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Being German, Becoming Muslim

Race, Religion, and Conversion in the New Europe

Esra Özyürek

Every year more and more Europeans, including Germans, are embracing Islam. It is estimated that there are now up to one hundred thousand German converts—a number similar to that in France and the United Kingdom. What stands out about recent conversions is that they take place at a time when Islam is increasingly seen as contrary to European values. Being German, Becoming Muslim explores how Germans come to Islam within this antagonistic climate, how they manage to balance their love for Islam with their society’s fear of it, how they relate to immigrant Muslims, and how they shape debates about race, religion, and belonging in today’s Europe.

Esra Özyürek looks at how mainstream society marginalizes converts and questions their national loyalties. In turn, converts try to disassociate themselves from migrants of Muslim-majority countries and promote a denationalized Islam untainted by Turkish or Arab traditions. Some German Muslims believe that once cleansed of these accretions, the Islam that surfaces fits in well with German values and lifestyle. Others even argue that being a German Muslim is wholly compatible with the older values of the German Enlightenment.

Being German, Becoming Muslim provides a fresh window into the connections and tensions stemming from a growing religious phenomenon in Germany and beyond.

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Between Feminism and Islam

Human Rights and Sharia Law in Morocco

Zakia Salime

There are two major women’s movements in Morocco: the Islamists who hold shari’a as the platform for building a culture of women’s rights, and the feminists who use the United Nations’ framework to amend shari’a law. Between Feminism and Islam shows how the interactions of these movements over the past two decades have transformed the debates, the organization, and the strategies of each other.

In Between Feminism and Islam, Zakia Salime looks at three key movement moments: the 1992 feminist One Million Signature Campaign, the 2000 Islamist mass rally opposing the reform of family law, and the 2003 Casablanca attacks by a group of Islamist radicals. At the core of these moments are disputes over legitimacy, national identity, gender representations, and political negotiations for shaping state gender policies. Located at the intersection of feminism and Islam, these conflicts have led to the Islamization of feminists on the one hand and the feminization of Islamists on the other.

Documenting the synergistic relationship between these movements, Salime reveals how the boundaries of feminism and Islamism have been radically reconfigured. She offers a new conceptual framework for studying social movements, one that allows us to understand how Islamic feminism is influencing global debates on human rights.

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Between Mysticism and Philosophy

Sufi Language of Religious Experience in Judah Ha-Levi's Kuzari

A revealing study of this important medieval Jewish poet and his relation to Islamic thought. Judah Ha-Levi (1075–1141), a medieval Jewish poet, mystic, and sophisticated critic of the rationalistic tradition in Judaism, is the focus of this ground-breaking study. Diana Lobel examines his influential philosophical dialogue, Sefer ha-Kuzari, written in Arabic and later translated into Hebrew, which broke religious and philosophical convention by infusing Sufi terms for religious experience with a new Jewish theological vision. Intellectually engaging, clear, and accessible, Between Mysticism and Philosophy is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the intertwined worlds of Jewish and Islamic philosophy, religion, and culture.

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Between the Middle East and the Americas

The Cultural Politics of Diaspora

Edited by Evelyn Alsultany and Ella Shohat

Between the Middle East and the Americas: The Cultural Politics of Diaspora traces the production and circulation of discourses about "the Middle East" across various cultural sites, against the historical backdrop of cross-Atlantic Mahjar flows. The bo

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Beyond the Qurʾān

Early Ismāʿῑlῑ Taʾwῑl and the Secrets of the Prophets

David Hollenberg

Ismailism, one of the three major branches of Shiism, is best known for taʾwῑl, an esoteric, allegorizing scriptural exegesis. Beyond the Qurʾān: Early Ismaili taʾwῑl and the Secrets of the Prophets is the first book-length study of this interpretive genre. Analyzing sources composed by tenth-century Ismaili missionaries in light of social-science theories of cognition and sectarianism, David Hollenberg argues that the missionaries used taʾwῑl to instill in acolytes a set of symbolic patterns, forms, and “logics.” This shared symbolic world bound the community together as it created a gulf between community members and those outside the movement. Hollenberg thus situates ta’wil socially, as an interpretive practice that sustained a community of believers. An important aspect of taʾwῑl is its unconventional objects of interpretation. Ismaili missionaries mixed Qurʾānic exegesis with interpretation of Torah, Gospels, Greek philosophy, and symbols such as the Christian Cross and Eucharist, as well as Jewish festivals. Previously scholars have speculated that this extra- Qurʾānic taʾwῑl was intended to convert Jews and Christians to Ismailism. Hollenberg, departing from this view, argues that such interpretations were, like Ismaili interpretations of the Qurʾān, intended for an Ismaili audience, many of whom converted to the movement from other branches of Shiism. Hollenberg argues that through exegesis of these unconventional sources, the missionaries demonstrated that their imam alone could strip the external husk from all manner of sources and show the initiates reality in its pure, unmediated form, an imaginal world to which they alone had access. They also fulfilled the promise that their imam would teach them the secrets behind all religions, a sign that the initial stage of the end of days had commenced. Beyond the Qurʾān contributes to our understanding of early Ismaili doctrine, Fatimid rhetoric, and, more broadly, the use of esoteric literatures in the history of religion.

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Bioethics and Organ Transplantation in a Muslim Society

A Study in Culture, Ethnography, and Religion

Farhat Moazam

"Dr. Farhat Moazam has written a wonderful book, based on her extraordinary first-hand study.... [S]he is an exceptionally gifted and evocative writer. Her book not only has the attributes of a superb piece of intellectual work, but it has literary artistic merit." -- Renee C. Fox, Annenberg Professor Emerita of the Social Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania

This is an ethnographic study of live, related kidney donation in Pakistan, based on Farhat Moazam's participant-observer research conducted at a public hospital. Her narrative is both a "thick" description of renal transplant cases and the cultural, ethical, and family conflicts that accompany them, and an object lesson in comparative bioethics.

