The Sociology of Islam

Anthropology Review Database review of The Sociology of Islam


Reviewed 10 Dec 2011 by:
Jack David Eller
Community College of Denver

[The Sociology of Islam: Secularism, Economy and Politics, Imprint: Ithaca Press, Editor: Tugrul Keskin, ISBN: 9780863723711, Size: 235 x 155mm, 520pp]

ABSTRACT:    This valuable set of essays explores themes and processes in modern global Islam as well as national cases of Islam, illustrating the diversity, dynamism, and modernization of Muslim religion and identity.


It is desperately important to sociologize Islam, especially because academia and the general public alike have so consistently essentialized and even demonized it. Of course, with or without our realization, Islam issociologized, that is to say, shaped and refracted by social context and social experience. And also of course, anthropology has been exploring and exposing the social diversity and the social construction of Islam with increasing frequency and success.For these reasons, The Sociology of Islam is a welcome addition to our knowledge of the religion. The collection consists of nineteen essays, including an introduction by the editor, organized into four sections. As Keskin explains in the introduction, a transnational sociological study of Islam effectively constitutes an anthropology of Islam, since both “can be described as a systematic study of the social, political, and economic aspects and transformations of Muslim societies in the context of an increasingly globalized world” (p. 1). Indeed, in addition to invoking anthropologists like Ernest Gellner and David Harvey, the introductory comments identify a number of themes and concerns central to anthropology, such as the definition of “a collective Muslim identity” (p. 5), modernity and secularization, and neoliberalism and globalization. Finally, Keskin emphasizes the variety of Islam, in particular the shari’a-based Islam that most people know (and fear) as well as the market-oriented Islam that Keskin regards as “the ‘modernity-friendly’ version of Islam” (p. (16). In a word, “Islam is not a static religion” nor is it a single monolithic and asocial religion.

The first section, containing four chapters, is Islam, Economy, and Politics. These selections are particularly wide-ranging and thematic. For instance, Basak Ozaral examines the ‘moral economy’ of Islam or a specific ‘Islamic economics,’ characterized by “its emphasis on morality governing economic transactions, [which] has developed a substantial response to the challenges posed by a global economy shaped by modern rational capitalism” (p. 21). This articles provides some valuable information about Islamic concepts and institutions such as waqf (Muslim endowments), zakat (mandatory charity), and riba (usury or interest). Ovamir Anjum gives an analysis of ‘Islamic political tradition’ in the light of modernity in the Middle East, jumping off from the work of Olivier Roy and concluding that most Muslims seek both shari’a and democracy—seriously complicating both the question of the ‘compatibility’ of Islam with democracy and the very meaning of the term ‘democracy.’ Joshua Hendrick describes a particular instance of ‘neo-liberal’ and modern Islam, the Gulen Movement with its education network and its ‘apolitical politics.’ (For more on the Gulen Movement, see Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gulen Movement, also reviewed in ARD.) Husnul Amin reports on ‘post-Islamism’ in Pakistan, which differs from Islamism in that (1) “the appeal of Islam has dwindled,” (2) the more exclusive and puritanical form of Islam has yielded to “more inclusive, society-centric, vigilant accounts of individual liberties,” and (3) it promotes a secularization of state with being “anti-Islamic or secular” (p. 91-2). (For more on the sort of post-Islamism discussed in the chapter, see Islamism and Democracy in India: The Transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami, also reviewed in ARD.)

The second section, Globalization and Islam, also features four chapters, beginning with Corri Zoli’s discussion of ‘the multicultural ummah (Islamic community). Zoli argues effectively that a global deterritorialized Islam forces us to question the familiar state/territory frame of culture, as Muslims themselves “are actively contemplating Islamic identity and practice today in ways that delimit the contemporary ummah and, at the same time, define the limits of the nation state as a vehicle to capture this dynamic Muslim identity” (p. 138). Melanie Reddig follows with an overtly Bourdieu-ian approach to the ‘religious field’ of contemporary Islam, focusing on the Salafi school and the impact of colonialism and post-colonialism on “traditional religious authority in Islam” (p. 154). David Johnston adds a selection on two Islamic reformers, Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Chandra Muzaffar, who differ strongly in the future Islam they envision but who “share the burden of reshaping the way the Islamic tradition has been co-opted both authoritarian regimes and by extreme ‘puritanical’ movements such as the Taliban and al-Qa’ida” (p. 179). Jeremy Walton brings the section to a close with a presentation on ‘civil Islam’ and ‘liberal piety’ based on an ethnography of Muslim charitable foundations in Turkey.

