A case of imperial aggression, not contending modernities

ABDULLAHI AHMED AN-NA’IM

There may be examples of a “clash between modernities,” but the recent wave of protests in several Muslim majority countries against the so-called “innocence of Muslims” film was not one of them. Indeed, protests by Muslims should be accepted as part of the process of “negotiating” the appropriate limits of two varieties of free speech. If the movie maker in this case is exercising his right to free speech, so are Muslims who are protesting the excessively vulgar ways in which he expressed his views. But it is equally clear that violence is never justified.

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An honest conversation about Benghazi and beyond

TIMOTHY SAMUEL SHAH

“[T]he events of the last two weeks…speak to the need for all of us to honestly address the tensions between the West and the Arab World…” Those words were spoken by President Obama in his speech to the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2012. Indeed, all the events swirling around a crude video insulting the Prophet Muhammad demand an honest conversation about the tensions between the West and the predominantly Muslim cultures of the Arab World — not to mention Muslim cultures beyond the Arab World. A logical forum for such a conversation is Contending Modernities. And the ideal host for such a conversation is Dr. Paola Bernardini, the new Associate Director for Research for Contending Modernities.

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Contending conceptions of democracy

PAOLA BERNARDINI

The recent wave of violent reactions in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to the online video mocking the Prophet Muhammad may be taken as the most recent example of a clash between “contending modernities.” The US-based moviemaker is sometimes taken to represent the values of “Western democracy” and “free speech,” while the protesters in places such as Libya and Pakistan are taken to represent “extremism” and “illiberalism.” Arguably, though, they represent not a clash of “democracy” vs. “extremism” but a clash between rival conceptions of democracy.

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Catholicism and economic life in the Arabian Peninsula (Part 2)

BRANDON VAIDYANATHAN

In my previous post I examined some of the ways in which the Catholic Church in the Arabian Peninsula helps cultivate skills and competencies that enable its members to achieve successful economic outcomes. A second set of resources it offers could be called ideational resources — ideals, attitudes, beliefs, and values that have a long-standing, habitual nature. Here, the classic example of how ideas or values contribute to economic outcomes is Weber’s argument, in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Does Catholicism impart a distinctive “Catholic ethic” among its adherents in Gulf cities?

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Catholicism and economic life in the Arabian Peninsula (Part 1)

BRANDON VAIDYANATHAN

The Arabian/Persian Gulf region is home to some of the fastest-developing cities in the world. In my research into these new hubs of global capitalism, one issue I examine is the role of Catholicism. While official statistics on foreign populations are not available, estimates from various sources (including embassies and churches) place the Catholic population in these cities at — astonishingly — between 10-30 percent, with a contributing factor being the increasing Filipino emigration to cities such as Dubai and Doha. One crucial way Catholicism shapes modern life in the Gulf is by serving as a source of “technical” competencies or cultural capital—technical in the sense of having to do with techniques, skills, and practices that contribute to economic outcomes and social mobility.

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Interreligious dialogue and the state in Muslim modernity

MICHAEL DRIESSEN & BRANDON VAIDYANATHAN

The Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue (DICID) recently held its ninth annual conference on October 24-26, 2011. The only major interfaith dialogue event in the region, the conference is a state-sponsored event that brings together prominent scholars, practitioners, government officials, and interested publics, and aims to improve understanding and cooperation between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.Inadvertently, the conference proved a powerful display of the promise and limits of state-sponsored “Muslim modernity.”

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Indian Catholics responding to globalization

BRANDON VAIDYANATHAN

When I first began researching call center workers in India, I was surprised to come across an article on a British news website about how the Catholic Archbishop of Bangalore had expressed public concern about rapidly mushrooming call centers. While most people outside India assume that call centers and “outsourcing” must be an unqualified boon for the country, the Archbishop fretted about their impact on the lifestyles of Indian youth.

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Catholics in the call center

BRANDON VAIDYANATHAN

In 2005, I visited Bangalore for the first time in ten years, and was astonished at the major facelift the city had undergone. The once quiet and easy-going “garden city” was now a thriving metropolis, dotted with an ever-growing number of shopping malls, coffee shops, glass-paneled office towers, KFC and McDonald’s franchises, and Pepsi billboards. Besides these usual symbols heralding the arrival of globalization, one new development struck me as peculiar: the outsourcing industry. I soon discovered that outsourcing highlights some of the important tensions between new modes of secularity and new religious modernities—including Catholic ones—emerging around the world.

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Catholic contributions to modern peacebuilding

GERARD POWERS

Some people say that Catholic Social Teaching is the Church’s Best Kept Secret. If that is true, Catholic peacebuilding may be Catholic Social Teaching’s Best Kept Secret. From South Sudan and Central America to Congo and Colombia, the Catholic Church is a powerful force for peace, freedom, justice and reconciliation. But that impressive and courageous peacebuilding work of the Catholic community is often unknown, unheralded and under-analyzed.

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