Monday, 12 November 2007

Update (again)


I've changed things up a bit again. New photo slots. Hope they work for you.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Defining Religion

For a class I have to read a book on Islam called Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World by Carl W Ernst. In it is this passage, with I thought was a really interesting take on state and religion.

Another surprising definition of Islam comes from Pakistan, which since its founding in 1947 has struggled to define itself as an Islamic state. One of the most contentious issues among the many sectarian disputes that have troubled that state has been the status of the Ahmadi sect. This group has tested the boundaries of orthodoxy because of claims that the nineteenth-century founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, could have been prophet after Muhammad (many Muslims regard the prophethood of Muhammad as the final revelation, so that any claimant to prophecy is typically looked upon with great suspicion). In 1947 the government of President Z. A. Bhutto passed a law that declared Ahmadis (also called Qadianis) to be non-Muslims. Subsequent challenges to this law, on the basis of fundamental rights guaranteed by Pakistan's constitution, succeeded in calling this law into question.

A major reversal took place, however, in a 1993 judicial decision that perhaps for the first time in history actually spelled out a detailed governmental definition of Islam. The presiding judge declared that the symbols and rites of Islam (such as the profession of faith, and buildings called mosques) were the equivalent of intellectual property that could be copyrighted by the rightful owners, although he never spelled out just how such claims of ownership could be established. Therefore anyone who improperly recited the profession of faith or called their place of worship a mosque was in effect using a copyrighted logo without permission and was liable to legal penalties. The implications of this decision are breathtaking. Not only is a religion being defined as a commodity or a piece of property, which the judge actually compared to Coca-Cola, but also the courts--not religious communities--are entitled to decide what is essential to any religion. Moreover, in this decision the limits of Islam are being defined in relation to a modern sectarian group. Current Pakistani passports now require professed Muslim citizens to sign a declaration that they adhere to the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad--that is, that they are not Ahmadis. Such an outcome (reminiscent of oaths of orthodox interpretation of Holy Communion during the Protestant Reformation) can only be imagined as a result of very recent local history.

Ernst, Carl W. Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World. The University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, 2003.

Note: The context of this passage is the argument that any case study of Islam will be necessarily confused by local historical circumstances and so Islam should not be held accountable for any actions that seem to contradict Qur'anic teaching or basic morality. This, of course, applies to all religions. My interest in this passage is the idea of states and corporate entities holding a copyright to God, and the ideas of free trade being applied to spirituality. My intesest, of course, is a product of my disgust.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007



I've (temporarily) changed the template of my blog. We'll see how much I like it; it's quite possible that I'll switch back shortly.

Have a good day.
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