University of Toronto School of Law
This paper argues that in constructing a governmental response to religious pluralism, top-down models of state organization will not necessarily respond to the underlying cultural context that perpetuates discrimination or hate on religious grounds. Focusing on Muslim state constitutions, Emon will argue that although such constitutions include rights provisions protecting religious minorities, the role of Islamic law in the constitution creates a tension and ambiguity between minority rights protection and majoritarian interests concerning a political identity defined in part through religious terminology. Many Muslim nations incorporate Islamic law explicitly into their legal framework (with implicit use of medieval legal doctrine) as a symbol of national identity. Difficulties arise due to the conflicts between a construction of Islamic law that may or often does conflict with liberal rights guarantees for religious minorities. This paper argues that to enhance religious experience in pluralistic societies, models of governance must not rely on top-down coercive models of state power. Rather, governance amidst religious pluralism will require a greater interaction among competing religious groups on a horizontal plane of civil society, while they engage in a dialogue with the government on the scope to which government will grant and even affirmative enhance ones religious experience. To do so, this paper will employ notions of communitarian ethics and narrative modes of legal analysis both to critique on-going constructions of Islamic law, and contribute a paradigm of analysis that takes into account a peoples commitment to constitutional state-hood within an international context, while also manifesting commitments to Islam as a foundation for personal, social, and national identity.
Religion, Race, Rape, and Rights: Building American Inter-Religious Coalitions around Female Sexuality and International Intervention
In 2004, the Save Darfur Coalition formed in response to reports of human-rights violations in the Darfur Region of Sudan. The original 13 members of the Executive Committee represented Jewish, Christian, and Muslim organizations as well as human rights groups uniting under the banner of stopping genocide. By 2006, the Coalition counted affiliated members of over 100 national organizations, including many major American religious associations. The Coalition organized two highly public rallies in April and September of that year as part of their plan to mobilize millions of Americans in an inter-religious call for American and UN military intervention in Sudan. In this paper, I explore some of the inter-connected narratives of religion, pluralism, ethnicity, and Americanness that Coalition organizers and speakers drew on in attempts to mobilize their constituencies. Building on my previous work identifying the ways genocide was employed to define American ethno-religious identities, I examine how emphases on motherhood and victimized womanhood were amplified between the April and September rallies in the wake of criticism over possible anti-Muslim bias. In this analysis, I explore how some speakers attempted to move the articulated grounds for inter-religious consensus, American identity, and military intervention from issues of ethnicity and religion onto supposedly ethnically and religiously neutral ideas about gender roles, sexualities, and human rights.
Ethics After Pluralism
Most models of religious pluralism in the United States assume a secular framework, separate from any religious tradition, that allows different religious voices to interact peaceably and to have a fair presence in democratic processes. The spate of recent scholarly work on secularism, gives us reason to challenge this assumption, however. Ann Pellegrini and I have argued, for example, that the predominant secularism of U.S. public discourse is actually a Protestant secularism. And yet, in giving up the idea that the secularism of the U.S. public sphere is actually free from the particularities of any religious tradition, we are left with an ethical problem. If secular universalism does not provide the ethical framework for relations among practitioners of different religious traditions, then how are we to understand those interactions? In this essay, I explore this question from the perspective of sexual ethics. Sexuality is not the usual realm for taking up this particular problem, despite the fact that sexuality is often the site where relations among religious traditions in the U.S. are negotiated, particularly relations between predominant religious values and those of religious minorities. In addition, sexual ethics can provide alternative models for understanding social relations and the exercise of freedom. Such alternatives can go a great distance in illuminating new possibilities for recognizing religious difference after pluralism.
Colonization and Convergence: Historical Reflections on the Problem of American Indian Religion
Missionaries and other observers have frequently claimed since the beginning of colonization in the Americas that they could locate nothing in American Indian societies that resembled religion. Although typically these commentators argued that Native spiritual practices reflected at best an incomplete and superstitious understanding of the world and its ultimate destiny, they were in at least one sense correct. The highly personal, localized spiritual practices of many Native communities were totally unlike the large hierarchical, bureaucratic, doctrine-defending institutions Europeans associated with the category of religion. Missionaries and other colonial officials thus labored to establish in Native communities the beliefs, practices, and institutions that they could recognize as truly religious in nature. Pluralism in the American context contains a noticeable and lingering element of this colonial outlook, displaying a clear expectation of a certain level of conformity. The presumably secular arena for discussion, dialogue, and adjudication of conflicts continues to enforce religious norms that fail to account adequately for the significant differences between Western religionprimarily Christianityand indigenous spiritual practices. The influence of these colonial concepts and institutional structures has prompted a kind of convergence in which Native peoples adopt, out of necessity, the category of religion as a form of resistance to ongoing colonial processes. Utilizing selected examples from missionary accounts and statements by modern Native philosophers, theologians, and activists, this paper will examine the problem of American Indian religion in a cross-cultural context.
Wellesley College and Harvard University
God Needs No Passport: Immigration, Religion, and Civic Engagement
Perceptions about immigrants play a much greater role in the alleged U.S. culture wars than actual facts. Having limited experience with Muslims, Hindus, or Christians who dont speak English, many people automatically assume that newcomers holds beliefs that will destroy the American fabric. But when we listen to immigrants voices, what do we actually hear? This paper presents findings from a study of Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, and Protestant immigrants living in the metropolitan Boston area that examined how their religious lives crossed borders and influenced their civic engagement. Newcomers do come from countries where ideas about how to manage diversity and expectations about inter-group relations differ from those in the United States. They bring different notions about the relationship between church and state. They have very strong, mostly negative, opinions about politics. But what they wanted to do about it was not that different from most of the people already living in this country. Their vision of a good society and their practice of faith within it have a lot in common with many Americans.
Native American Religious Freedom Beyond the First Amendment
Native American religious traditions are in some respects not unlike many other minority religions today, but in other respects they are extremely different, and as a consequence do not fit easily into the pluralism paradigm. Native religions are many, not one, often with widely divergent beliefs even in one community. They are decidedly oral. They are integrated with other, less visibly religious, aspects of lifeways where the "sacred" is not so clearly set apart from "profane" matters of economic livelihood. They are oriented toward sacred lands in ways that defy most Judeo-Christian analogies. They are often are the province of communities rather than clear matters of individual conscience. They have often been interrupted traditions whose resurgence has called into question their claims to authentic tradition. Recently, in nearly every corner of the country, Native communities have been asserting their claims to sacred lands, cultural property, and free exercise of traditional practices in courts of law and in legislatures. In part because the First Amendment has let them down; in part because their traditions have never been plainly, or solely, religious; in part because assertions of sovereignty matter, Native communities have sought and found further protection in treaty rights and other venues of constitutional, statutory, and administrative law. Native people ironically have fared better protecting religious exercise by not calling attention to its religiousness. The "traditional cultural property" designation under the Historic Preservation Act, for example, has become a key resource for protection of sacred lands even as it studiously avoids reference to the "sacred" or "religion," as have environmental statutes and expansive interpretations of treaty rights. This essay will consider several cases protecting Native American religions without reference to religion.