Burqas, Blobs, and Bans in “La Belle France”

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A recent search of the term “burqa” on CartoonStock.com turned up a plethora of images of women in black and blue veils. In one image a black-clad woman in a delivery room gives birth to a tiny, similarly garbed miniature, as a nurse proclaims, “It’s a girl!” In another, a woman in a black niqab, with only her eyes exposed, sits in front of a computer featuring the webpage “Hidden Facebook.” Read the full article »

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Religious Expression or Female Oppression?

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In the wake of France’s total ban on the burqa or full-length veil, which took effect last month, on April 11th, it is an appropriate time to address the Islamic interpretation of the headscarf and its significance for Muslims. Scholars of religion inevitably get nervous when they are asked to speak about “the” interpretation of anything. So I propose to draw on my personal experience as a Muslim and as an observer of Western politics and society to establish some context that may lead us to be more aware of certain uncritical areas in our framing of the question at hand.

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Human Dignity: the Foundation of Human Rights

March 21st is annually commemorated as Human Rights Day in post-Apartheid South Africa, in remembrance of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre in which the apartheid police force opened fire on a crowd of anti-pass law protesters, killing 69 and maiming 189. On Human Rights Day, we pay tribute to the Sharpeville martyrs. But Human Rights Day is also a useful time to become familiar with the latest thinking on the longstanding and robust debate about the compatibility between “Islam and Human Rights.”

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Truth & Reconciliation Amid Sexual Violence

M. CHRISTIAN GREEN

Like many universities around America, Notre Dame recognized Sexual Assault Awareness Week at the end of last month (February 20-27) in a world in which sexual violence against women and girls—and sometimes men and boys—remains a persistent evil. As one of the world’s oldest forms of violence, present throughout the ages, particularly in situations of conflict and war, sexual violence seems distinctly anti-modern from both religious and secular perspectives. How is it that sexual violence remains such a blot on human nature, human society and, particularly, the relationship between men and women?

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A New Egypt

In the aftermath of Mubarak’s resignation, Egypt stands at the dawn of a new era. It is an era borne of the ingenuity, sacrifices and dedication of an entire nation. We remember and recognize all those brave men and women who lost their lives but have ignited and galvanized the movement of change. The past month has been a testament to the spirit and integrity of the Egyptian people.

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Beyond State Idolatry in Egypt

What we are currently witnessing in Egypt is a transformative moment that has been described by the pro-democracy demonstrators in the streets of Cairo as a “Tunisami”—a tsunami of social activism that first swept a despot in Tunisia from power and now in Egypt. The question on many people’s minds is: What comes next? I hope Egyptians will embrace a lesson citizens in my own South Africa have learned the hard way: beware the idolatry of the state.

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Let Fundamental Reforms Bring a New, Peaceful Egypt

It is with a heavy heart that I have watched the events of the past few days unfold. Violence is always regrettable, but to watch my own country deteriorate into virtual chaos is a cause of unimaginable grief and sadness, and the recent attacks against demonstrators are worthy of the strongest condemnation. To see Egypt in such a state of chaos is truly heart-wrenching. There is, however, reason for hope and optimism.

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A Muslim-Catholic Cold War?

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Al-Azhar University in Egypt is sometimes called “the Vatican” of the Sunni Muslim world. On January 20th, it formally suspended dialogue with the Catholic Church in protest over Pope Benedict XVI’s recent insistence on “more effective” protection for Egypt’s Coptic Christians. What does the suspension mean? Where do Catholic-Muslim relations go from here? We asked a wide range of distinguished observers—Muslim and Catholic—to address these questions.

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The “Mormon Menace”

Nineteenth-century America saw a nationwide campaign to tame the “Mormon menace.” Promoted by an alliance of religious and secular individuals, institutions, and ideals, it even led President Rutherford B. Hayes to recommend stripping Mormons of their citizenship. Although Contending Modernities will focus primarily on Mormonism’s fellow subjects of modern opprobrium—Islam and Catholicism—it is important to consider such other “shadow cases” as we examine the complex dynamics of religion in modernity. The deep pluralism characteristic of the modern age has posed, and will continue to pose, a substantial challenge to the largely Euro-American-Protestant construct of secularism that dominated much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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On the New Year’s Day Church Bombing in Egypt

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Terrorism cannot be the outcome of any proper understanding of religion. It is rather a manifestation of the immorality of people with cruel hearts, arrogant souls, and warped logic. It is thus with great sadness and outrage that we witness the emergence of this disease in our nation with the recent bombing outside a church in Alexandria that killed tens of Egyptian citizens. There is no doubt that such barbarism needs to be denounced in the strongest of terms, and opposed at every turn. We demand that the perpetrators be brought to justice and stand trial.

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