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Black Muslim Religion in the Nation of Islam, 1960-1975

Edward E. Curtis IV

Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam came to America's attention in the 1960s and 1970s as a radical separatist African American social and political group. But the movement was also a religious one. Edward E. Curtis IV offers the first comprehensive examination of the rituals, ethics, theologies, and religious narratives of the Nation of Islam, showing how the movement combined elements of Afro-Eurasian Islamic traditions with African American traditions to create a new form of Islamic faith. Considering everything from bean pies to religious cartoons, clothing styles to prayer rituals, Curtis explains how the practice of Islam in the movement included the disciplining and purifying of the black body, the reorientation of African American historical consciousness toward the Muslim world, an engagement with both mainstream Islamic texts and the prophecies of Elijah Muhammad, and the development of a holistic approach to political, religious, and social liberation. Curtis's analysis pushes beyond essentialist ideas about what it means to be Muslim and offers a view of the importance of local processes in identity formation and the appropriation of Islamic traditions. Although it came to the nation's attention as a separatist and radical African American social and political group in the 1960s and 1970s, Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam was also a religious movement. This book offers the first comprehensive examination of the NOI's rituals, ethics, theologies, and religious narratives based on interviews, members' memoirs, and contemporary media produced by the NOI, such as the weekly newspaper Muhammad Speaks. Curtis explains how the practice of Islam in the movement included the disciplining and purifying of the black body, the reorientation of African American historical consciousness toward the Muslim world, an engagement with both mainstream Islamic texts and the prophecies of Elijah Muhammad, and the development of a holistic approach to political, religious, and social liberation. Curtis's analysis pushes beyond essentialist ideas about what it means to be Muslim and promotes a view of the importance of local processes in identity formation and appropriations of Islamic traditions. Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam came to America's attention in the 1960s and 1970s as a radical separatist African American social and political group. But the movement was also a religious one. Curtis offers the first comprehensive examination of the Nation of Islam's rituals, ethics, theologies, and religious narratives, showing how the movement combined elements of Afro-Eurasian Islamic traditions with African American traditions to create a new form of Islamic faith. Curtis's analysis pushes beyond essentialist ideas about what it means to be Muslim and promotes a view of the importance of local processes in identity formation and appropriations of Islamic traditions. Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam came to America's attention in the 1960s and 1970s as a radical separatist African American social and political group. But the movement was also a religious one. Edward E. Curtis IV offers the first comprehensive examination of the rituals, ethics, theologies, and religious narratives of the Nation of Islam, showing how the movement combined elements of Afro-Eurasian Islamic traditions with African American traditions to create a new form of Islamic faith. Considering everything from bean pies to religious cartoons, clothing styles to prayer rituals, Curtis explains how the practice of Islam in the movement included the disciplining and purifying of the black body, the reorientation of African American historical consciousness toward the Muslim world, an engagement with both mainstream Islamic texts and the prophecies of Elijah Muhammad, and the development of a holistic approach to political, religious, and social liberation. Curtis's analysis pushes beyond essentialist ideas about what it means to be Muslim and offers a view of the importance of local processes in identity formation and the appropriation of Islamic traditions.

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A Brief History of Islam in Europe

Thirteen Centuries of Creed, Conflict and Coexistence

Maurits S. Berger

The relationship between Europe and Islam has been complicated, if not troubled, throughout the thirteen centuries since Muslims first began playing a part in European history. This volume offers a compact, yet comprehensive look at the entire history of the interaction of Islam and Eureopean culture, religion, and politics

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Building a Better Bridge

Muslims, Christians, and the Common Good

Michael Ipgrave, Editor

Building a Better Bridge is a record of the fourth Building Bridges seminar held in Sarajevo in 2005 as part of an annual symposium on Muslim-Christian relations cosponsored by Georgetown University and the Archbishop of Canterbury. This volume presents t

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A Call for Heresy

Why Dissent Is Vital to Islam and America

Anouar Majid

A Call for Heresy discovers unexpected common ground in one of the most inflammatory issues of the twenty-first century: the deepening conflict between the Islamic world and the United States. Moving beyond simplistic answers, Anouar Majid argues that the Islamic world and the United States are both in precipitous states of decline because, in each, religious, political, and economic orthodoxies have silenced the voices of their most creative thinkers—the visionary nonconformists, radicals, and revolutionaries who are often dismissed, or even punished, as heretics.

The United States and contemporary Islam share far more than partisans on either side admit, Majid provocatively argues, and this “clash of civilizations” is in reality a clash of competing fundamentalisms. Illustrating this point, he draws surprising parallels between the histories and cultures of Islam and the United States and their shortsighted suppression of heresy (zandaqa in Arabic), from Muslim poets and philosophers like Ibn Rushd (known in the West as Averroës) to the freethinker Thomas Paine, and from Abu Bakr Razi and Al-Farabi to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. He finds bitter irony in the fact that Islamic culture is now at war with a nation whose ideals are losing ground to the reactionary forces that have long condemned Islam to stagnation.

The solution, Majid concludes, is a long-overdue revival of dissent. Heresy is no longer a contrarian’s luxury, for only through encouraging an engaged and progressive intellectual tradition can the nations reverse their decline and finally work together for global justice and the common good of humanity.


Anouar Majid is founding chair and professor of English at the University of New England and the author of Freedom and Orthodoxy: Islam and Difference in the Post-Andalusian Age; Unveiling Traditions: Postcolonial Islam in a Polycentric World; and Si Yussef, a novel. He is also cofounder and editor of Tingis, a Moroccan-American magazine of ideas and culture.

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