditional Christian doctrine as formulated by the German Protestant and Catholic churches, the AfD’s leadership and membership to be disproportionately irreligious, and its attitude towards religious institutions to be characterised by a strong anti-clerical sentiment and hostility towards the system of ‘benevolent neutrality’. All of this suggests that the self-proclaimed ‘defender of the Christian Occident’ might, in fact, be Germany’s most secular party.
The Introduction sets the scene, formulates the questions the book will seek to answer and provides a brief overview of the general argument. It begins by taking the reader through an exploration of the paradoxical expressions of the relationship between right-wing populism and religion within Western democracies in recent years, laying the foundation for the way in which the book will challenge several widespread assumptions about the role religion has to play in populist politics today. During this foundational stage, the four guiding questions that structure and drive the thesis of the book are thus established: What are the social and demographic roots behind the rise of right populist movements and their new brand of identity politics in Western democracies? How and why does religion feature in right-wing populist rhetoric and strategies? How do Christian communities react to national populists’ religiously laden rhetoric? And what is the role of mainstream parties and religious leaders in shaping the relationship between religion and right-wing populism? After establishing these question, the book proceeds to briefly outlining the books general argument and overall structure.
Scheherazade is the central trope that governs Salman Rushdie’s depictions of women. For Rushdie, who was raised on The Arabian Nights, she was the strong woman figure whom he admired the most. Most of his women characters are made in her image and are strong, wily survivors. They are storytellers who, by their wit and wisdom, manage to save themselves, their cultures, and countries through extremely difficult times. Rushdie’s women are drawn admiringly as strong women: Padma the writer’s muse, Amina Sinai the matriarch, and Indira Gandhi the politician in Midnight’s Children; Omar Khayyam’s fawning mothers in Shame; and all the strong women in The Satanic Verses – the Prophet’s wife, Khadija, and the Sufayan sisters, Aurora Zogoiby, and Qara Köz. For Rushdie, Scheherazade herself is the strongest, most admired woman, as we can see in his most recent collection of essays.
Chapter 10 examines the French far rights references to both Catholicism and laïcité in greater detail. Based on several dozen interviews with right-wing populist politicians, mainstream party representatives and faith leaders it reveals how the French far right rediscovered both religion and secularism as political wedge-issues and cultural identity markers against Islam. However, instead of a rapprochement with Christian policy positions, ethics and institutions, Chapter 10 finds open clashes between the Rassemblement National and Zemmour on the one hand and Frances Catholic Church on the other over social policy, the populist right’s identitarian conception of Christendom, and its secularist reading of laïcité, all of which suggested a further secularisation of Christian symbols in the hands of the populist right rather than a Catholic revival in French politics.
Because textbooks in Egypt are centrally developed and unified across all schools, they represent a critical resource for studying state-sponsored discourses directed at the majority of Egyptians enrolled in national education. This chapter explains how national belonging is articulated and justified in school textbooks, what national glories are celebrated and how the route to progress is articulated. It describes the place the figure of the leader, the army and Islam take up in these narratives and explores how neoliberalism and active citizenship are articulated in these narratives. The chapter highlights the striking ways in which textbook discourses have utilized Islam and their limited attempts at legitimizing the ideological directions of the regime in terms of privatization, austerity, the general neoliberal orientation or geopolitical alliances. In outlining differences between textbooks, it addresses the ways in which education functions as a space in which negotiations and accommodation take place between different social forces.
Three Islamist parties (AKP, Muslim Brotherhood, and Ennahda) won elections and came to power in three predominantly Muslim countries – Turkey, Egypt, and Tunisia – in recent decades. After coming to power, these parties followed different trajectories. Ennahda in Tunisia adhered to democratic principles, while the AKP and the Muslim Brotherhood did not. Why? Is Islamism (and Islam) at odds with democracy as skeptics claim? This chapter introduces the central questions of the book and three parties that comprise its subject. It shows that Islamist parties are not monoliths and are comprised of groups with different understandings of democracy. The chapter argues that Islamists often agree on the centrality of elections for ideological and strategic reasons, although they disagree on the norms underpinning electoral politics and what democracy means. It then identifies two main wings within mainstream Islamist parties: electoral Islamists, who carry majoritarian and exclusionary tendencies, and liberal Islamists, who commit to pluralist and inclusionary politics. The chapter concludes with a discussion on data and methods used in the study.