The remaining ten essays, divided into two sections, are basically national case-studies. In the third section, Muslim Society in the West, authors investigate Islam in some surprising national settings for most audiences, including Poland (Katarzyna Gorak-Sosnowska), England (Leon Moosavi), Brazil (Cristina Maria de Castro), and Italy (Enzo Pace and Annalisa Frisina). In these instances, Islamic identity and organization are clearly linked to immigration and to the existence (if not establishment) of non-Islamic religion. Moosavi’s article on Britian particularly raises the issue of ‘Islamophobia’ (for more, see Thinking Through Islamophobia: Global Perspectives, also reviewed in ARD).

The final part, Islam and Muslim Societies, brings the discussion ‘home,’ after a fashion. Six essays consider Islam in Nigeria (Ogunbile), Malaysia (Joseph Tamney), Syria (Radwan Ziadeh), Indonesia (Siti Kusujiarti), and the United Arab Emirates (Kathryn Schellenberg and Mohamed Daasa). Collectively, they demonstrate the diversity with and the local influence on Islam, related in the various cases to ethnicity, economic development, and national politics. Two of the chapters are more thematic than the others: the chapter on the UAE explores expatriate workers in that small state, while Rachel Woodlock’s article on Islamic female dress is not only cross-cultural but also ‘cross-philosophical,’ importantly studying the question of female dress through four different Islamic ‘orientations,’ traditionalist, secularist, fundamentalist, and contextualist.

The Sociology of Islam is a very interesting and consistent anthology. Of course, as vast and complex as the topic, no single book could achieve the grand claim of being the sociology of Islam. However, these essays accomplish the goal of establishing that a sociology of Islam is possible and, more, that it is urgent. The chapters mostly represent ‘macro-sociology,’ most not engaging in the statistical preoccupations of much of ‘small’ sociology. In that regard, then, they have more in common with anthropology, which tends to explore and describe themes, processes, institutions, and experiences. Anthropologists can take some inspiration from the collection, which, most fundamentally and significantly, proves once and for all that Islam is not a static religion, nor a monolithic religion, nor an un-modernizable religion.

Anthropology Review Database review of The Society of Muslim Brothers


Lia, Brynjar
1998 The Society of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt: The Rise of an Islamic Mass Movement 1928-1942. Reading, UK: Ithaca Press.

Notes: xi, 328 p. : ill. ; ISBN 9780863722202
Reviewed 21 Jan 2012 by:
Jack David Eller <david.eller@ccd.edu>
Community College of Denver

A fascinating and important study of the founding years of the Muslim Brotherhood depicts it as not at all a ‘fundamentalist’ movement but a modernizing and institutionalized organization blending Islamic values with middle-class and nationalist interests—which finally appears to have achieved power after more than eight decades.

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9780863723698

An excerpt from Security Arrangements in the Persian Gulf, Mahboubeh Sadeghinia, Ithaca Press


from SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS IN THE PERSIAN GULF: With Special Reference to Iran’s Foreign Policy, MAHBOUBEH F. SADEGHINIA, Ithaca Press, 2011

