Chapter 16 critical thinking and decision making

Fresh energy was poured into religious movements for progressive change from the s onward. Ahmed ; Mernissi This fed into an ongoing attempt to dissociate Islam from structural inequalities and cultural practices sanctioning discrimination against women Barlas ; Moghadem ; Najmabadi In Buddhism, there were successful efforts to revive orders of Buddhist nuns Kawanami , Mohr and Tsedroen In Islam, recent reform movements include Musawah, initiated in Kuala Lumpur and currently headquartered in Rabat.

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Musawah aims to reform Muslim family law, working with legal experts, Islamic clergy and scholars, as well as anthropologists and historians. By highlighting the diversity of legitimate Islamic juristic opinion, it seeks to shift the construction of marriage from one in which women are obedient and subjugated to one more compatible with scriptural injunctions to love and mercy, and to equal respect for both genders Anwar Musawah continues to advocate reform in family laws in many parts of the world and has had some notable successes, for example in legal reform in Morocco.

Such initiatives are not without critique from other Muslims, however. Internal movements for religious reform have generally focused on women and femininities, and less attention has been paid to men, masculinities and gender relations in a broader sense. Where there has been explicit attention to masculinity, it has often been in order to defend a patriarchal family model.

Modern religious and secular defenses of the heterosexual married family often obscured alternative images within religious traditions. The pluralization of family forms, on the other hand, has prompted re-readings of traditions which have recovered a diversity and fluidity in relation to gender and sexual identities. In his study of Homosexuality in Islam Kugle argues that the traditional religious exegetical repertoire does not provide much description or analysis of concepts such as sexuality or sexual orientation.

Taking a lead from the Quran where humanity is asked to respect and celebrate diversity, Kugle shows how later commentaries highlighted the existence of hermaphrodites a third gender.

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The Sunna sayings and examples of the Prophet Muhammad also mention men who are akin to women and men who are not attracted to women, without elaborating on the reason for their lack of desire. Such traditional resources can provide a bridge between religious populations and secular reformers.

LGBTi movements are now found within all religious traditions, sometimes pressing for reform of official religion, and sometimes setting up alternative religious communities and networks. Such movements and the issues they represent are often major conflict points within religions, as well as in secular societies. The global Anglican communion of churches, for example, has become internally riven over the legitimacy of homosexual practice and same-sex marriage Hassett However, an international Islamic group called Al-Mouhajiroun, which seeks an Islamic Caliphate, declared in that members of Al-Fatiha are apostate.

In spite of these pressures, a handful of mosques in the United States and South Africa have openly gay Imams. They remain marginal, however, and are strongly opposed by many well-respected contemporary voices of Islamic authority. Religious movements alternative to the mainstream often serve as incubators for wider social change, and over the course of history there have been religious communities which have experimented with various forms of sexual, gender, and family relations — including promiscuity, polygamy, polygyny, communal childrearing, and of course, various forms of celibacy.

Religions run chiefly by women — and often for women — have been rare Sered , but their relative weight and importance in the religious landscape has increased in modern times. Some are self-consciously new, but most involve at least a partial revival of indigenous traditions. Reiki, Yoga, mindfulness. Some are focused on individual wellbeing; others combine this with political activism.

Nineteenth-century movements founded and dominated by women such as Theosophy and Christian Science were largely eclipsed by a second wave which, starting with Wicca in the s, saw the rise of a plethora of new groups and movements. Charismatic figures like Starhawk , the Jewish-background activist and witch, offered new rituals and practices which women and men could adapt to their own lives, relationships, and socio-sexual situations. A study of alternative spiritualities in Britain in the early 21st century found that 80 percent of their leaders and participants were women Heelas and Woodhead Its spread has been assisted by its easy relations with new media and the entertainment, leisure, healthcare and wellbeing industries, and the opportunities opened by entrepreneurial consumer capitalism Lofton Typically, such spirituality takes an appreciative and affirming view of equal gender relations and encourages the pluralization of family forms and intimate relations.

Pursuing social progress on behalf of families and children, working to end discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, and seeking to enhance the wellbeing of women, children and LGBTi people will require both critical assessments and creative partnerships. As set out in Chapter 2 of this volume, social progress throughout the world depends on establishing civil societies where people of diverse heritage can work and live together.