Drawing on approaches from the history of emotions, Eve Tignol investigates how they were collectively cultivated and debated for the shaping of Muslim community identity and for political mobilisation in north India in the wake of the Uprising of 1857 until the 1940s. Utilising a rich corpus of Urdu sources evoking the past, including newspapers, colonial records, pamphlets, novels, letters, essays and poetry, she explores the ways in which writing took on a particular significance for Muslim elites in North India during this period. Uncovering different episodes in the history of British India as vignettes, she highlights a multiplicity of emotional styles and of memory works, and their controversial nature. The book demonstrates the significance of grief as a proactive tool in creating solidarities and deepens our understanding of the dynamics behind collective action in colonial north India.
Chapter 1 introduces the theory of Islamic constitutionalism and examines the popularity of Islamic constitutional clauses in political life and how they originated along with constitution making in the Muslim world. It describes the constitutional history in four monarchies: Tunisia, the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and Iran. The chapter demonstrates that the idea of "Islamic constitutionalism" itself originated in parallel to, and not in isolation from, the idea of modern European "constitutional democracy," beginning with the Ottoman and Persian "constitutions" of the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, respectively, partly as a defense mechanism in the face of ubiquitous "Europeanization" of politics. As such, it traces how and why, in an era of European colonial domination, the constitution becomes the focal point in the state where the negotiation or balancing between "Islam" and "liberal" democracy takes place. It is thus the starting point for realizing the twin popular ambitions – of rights and Islam.
Having previously investigated the political and religious milieux of the north and the south of the Arabian Peninsula, this chapter sheds some light on the history of the Ḥijāz at the time of the rise of Islam. It aims to answer the following questions: what factors made the Ḥijāz a favourable environment for the emergence of a third scriptural monotheism? What was the religious context of sixth- and seventh-century Ḥijāz? What picture emerges from a comparative reading of the epigraphical and literary sources? The chapter discusses the polytheistic milieu of pre-Islamic Arabia immediately after the introduction. This discussion includes an analysis of the Qurʾānic passages which mention pagan idols, and argues the case for the existence of a henotheist Ḥijāz at the end of the sixth century. In the third section, an overview of the scriptural communities documented in the Ḥijāz is given. These scriptural groups heavily influenced and shaped the rise of Islam, as evident from even a superficial reading of the Qur’ān. Finally, section four analyses Muḥammad’s prophetic career.
State recognition of Islam in Muslim countries invites ﬁerce debate from scholars and politicians alike, some of whom assume an inherent conﬂict between Islam and liberal democracy. Analyzing case studies and empirical data from several Muslim-majority countries, Ahmed and Abbasi ﬁnd, counterintuitively, that in many Muslim countries, constitutional recognition of Islam often occurs during moments of democratization. Indeed, the insertion of Islam in a constitution is frequently accompanied by an expansion, not a reduction, in constitutional human rights, with case law from higher courts in Egypt and Pakistan demonstrating that potential tensions between the constitutional pursuit of human rights, liberal democracy and Islam are capable of judicial resolution. The authors also argue that colonial history was pivotal in determining whether a country adopted the constitutional path of Islam or secularism partly explaining why Islam in constitutional politics survived and became more prevalent in Muslim countries that were colonized by the British, and not those colonized by the French or Soviets.