The Persian Gulf (PG) is one of the most significant geopolitical regions in the world as well as the main dominant energy source and gateway for global energy. This region is of vital significance to all littoral states as well as the entire world economy and political life. Considering such significance – which has caused the PG to be a worthy rival to outside powers, particularly the West, as well being the most unstable and chaotic of any world region – requires close scrutiny of the important geopolitical elements and security concerns and systems in this region.
Persian Gulf Security Arrangements, With Special Reference to Iran’s Foreign Policy has employed a variety of conceptual and analytical tools to understand the reasons for the failure of security models in the PG and to confront the huge obstacles to a security system for this region. The perceptions of what constitutes a threat to regional security varies among the Arabs, Iranians and the ultra-regional powers, and all accordingly have different solutions to what they perceive as the problem. Nevertheless, regardless of the relevant parties’ differences of opinion, all the consequent issues along with three decades of crises in the PG illustrate how urgent it is for the problem regarding regional security to be resolved.
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Iran's Foreign Policy: From Khatami to Ahmadinejad

Iran’s Foreign Policy: From Khatami to Ahmadinejad, a timely publication shedding light on Iran’s foreign policy decisions and their implications


Ithaca Press is pleased to announce the publication of Iran’s Foreign Policy: From Khatami to Ahmadinejad (new paperback edition), edited by Anoushiravan Ehteshami and Mahjoob Zweiri.
The current situation in Iran is escalating, with US sanctions already in place and EU sanctions reputedly also on the table. Iran’s Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, has warned European countries against considering these sanctions, saying ‘ I am calling to all countries in the region – please don’t let yourselves be dragged into a dangerous position.’ It was unclear whether he was referring to military or economic danger in this speech.
Iran’s Foreign Policy: From Khatami to Ahmadinejad examines the implications of the foreign policy decisions of Iran, with a new chapter addressing the current situation, particularly with regard to Iran’s unresolved dispute with the international community over its nuclear programme, and to Iran’s role within the new Middle East, which is currently in the throes of revolution and political upheaval. The editors conclude that ‘what one gleans from what has been said and done since 2011 is a better appreciation of the swiftness of the dynamics of change now gripping the Middle East. The ongoing crisis within the region, coupled with Iran’s own unique political problems and complexities, mean that the relationship between Iran’s foreign policy and the domestic balance of political power has never been more relevant or significant’.
This is a highly topical and timely collection of papers by leading academics and prominent government officials, which sheds light on the foreign policy of Iran under President Khatami and into the period of President Ahmadinejad. The book considers key aspects of Iran’s complex internal and domestic forces, such as the impact of mass communication, with its implications for global interdependence, and the desire for greater freedom and democracy. These aspects of Iran’s internal political culture are juxtaposed against its intense and unshakeable national pride, and the book assesses the ongoing impact of these contradictory forces on its external relationships and foreign policy. Iran’s Foreign Policy provides detailed analysis of Iran’s turbulent relationship with the West. The editors argue in their introduction that ‘the principles that guide Iranian foreign policy have created “enemies of Islam and Iran”, as the Islamic Republic regards the West in general and the United States in particular’. In the context of the Islamic Republic’s guiding principles of maintaining territorial and Muslim integrity and independence, the book’s contributors assess ongoing developments such as the War on Terror, the continuing conflict in Iraq, American–Iranian relations, British–Iranian relations and European–Iranian relations.

Read more about the book here

About the editors
Professor Anoushiravan Ehteshami is the Nasser Al-Sabah Chair in International Relations at Durham University and Director of the HH Sheikh Nasser Al-Sabah Programme in International Relations and Regional Security in its School of Government and International Affairs. He is Joint Director of the Durham-Edinburgh-Manchester Universities’ ESRC-funded Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab Sorld (CASAW), 2007-2011.
Dr Mahjoob Zweiri is an Assistant Professor in Contemporary History of Iran and Middle East, and the Head of Humanities Department at Qatar University. He was formerly a Research/Teaching Fellow at the institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Durham and Director of its Centre for Iranian Studies. He also previously worked for the Centre for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan as a senior researcher in Middle Eastern and Iranian Studies.

