Doesn’t religion cause most of the conflict in the world?

In this extract from the book For God’s Sake, one question is asked to four Australian writers with very different beliefs.

Religion is powerfully motivating and belligerent humans fight over it. Yet it’s true, religion has been a major feature in some historical conflicts and the most recent wave of modern terrorism. Religion has taken on extra significance today because globalisation is challenging and changing everything. Religious identity not only survives but can take on heightened significance when national and political alliances break apart. That religion can be so markedly different in the hands of the power-hungry, as opposed to the altruistic and virtuous, really says more about human psychology than it does about religion. That’s why so many human conflicts unfortunately involve religion.

None of this is to excuse the undeniable barbarity unleashed by religionists over the centuries. The misogyny, beheadings, terrorism, killings, beatings and cruelty are real. They continue. Today we see a growing battle in the Middle East between Shi’ite and Sunni; a Jewish state unleashing militancy against Christian and Muslim Palestinians; and an anti-gay crusade led by some Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders that threatens the sanctity of life itself.

Claiming religion is the source of the world’s evils is a careless comment. It’s far too easy to blame the Muslim faith for honour killings. I’m under no illusion about the fact that religion is routinely used to justify the more heinous crimes. But the 20th century is filled with examples, namely Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s China, that didn’t need God as an excuse to commit genocide against a state’s own people.

New book: The Religious Identity of Young Muslim Women in Berlin

50023“The Religious Identity of Young Muslim Women in Berlin: An
Ethnography Study” by Synnøve K.N. Bendixsen

About the book:

The Religious Identity of Young Muslim Women in Berlin offers an
in-depth ethnographic account of Muslim youth’s religious identity
formation and their engagement with Islam in everyday life. Focusing
on Muslim women in the organisation MJD in Germany, it provides a
deeper understanding of processes related to immigration,
transnationalism, the transformation of identifications and the
reconstruction of selfhood. The book deals with the collective content
of religious identity formation and processes of differentiation,
engaging with the changing role of religion in an urban European
setting, restructuring of religious authority and the formation of
gender identity through religion. Synnøve K.N. Bendixsen examines how
the participants seek and debate what it means to be a good Muslim,
and discusses the religious movement as individual engagement in a
collective project.


“At last, a richly-textured, ethnographic study which takes
religiosity seriously. This fine study of young women’s involvement in
a particular, Islamic movement in Berlin illuminates the reasons for
‘the turn to Islam’ of a new generation in Europe. […] Marked
throughout by methodological and analytical sophistication, it
challenges many easy generalisations about how Muslims born and
educated in Europe appropriate Islam.” Philip Lewis, University of

Table of content:

A Note on Language and Sources
Situating the Field and Methodological Reflections Making Sense of the
City: The Religious Spaces of Young Muslim Women in Berlin
Negotiating, Resisting and (Re)Constructing Othering Crafting the
Religious Individual in a Faith Community Trajectories of Religious
Acts and Desires: Bargaining with Religious Norms and Ideals Making a
Religious Gender Order The Meanings of and Incentives for a Religious
Identification Conclusion Appendix 1: Situating the Movements Studied
within the Wider Islamic Field in Germany Bibliography Index

More information is available at the following site:

‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ movie review

There’s a double meaning to the title of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” filmmaker Mira Nair’s great, gripping and complex drama based on the 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamid about the roots of extremism.

On a superficial level, “fundamentalist” refers to religious identity, one unfortunately most often associated with Islamic terrorism these days. And the story — about an ambitious, Pakistani-born Wall Street financial analyst who becomes disenchanted with the United States after 9/11 — certainly suggests that most obvious reading. In that interpretation, the reluctant fundamentalist is an assimilated Muslim forced into anti-American radicalism by America itself.

But the hero Changez Khan (Riz Ahmed), whom we meet at the outset as an older and wiser professor of revolutionary studies at Lahore University, isn’t quite what he appears. The other meaning of “fundamentalist” refers to Changez’s prior life in the states, where, as a young man, he was paid big bucks to fix broken companies, coolly evaluating — and, if necessary, streamlining — a business’s “fundamentals.” That means he was often in the position of having to fire people, a job that might inspire reluctance in anyone with a heart. (The name Changez Khan is a variant of Genghis Khan.)

Dutch Ship Offering Abortions Causes Controversy in Morocco

5 October 2012


The Dutch non-profit organization Women on Waves, which provides safe abortions to women aboard a boat in international waters, conducted its first visit to a Muslim country this week. The controversial “abortion ship” docked on Thursday in the harbor of Smir, near the city of Tangier, about 20 yards from shore. While authorities are restricting access to the harbor, the boat arrived ahead of announced arrival and avoided the blockade. At midday, up to 300 people had gathered at Smir to protest against the visit.

The Dutch group says the purpose of the visit is to provide women with “safe legal medical abortions”. AFP quotes local response from Chafik Chraibi, head of a Moroccan NGO seeking to provide abortions legally, saying, “It’s true that the initiative is symbolic, to defend the rights of women to have abortions… But to practice at sea, in international waters, is for me a way of circumventing the law and is something clandestine.” Lawyer Abdelmalik Zaza, in the newspaper of ruling Islamist party the PJD, commented “Moroccan law forbids abortion. Moroccan religious identity says it is forbidden and so does Islam. So the government cannot allow this ship to come to Morocco.”