Diversity, it is clear, can come in many forms and mean many things. We would argue, however, that religious diversity is distinctive, for which reason it is inadvisable to think of religious identities simply as one among other cultural preferences. Differences in religious belief and practice, for example, are likely to strike more foundational chords than differences in taste or style.

But even on its own terms, religious diversity has widely varying connotations in different global regions. As David Martin reminds us:. The big contrast on the global scale is between transnational voluntarism, and those forms of religion based on a closed market, which regard certain territories as their peculiar and sacred preserve, and assume an isomorphic relation between kin, ethnicity and faith.

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The principle of the transnational voluntary organisation competes globally with the religions of place and ethnicity. To convert from these religions to another is to this or that extent to break with family, as well as with tribe or nation, and to opt out of the nexus and ethos of local culture. The sanctions against the exercise of choice through conversion run along a scale from mild disapproval to symbolic death or death itself.

The global variations run along a scale from North America, where it is normal, to Western Europe and Australasia, where it is accepted but not all that frequent, to the Arabian Peninsula, which is by definition Islamic territory where even foreigners cannot establish their own sacred buildings D.

Chapter 16 Critical Thinking and Decision-making

Martin Thus religious difference can be a critical point of rupture making other progressive change irrelevant or impossible, but it can also be a key site for establishing productive patterns of toleration — noting that most places in the modern world lie between the two extremes and that each society must find a way forward within the parameters set by its past. Progress will look different in different places. It is equally clear that nominal religious identifications should not themselves be essentialized.

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Diversities can be found within as well as between faiths. James Beckford ; see also Wuthnow underlines an additional point: religious diversity a state of affairs is to be distinguished from religious pluralism a normative term implying the acceptance or otherwise of diversity. The descriptive and the normative are all too often confused in the literature. Beckford also separates out societal, organizational, and individual levels of understanding, reflecting the fact that religious diversity presents differently in different domains: state, politics, civil society, culture, inter-personal relations, and so on.

It follows that individuals may welcome diversity within societies or polities that do not, and vice versa.


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Some groups may, in fact, advocate for societal toleration so as to protect their own exclusivist beliefs Yang That done, we will draw on the social scientific literature to ask which institutions and groups are engaged in the management of religious diversity and for what reasons? Through the lens of a series of case studies, we will foreground the relationship between diversity and social progress. Is religious difference a problem or an advantage in this respect and for whom?

The extent of religious diversity varies across the globe Grim In some cases diversity is growing, in other cases declining, and in still others it remains relatively stable. The following examples illustrate these patterns along with the wide variety of reasons for both growth and decline. Each illustration uses a measure of change that covers the period and draws on the material brought together in Johnson, Grim, and Zurlo Southeast Asia, the first example, has exhibited very little religious change over this period Figure 3.

Colonialism altered the religious ecology in ways that can still be seen. Migration moves religious traditions with the people, and repression often propels the migration in the first place. The second example encompasses a large swathe of Africa Figure 3. That said, careful attention should be paid to the detail of each country — they are far from uniform. The third example is the Middle East, which is characterized by decreasing diversity, due in this case to conflict and dispersion Figure 3. The displacement of historic religious communities, long at home in the region, is a recent phenomenon.

Europe Figure 3. Figure 3. Europe is a case in point. Former West Europe displays not only increasing diversity but increasing secularity — notably a rise in the proportion of people indicating no religion Figure 3. This is particularly the case in the Protestant parts of the continent.

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The former communist countries further east, including Russia, indicate a rather different trend Figure 3. What emerges overall is the constantly generative nature of religious diversity in the 21st century. As political, social, economic and natural forces push populations from one place to another, some parts of the world will become more religiously diverse, while others will become more homogeneous.

Within each society, there will also be shifts produced by changes internal to the population. Individual religious change is equally part of the story. The tension between universal rights to free religious choice and local pressures toward societal and political loyalty is explored further in the case studies set out below. As these population assessments illustrate, religious diversity must be considered a major factor both push and pull in mobility and migration.