Book Review: Nathan Lean’s “The Islamophobia Industry, How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims”

Ahmed Sharif was a 44-year-old Muslim Bangladeshi taxi driver in New York City. It was August 24, 2010, a time that marked the height of vitriolic protests against a planned Islamic center to be located in lower Manhattan, a few blocks away from the site of Ground Zero. Sharif picked up 21-year-old Michael Enright for an early evening ride. Everything was going smoothly until Enright, three blocks away from his stop, yelled at Sharif, “this is a checkpoint, motherfucker, and I have to bring you down.”

Enright, a filmmaker who kept a diary filled with strong anti-Muslim sentiment, pulled out a knife and slashed Sharif across the throat, face and arms. Enright tried to escape, but was arrested by the New York Police Department. Sharif survived, but he packed up and moved to Buffalo, in upstate New York. It was a crime that seemed to fit in with the general climate of hysteria over Muslims that developed that summer.

This is how Nathan Lean begins telling the story of how a small group of bigots seized upon the frustrations and fears of post-9/11 America and exploited those feelings to create a circular industry of hate. Lean’s new book, The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims, is a compact and punchy look at this industry stretching across continents that has sowed hatred of Muslims into the fabric of Western society.

The American Muslim: http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/book-review-the-islamophobia-industry-how-the-right-manufactures-fear-of-mu/0019469

Why American Jews and Muslims backed Obama by huge margins
In addition to having similar dietary laws, customs and rituals, we found out on Nov. 6 that American Jews and American Muslims have another thing in common; each community gave 70 percent or more of its vote during Tuesday’s presidential election to President Obama.

According to two national exit polls, about 70 percent of American Jews supported President Obama over Republican candidate Mitt Romney. A poll conducted in the Muslim community in late October showed that 68 percent of American Muslims backed Obama.

What do these similar vote totals in support of President Obama say about our two communities? First, the results show that majorities of American Jews and American Muslims support President Obama’s vision of an inclusive society where people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds have a chance to succeed. Jews and Muslims alike embrace the vision the president has articulated that “we are all in this together” and that government-as well as religious communities–should be ready and willing to extend a helping hand to members of our society in desperate need.

by Alex Kane

New Book: Religion in Public Spaces – A European Perspective

Religion in Public Spaces: A European Perspective

Ashgate, September 2012

Edited by Silvio Ferrari and Sabrina Pastorelli, both at The University of Milan, Italy Series : Cultural Diversity and Law in Association with RELIGARE

This timely volume discusses the much debated and controversial subject of the presence of religion in the public sphere. The book is divided in three sections. In the first the public/private distinction is studied mainly from a theoretical point of view, through the contributions of lawyers, philosophers and sociologists. In the following sections their proposals are tested through the analysis of two case studies, religious dress codes and places of worship. These sections include discussions on some of the most controversial recent cases from around Europe with contributions from some of the leading experts in the area of law and religion.

Covering a range of very different European countries including Turkey, the UK, Italy and Bulgaria, the book uses comparative case studies to illustrate how practice varies significantly even within Europe. It reveals how familiarization with religious and philosophical diversity in Europe should lead to the modification of legal frameworks historically designed to accommodate majority religions. This in turn should give rise to recognition of new groups and communities and eventually, a more adequate response to the plurality of religions and beliefs in European society.

Contents: Religion and rethinking the public-private divide:
introduction, Marie-Claire Foblets; Part I Religions and the Public/Private Divide: Public and private, a moving border: a legal-historical perspective, Kjell Å. Modeer; Socio-historical perspectives on the public and private spheres, Adam Seligmann; The ‘public-private’ divide on drift: what, if any, is its importance for analysing limits of associational religious freedoms?, Veit Bader; Religious freedom and the public-private divide: a broken promise in Europe?, Alessandro Ferrari; The ‘public’ and the ‘private’ in the common law and civil law traditions and the regulation of religion, Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens and Noura Karazivan; Contested normative cultures. Gendered perspectives on religions and the public/private divide, Hanne Petersen; Religion in the European public
spaces: a legal overview, Silvio Ferrari. Part II Religion and the Dress
Codes: From front-office to back-office: religious dress crossing the public-private divide in the workplace, Katayoun Alidadi; Religious dress codes: the Turkish case, A. Emre Öktem and Mehmet C. Uzun; Religious dress codes in the United Kingdom, Javier Garcia Oliva; Religious dress codes: the Italian case, Sabrina Pastorelli; Religious dress codes: the Bulgarian case, Maya Kosseva and Iva Kyurkchieva; Comparing burqa debates in Europe: sartorial styles, religious prescriptions and political ideologies, Sara Silvestri. Part III Religion and the Places of Worship: The right to establish and maintain places of worship: the developments of its normative content under international human rights law, Noel G. Villaroman; The places of worship in France and the public/private divide, Anne Fornerod; ‘Stopp Minarett’? The controversy over the building of minarets in Switzerland:
religious freedom versus collective identity, Vincenzo Pacillo; Places of worship: between public and private: a comparison between Bulgaria, Italy and the Netherlands, Tymen J. van der Ploeg; Index.