Muslims From Abroad Are Thriving in Catholic Colleges

DAYTON, Ohio — The flow of students from the Muslim world into American colleges and universities has grown sharply in recent years, and women, though still far outnumbered by men, account for a rising share.


No definitive figures are available, but interviews with students and administrators at several Catholic institutions indicate an even faster rate of growth there, with the Muslim student population generally doubling over the past decade, and the number of Muslim women tripling or more.


Arriving from Kuwait to attend college here, Mai Alhamad wondered how Americans would receive a Muslim, especially one whose head scarf broadcasts her religious identity.

At any of the countless secular universities she might have chosen, religion — at least in theory — would be beside the point. But she picked one that would seem to underline her status as a member of a religious minority. She enrolled at the University of Dayton, a Roman Catholic school, and she says it suits her well.


“Here, people are more religious, even if they’re not Muslim, and I am comfortable with that,” said Ms. Alhamad, an undergraduate in civil engineering, as several other Muslim women gathered in the student center nodded in agreement. “I’m more comfortable talking to a Christian than an atheist.”


At those schools, Muslim students, from the United States or abroad, say they prefer a place where talk of religious beliefs and adherence to a religious code are accepted and even encouraged, socially and academically. Correctly or not, many of them say they believe that they are more accepted than they would be at secular schools.

Gallup Survey: Christianity Remains Dominant Religion in the United States

Majority still says religion is very important in their lives
by Frank Newport

PRINCETON, NJ — This Christmas season, 78% of American adults identify with some form of Christian religion. Less than 2% are Jewish, less than 1% are Muslim, and 15% do not have a religious identity. This means that 95% of all Americans who have a religious identity are Christians.

Bottom Line:

The United States remains a predominantly Christian nation, with 78% of all adults identifying with a Christian faith, and more than 9 in 10 of those who have a religious identity identifying as Christians. Fifteen percent of Americans do not have a formal religious identity, a continuation of a dramatic change from 50 and 60 years ago, when almost all Americans identified with a particular religion. The precise implications of the increase in the “no religious identity” segment are not clear, given that more than 9 in 10 Americans say they believe in God, and that 8 in 10 say religion is a very or fairly important part of their lives.

Muslims combat radicalization with online tools

WASHINGTON — A Muslim organization is working to counter radicalization by providing the work of progressive Islam scholars online in simple, youth-friendly language.

Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), a nonprofit group that has established liberal Muslim communities in the U.S. and Canada, created the “Literary Zikr’ website to provide an alternative to the fundamentalist versions of Islam that pervade the Internet.

“We take the scholarship and present it to the people,” said Yarehk Hernandez, a board member of MPV.
The project, named after the Islamic word for remembrances of God, is geared toward ages 13 to 25, when youth “are formulating their ideas about religious identity and culture,” Hernandez said.

By adapting the work of renowned scholars to a Q-and-A format at an eighth-grade reading level, Hernandez hopes the website will “cut through the clutter” of the Internet.

Currently, the website features pieces on Shariah (Islamic law) and sexuality, with more pieces on governance, pluralism, and women’s rights soon to come.

Minaret ban reflects Europeans’ confusion about their secular identity

In this article, the author argues that Europe was not sure about its religious or secular identity and was therefore unable to deal with the challenges of the new Islamic presence. Referring to Christopher Caldwell’s recent study “Islam in Europe: Reflections on the Revolution in Europe”, the author claims that a minority with strong cultural and religious beliefs has a significant influence on a majority society, if that majority has “weaker beliefs and sense of identity”. This is allegedly the case for Switzerland and Europe in general.

Pious, Loyal and Unhappy: Less like their non-Muslim compatriots than adherents of Islam elsewhere, but British nonetheless

Whether strong religious identity, and the ethical views that go with it, necessarily undercut national identity has long furrowed brows,especially in Western secular democracies with heavy immigration.
Terrorist attacks in London and Madrid, and racial unrest in France, have made the debate more urgent. What makes for national cohesion? A study put out on May 7th by Gallup, a polling organisation, casts new light on the matter.

Few would be amazed to learn that European Muslims are much more conservative socially than their non-Muslim compatriots. What is surprising is how wide the gap is in Britain. Gallup looked at attitudes in France, Germany and Britain on some key issues of personal morality among adherents of Islam and the public in general. The gap between Muslims and others on the acceptability of homosexuality,
abortion and premarital sex was wider in Britain than in either Germany or France (see chart 1), even though British non-Muslims professed themselves more strait-laced than their continental counterparts on most issues…

Forever a suspect?

Last week the Guardian uncovered a report by MI5 suggesting there is no single pathway to Islamic extremism. What a surprise! And in a further deconstruction of preconceptions, the report found evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation. If this is the case, what are the implications for racial and religious profiling? The report clearly dismantles any assumptions that can be made about the identity, background and religiosity of a would-be terrorist. The UK’s Muslim population is a mere 2.8% but is so ethnically diverse that the government could cynically use this report to sanction the continuing infringement of civil liberties of the entire population through ID cards, surveillance and so on. The sounding the death knell for racial profiling is something to celebrate, but I wonder whether my optimism is premature. Adam Khan, 28, from North London also has his reservations, after repeatedly being stopped and interrogated under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 when trying to return to the UK. Samia Rahman reports.