Chapter 5 describes a phenomenon only found in the Sahara known as sell, or bloodsucking and the extraction of essential life forces, arguing that accusations of sell and their related events thus offer an opportunity to view local conceptions of social identity and related fears about shifts in hierarchy, old hostilities between lineages, as well as understandings of the nature of health and illness. While Arabic sources document the existence of bloodsucking at least as early as the fifteenth-century, the colonial archive provides the most concentrated number of records that demonstrate how bloodsucking was a lived and feared reality for desert communities during the colonial period. From these Saharan sources, a fuller understanding emerges of how desert communities envisioned the political and spiritual forces of their social worlds during periods of famine, economic stagnation, and domestic tension. Both the accusation of sell and the l’ḥjāb used to counter it signal the contestation of a society’s status quo.
This chapter takes as its premise that, by the end of the seventh century, the Islamic esoteric sciences were largely controlled by the zwāya, a group defined by its scholarly and racial pretentions. It shows that contestation of the role of the Islamic esoteric sciences reaches back well before the seventeenth century. Customs and practices of the Islamic esoteric sciences can be firmly documented in local practices and were recognized as a source of both political and religious power in the region and when early reform movements coalesced around the function of the Islamic esoteric sciences in managing the invisible. This chapter argues that traditional intellectual history has focused on key figures of Arab origin instead of understanding this process of the elaboration of the Islamic esoteric sciences as more organic and produced via many points of contact, with practices appropriated in the region via merchants and scholars of non-Arab origin. The chapter focuses on the Gebla, a region that occupies a central position in the formation of political and social structures in Mauritania, and will thus be at the geographic heart of the chapters that follow.
The Introduction acquaints the reader with key terms – such as the Islamic esoteric sciences, l’ḥjāb, and lettrism – as well as the cultural and social context of the Sahara while also situating the major arguments of the book within the disciplines of history and anthropology and the fields of African Studies, Islamic Studies, and the Middle East. The chapter makes an argument for including spirits, miracles, and divine forces in historical narratives and for studying the marginal, the liminal, and the in-between ⎯ not only when it comes to geographic spaces such as the Sahara which is often imagined as an empty barrier between two more significant regions on the African continent, but also when it comes to the politically peripheral, the culturally hybrid, and socially heterogenous postcolonial country of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
This chapter argues that people in what became the French colonial territory of Mauritania marshalled l’ḥjāb in their opposition to colonization and how French perceptions of l’ḥjāb shaped their response to that opposition. It covers the first half of the colonial period from c.1900 when the French formally declared Mauritania a colonial military territory into the 1930s when France considered itself in military and administrative control of the colony. The chapter focuses on this period when colonizers first deployed a strategy of collaboration with certain religious leaders and then rapidly shifted to a strategy that restricted the physical movements of the men they called marabouts. These new restrictions on the movement and activity of purveyors of Islamic learning and its sciences targeted l’ḥjāb as a Mauritania-specific factor in broader colonial anxiety over Islam. It is during this period from 1900–1935 that the French established the policies that would directly shape their engagement with l’ḥjāb and, via socioeconomic changes that resulted from those policies, indirectly shape how people of Mauritania relied on l’ḥjāb and its practitioners.
Chapter 2 uses a colloquial expression from contemporary Mauritania – “al-ḥikma kuntiyya aw fūtiyya” – to examine Mauritanian narratives that place the consolidation and localization of the Islamic esoteric sciences in the Sahara in the eighteenth century. The expression shows how Mauritanians today associate these sciences with the powerful scholarly and commercial network of the Kunta, a confederation known for its Islamic learning, and the Fulbe torodbe scholars who established theocratic states in West Africa. Both communities continue to associate these sciences as solely embedded in networks linked genealogically to Arab identity. This colloquial expression shows how Mauritanians today conceive of this esoteric religious wisdom as deployed at the very local level, spread through two regionally important religious communities, yet simultaneously connected to the longer history of Islam in the Muslim world, and circulating at the global level of Sufi networks. By the end of the nineteenth century, differences in interpretation and practice of the Islamic esoteric sciences had amplified: questions regarding which esoteric and medical techniques were permitted within Islam and which were not were intensely debated, as scholars from the Saharan West elaborated their own intellectual positions and political objectives in the ways they classified these sciences.