About the Editor: Silvio Ferrari is Professor of Canon Law, University of Milan and President, International Consortium for Law and Religion Studies, Italy. His research interests are in the areas of Church and State in Europe; Comparative law of religions, and Vatican-Israel relations. He has published widely on these and related areas.

Sabrina Pastorelli is research fellow at the Institute of International Law – section of Ecclesiastical and Canon Law – University of Milan, Faculty of Law. She is also a member of the Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcités (GSRL-CNRS/École Pratique des Hautes Études-Sorbonne) and teaching assistant at the Catholic University of Paris – Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences. Her research interests include sociology of religion; new religious movements; law and religion in Europe; religious education; regulation of religious pluralism; state public policy and religion. She is a member of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion (ISSR); the Association for Sociology of Religion (ASR); the Italian Sociological Association (AIS).

Reviews: ‘This book offers more than its title promises. It is not only about Europe or about religion. Insightful, suggestive and as diverse as its contributors, it contains a persuasive reflection on the need to rethink the very notion of public space that Western democracies have used since the nineteenth century.’
Javier Martinez-Torron, Complutense University School of Law, Spain

‘This is a highly important book in a remarkable controversy. Silvio Ferrari and Sabrina Pastorelli present a rich volume full of information, thought, and insight – presenting masterpieces of interdisciplinary research and political guidance. The book is a most valuable contribution to freedom and equality throughout Europe.’
Gerhard Robbers, University of Trier, Germany

The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity

The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are united in their belief in God and the Prophet Muhammad and are bound together by such religious practices as fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and almsgiving to assist people in need. But they have widely differing views about many other aspects of their faith, including how important religion is to their lives, who counts as a Muslim and what practices are acceptable in Islam, according to a worldwide survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The survey, which involved more than 38,000 face-to-face interviews in over 80 languages, finds that in addition to the widespread conviction that there is only one God and that Muhammad is His Prophet, large percentages of Muslims around the world share other articles of faith, including belief in angels, heaven, hell and fate (or predestination). While there is broad agreement on the core tenets of Islam, however, Muslims across the 39 countries and territories surveyed differ significantly in their levels of religious commitment, openness to multiple interpretations of their faith and acceptance of various sects and movements.

Some of these differences are apparent at a regional level. For example, at least eight-in-ten Muslims in every country surveyed in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and South Asia say that religion is very important in their lives. Across the Middle East and North Africa, roughly six-in-ten or more say the same. And in the United States, a 2011 Pew Research Center survey found that nearly seven-in-ten Muslims (69%) say religion is very important to them. (For more comparisons with U.S. Muslims, see Appendix A.) But religion plays a much less central role for some Muslims, particularly in nations that only recently have emerged from communism. No more than half of those surveyed in Russia, the Balkans and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia say religion is very important in their lives. The one exception across this broad swath of Eastern Europe, Southern Europe and Central Asia is Turkey, which never came under communist rule; fully two-thirds of Turkish Muslims (67%) say religion is very important to them.

Generational differences are also apparent. Across the Middle East and North Africa, for example, Muslims 35 and older tend to place greater emphasis on religion and to exhibit higher levels of religious commitment than do Muslims between the ages of 18 and 34. In all seven countries surveyed in the region, older Muslims are more likely to report that they attend mosque, read the Quran (also spelled Koran) on a daily basis and pray multiple times each day. Outside of the Middle East and North Africa, the generational differences are not as sharp. And the survey finds that in one country – Russia – the general pattern is reversed and younger Muslims are significantly more observant than their elders.