Reform in the Middle East Oil Monarchies

Considerations of the Nature of Democracy and Reform in the Arabian Peninsula


Reform in the Middle East Oil Monarchies, Ithaca Press, Editors: Anoushiravan Ehteshami , Steven Wright, ISBN: 9780863723230, New Edition, Feb 2012

Oil – essential to the economy of the Middle East – is central to current unrest in the region, and is therefore inextricably linked to any consideration of wider political reform.
This collection of articles features contributions by eminent academics and government officials, through which it addresses issues surrounding reform specifically in the oil-rich countries and states of the Arabian Peninsula.
These oil-rich monarchies are frequently dismissed as having no democratic systems compared to most other regions of the world. However, recent consideration has shown that these countries and states are perhaps not as autocratic as they have traditionally been perceived to be.
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The Day Turkey Stood Still


Ithaca Press has acquired the world rights to The Day Turkey Stood Still: Merve Kavakci’s Walk into the Turkish Parliament, by Richard Peres.
On May 2nd 1999, Merve Kavakci walked into the Turkish Grand National Assembly to take her oath of office as a member of Turkish Parliament, wearing her Islamic headscarf (hijab) which is banned for civil servants in secular Turkey. A near riot ensued, and the Prime Minister told the crowd to ‘put this woman in her place’. Since then, Kavakci has become an outspoken critic of Turkey’s secularization policy, traveling the globe in support of Muslim women’s rights, especially regarding the hijab, which she promotes as a symbol of female empowerment.
The Day Turkey Stood Still is a unique behind-the-scenes story of the first headscarved woman to be elected into the Turkish Parliament, and the harsh reaction against her election. It reveals for the first time what happened behind closed doors to prevent Merve Kavakci from taking her oath of office, and deconstructs her vilification by the government, military, media and political parties.
Richard Peres also uses this fascinating true story to promote greater general understanding of contemporary Turkish politics, and to illustrate the ongoing tension between Turkey’s military-secular bloc and its predominantly Islamic population. This highly accessible book will resonate with Western readers who want to know more about this fundamental issue and gain a greater understanding of women’s issues, religious conflicts, political Islam, human rights and the struggle for democracy in the Middle East. The Day Turkey Stood Still is required reading for any academic who wants to understand the dynamics and undercurrents of Turkish politics today.
Richard Peres is an experienced author, civil rights activist, adjunct professor and international businessman. He has several years’ experience of teaching Communications and International Marketing in both the US and Turkey. He has an MA in International Politics, and is a feature writer for Today’s Zaman in Turkey, and a regular contributor to Turkish Review.
Ithaca Press is planning to publish this title in June 2012

Through the Wall of Fire: Armenia—Iraq—Palestine; from Wrath to Reconciliation


London UK, October 2011 — Ithaca Press has acquired the world English Language rights to publish Through the Wall of Fire: Armenia—Iraq—Palestine; from Wrath to Reconciliation by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach.
This book presents three conflict situations which are still awaiting resolution: Armenia —Turkey, Iraq, and Israel— Palestine. In writing this book, the author sets out to recount the experiences of ethnic cleansing, genocide and war from the viewpoint of those who were children at the time, and to communicate the nature of the trauma that they suffered. The daughter of two orphans, both victims of the 1915 genocide against the Armenians, Muriel grew up with an acute emotional awareness of what that trauma had wrought on her parents’ generation. This autobiographical fact was decisive in shaping her outlook and later work.
In Through the Wall of Fire, she draws a parallel between the victims of genocide and conflict and their quest to overcome the emotional challenges posed by their circumstances, and Dante’s Divine Comedy; particularly the journey to paradise by passing through the Wall of Fire, which she argues provides an insight into the process through which an emotional and moral shift may occur. She argues that the victims of conflict, ‘like the poet, are called upon to shed fears associated with the past, to overcome bestial emotions such as hatred, rage, arrogance and desire for vendetta, and above all to transcend their petty provincialism’.
Ithaca Press is planning to launch this title in August 2012.

