• Theology of Migration: Toward a Comparative Conceptualization

    This article introduces the concept of “theology of migration” in a comparative analysis of texts by religious leaderships that portray migration as the fulfillment of a religious call. Based on a reading of primary sources and field studies, five cases are examined: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, the Islamic wasati approach, the Jewish Hasidic Chabad movement, and African Independent Churches built by labor migrants in Israel. The article distinguishes between “proactive-adaptive” and “retrospective-adaptive” theologies of migration. The former constitute repeatedly modified theological calls for religious communities to move from one land to another, while the latter constitute legitimizations of already existing migrations that were motivated by temporal considerations and that challenged religious norms. Analysis reveals theologies to be dynamic, evolving corpuses and suggests that the potential of migrating religious groups to endure physical setbacks and moral challenges is dependent on the ability of their leaderships to accommodate their theological narratives to changing circumstances.

  • Islamic Legal Hybridity and Patriarchal Liberalism in the Shari’a Courts in Israel

    The civil judicial family law system and the shari‘a courts in Israel are a fascinating site for the study of legal hybridity, particularly with regard to cases involving the legal and religious rights of women. Legal hybridity is found both in the shari‘a courts, even when ruling on cases that are under their exclusive jurisdiction, and in the family courts that apply provisions of Islamic and Israeli law. In this article, I examine as a case study of the problem of appointing a woman as arbitrator between quarelling spouses in the shari‘a court arbitration process. This example shows how a shari‘a court operates under pressure from the secular civil judicial system. It is discernible how a system of legal hybridity gives rise to multiple discourses deriving from different normative systems and various players—such as human rights organizations, Islamic feminist movements, secular feminist movements, and the Israel Supreme Court—seeking to navigate the discourse in pursuit of their interests. My central thesis is that this system of legal hybridity is enhancing a patriarchal liberalism that is filled with obstacles and hurdles preventing full equality.

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  • The Hybrid Women of the Arab Spring Revolutions: Islamization of Feminism, Feminization of Islam

    Arab and Muslim women who led the Arab Spring revolutions in their countries were often characterized as secular and liberal. According to this binary approach, religious women are identified with a conservative world view, a traditional education, and a medium to low socioeconomic status. The norms of honor and modesty governing these women are assumed to oblige them to confine themselves exclusively to their roles as wives and mothers and limit their presence in the public sphere. Furthermore, this binary approach stigmatizes those who wrap their heads in the hijab and cover their faces with the niqab as women who are forced by their fathers and husbands to accept traditional norms. Secular women, however, are portrayed as those who have liberated themselves from the shackles of religion and tradition. They are assumed to be highly educated, liberal in their world view, socially and politically engaged, and aspiring to build careers as competent professionals with the goal of becoming economically independent. To achieve this, they are prepared to struggle for their rightful place as equals in both family and society.
    However, the revolutionary Tunisian, Egyptian, and Yemeni women’s life stories, their world views, and their sociopolitical agenda and outer appearance indicate that their prototype is an amalgamation of a faith-motivated religiosity and a liberal, pluralistic world view. These women join their sisters who, since the last decades of the ninetieth century, have taken part in social- and gender-oriented struggles in the Middle East and North Africa. Their retention of their cultural authenticity, religious beliefs, and moral values clearly highlights the fact that for these hybrid women—to borrow Homi Bhabhi’s concept of hybridity—Islamic religious belief and a liberal world view are intertwined.
  • The Iraqi Novel and the Christians of Iraq

    After the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian regime in 2003, the Christian communities of Iraq faced forced emigration. In this article I examine how the Christians of Iraq and their recent precarious situation are reflected in the Iraqi novel. First, I set the political and conceptual grounds with an exposition of the debate over the place of Christians in the Iraqi nation, as discussed by two Iraqi intellectuals belonging to the Sunni and Shi‘i Muslim traditions. This debate frames the liberal political discourse on the Christians and thus provides a framework for the analysis of the novels, the main focus of the article. Iraqi novelists are less refined than intellectuals and politicians in their exposition of views about Christians, or in the case of Christian novelists, their views of their own community and of Iraqi Muslims. I examine representations of Christians in novels written by both Muslim and Christian Iraqi writers, as well as how novels by Christian Iraqi writers reflect the controversy they live with and the crisis of their identity vis à vis their community and its current place in Iraq. What emerges is that increasing numbers of Christians question both their alliance with the Arabs in Iraq and, even more so, their Arab identity. For various reasons Arab Muslim intellectuals find this difficult to accept.