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Early Arabic Poetry: Select Poems by Professor Alan Jones


Ithaca Press is pleased to announce the publication of Early Arabic Poetry: Select Poems by Professor Alan Jones. This new edition of Early Arabic Poetry combines the two volumes first published in 1992 and 1996, bringing them together with a new foreword and introduction by Professor Jones, which covers the major background problems faced by students of early Arabic poetry. The book will appeal to academics and students in the fields of Middle East Studies, Arabic, literature and poetry.
The book is divided into two main sections: the first section contains a study of fifteen poems from two of the more vivid genres: laments and poems by the outlaws. The second section focuses on famous odes. The poems are analysed in minute detail, providing the student with all the information needed to understand the texts and to consider each poem’s overall thrust and purpose.
The study of early Arabic poetry is a difficult one for a number of reasons; it is the work of people of a very alien milieu – the great composers were camel-dependant nomads; its grammar has many complications that do not survive in the later language; its texts were transmitted orally for up to two-and-a-half centuries; and there are serious problems about authenticity. It is nevertheless a fascinating and rewarding area of study, from which all later Arabic poetry stems.
This book provides unique insights into ideas prevalent in the region at the rise of Islam. In his introduction, Professor Jones describes how ‘Poetry had a number of facets that took it into the realms of magic’. As well as the inspiration of the poet by his own spirit, and the magic of the sound of poetry recitation, poetic utterances were believed to contain magical forces, particularly when the poem was intended to denigrate or curse. Thus the book transcends mere analysis of poetry to provide a rich critique of the complexities of the subject and the era.
Alan Jones taught Arabic, Turkish and Islamic Studies at Oxford from 1957 to 2000, when he retired from his post as Professor of Classical Arabic. Amongst his special interests are pre-Islamic poetry, the Qur’an, and the early growth of Islamic studies. He has also published key works on the poetry of Muslim Spain. His translation of the Qur’an was published in 2007.
FURTHER INFORMATION
For more information about Early Arabic Poetry or to request a free review copy, please visit http://www.ithacapress.co.uk or contact: Pamela Park, Production, Sales and Marketing Manager,
Garnet Publishing Ltd., 8 Southern Court, South Street, Reading, Berkshire RG1 4QS, UK. Tel: 0118 959 7847.
Email: pamelapark@garnetpublishing.co.uk

Ithaca Press is pleased to announce the publication of Early Arabic Poetry: Select Poems by Professor Alan Jones. This new edition of Early Arabic Poetry combines the two volumes first published in 1992 and 1996, bringing them together with a new foreword and introduction by Professor Jones, which covers the major background problems faced by students of early Arabic poetry. The book will appeal to academics and students in the fields of Middle East Studies, Arabic, literature and poetry.
The book is divided into two main sections: the first section contains a study of fifteen poems from two of the more vivid genres: laments and poems by the outlaws. The second section focuses on famous odes. The poems are analysed in minute detail, providing the student with all the information needed to understand the texts and to consider each poem’s overall thrust and purpose.
The study of early Arabic poetry is a difficult one for a number of reasons; it is the work of people of a very alien milieu – the great composers were camel-dependant nomads; its grammar has many complications that do not survive in the later language; its texts were transmitted orally for up to two-and-a-half centuries; and there are serious problems about authenticity. It is nevertheless a fascinating and rewarding area of study, from which all later Arabic poetry stems.
This book provides unique insights into ideas prevalent in the region at the rise of Islam. In his introduction, Professor Jones describes how ‘Poetry had a number of facets that took it into the realms of magic’. As well as the inspiration of the poet by his own spirit, and the magic of the sound of poetry recitation, poetic utterances were believed to contain magical forces, particularly when the poem was intended to denigrate or curse. Thus the book transcends mere analysis of poetry to provide a rich critique of the complexities of the subject and the era.
Alan Jones taught Arabic, Turkish and Islamic Studies at Oxford from 1957 to 2000, when he retired from his post as Professor of Classical Arabic. Amongst his special interests are pre-Islamic poetry, the Qur’an, and the early growth of Islamic studies. He has also published key works on the poetry of Muslim Spain. His translation of the Qur’an was published in 2007.
FURTHER INFORMATION
For more information about Early Arabic Poetry or to request a free review copy, please visit http://www.ithacapress.co.uk