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The Status of Minorities under Islamic Law  

Anver Emon

How are non-Muslims treated under Islamic law? “Tolerance” features as a key trope in contemporary writing on the topic in both the scholarly and popular literature. Writers are keen to determine whether one can assess whether “Islam” is tolerant of non-Muslims or not. An exploration of the limits of “tolerance” as an analytic device by illuminating the various rationales that informed juristic conclusions of law on non-Muslims shows that while some rules certainly evince a discriminatory logic, others are more accommodative and inclusive.

Article

Islamic Bioethics: Abortion  

Gilla K. Shapiro and Jonathan K. Crane

Religion plays a significant role in the bioethical decisions of abortion, which is the procedure for terminating a pregnancy before the fetus reaches viability. The bioethical discussion of abortion in Islam has great significance for health policy, significantly affecting how women seek out abortions and the rates of unsafe abortions and national maternal mortality. Guiding texts of Islamic religious authority, the Quran and the Sunnah, do not directly address abortion, but the Quran does include the prohibition of infanticide and mistreatment of unwanted children. It details how abortions are justified on varying grounds, such as the endangerment of the woman’s life.

Article

Islamic Bioethics: Agency  

Mustansir Mir

In Islamic bioethics, the issue of moral agency arises in connection with decisions that a human being is supposed to be able to make in certain medical and health-related situations. Islamic treatments of bioethical issues usually draw on the juristic decisions, rulings, and opinions that make up the classical Islamic legal-ethical tradition called Sharī‘a. However, tradition is largely premodern and needs to become sensitized to modern issues and problems. Tradition can provide religious, moral, and legal guidance and direction, with the Qur’ān and the Prophet’s Sunna as the chief sources of a bioethical system.

Article

Islamic Bioethics: Bioethics in Malaysia  

Salilah Saidun

Islamic bioethics in Malaysia must be examined in terms of deliberation, legislation, and education. Shariʿah and social and economic state factors in Malaysia must be considered alongside the local and global implications of the bioethics issue. Civil and criminal law in Malaysia are under the Federal Government’s legislative authority, while Islamic affairs are under the regulation of the state governments. Several government agencies, non-governmental organizations, research institutions, and universities contribute to the development and dissemination of Islamic bioethics in Malaysia. Islamic reflection on bioethical questions in Malaysia must constantly keep up with rapidly progressing scientific developments.

Article

Islamic Bioethics: Castration  

Serena Tolino

Castration, scientifically called gonadectomy, is the action by which a man loses the use of his testicles. The prohibition of castration is included in the Qur’an, as it is considered to be mutilation and a change in God’s creation. While Muslim jurists of both the premodern period and the 21st century agree on the prohibition of castration, their specific interests changed over time. In the premodern period, historical evidence suggests that castrated men were a very important presence in Islamic courts. In the 21st century, castration is typically forbidden, and the number of castrated men has been greatly reduced. Surgical castration is forbidden in any case, and can become acceptable only for medical reasons, when it is inevitable and prevents a greater danger to the man. However, the debate on chemical castration—which has been proposed to reduce sexual harassment and pedophilia in Egypt, India, and Indonesia—is more nuanced.

Article

Islamic Bioethics: Circumcision  

Zaynab El Bernoussi and Baudouin Dupret

In both cases of male circumcision (khitan) and female circumcision (khifad), the laws and regulations in different Muslim-majority countries inform the rules of sexual morality in these societies. Moreover, the religious rationale behind circumcision is bodily purification for worship, while many medical professionals also argue for male circumcision as a way of maintaining bodily hygiene.

Article

Islam, Gender, and Sexualities  

Yafa Shanneik

Mapping a discussion on gender and sexualities in Islam needs to move beyond an understanding of Islamic law (shariah) and its interpretations that has traditionally been made by male religious scholars (ulamā). It is important to also pay attention to the lived experiences of people on the ground and move away from a homogeneous universal construct of what gender is and what sexualities are. It should include an examination of various power structures that highlights the experiences and voices of not only women but also other subjected and subaltern groups. What are the intersections and overlapping viewpoints and arguments on gender and sexualities in Islam? Who is talking on behalf of which group? The examination of gender and sexualities within Islam is a complex topic that needs consideration of socioeconomic and political shifts as well as ongoing processes of modernization and globalization. This includes the formation of nation-states, the codification of Islamic law, the shift in family relations and mobility, the increase in level of education and waged labor, and transnational migration. International organizations, such as the United Nations, also exert pressure on governments of Muslim-majority countries to adhere to established international human rights standards. This pressure has played a role in prompting changes in legislations particularly regarding the personal status law that affects women’s and other minority rights. The aftermath of the latest political uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) since 2011 has placed gender at the heart of not only religious but also political contestations. Displacement and the sociopolitical marginalization of minority groups have contributed to the changing understandings of gender orders within the MENA region and beyond. As a consequence, normative understandings of gender and sexualities have been renegotiated and readjusted and have resulted in new gender power relations. This disruption of conventional gender power relations creates tensions and causes divergences between what, for generations, has been perceived as traditional gender norms. This is primarily evident within familial structures and conjugal relationships where the lived realities do not always reflect current Islamic jurisprudence or the law set by the state.

Article

History of Muslims in the United States  

Yasmine Flodin-Ali

During the transatlantic slave trade, enslaved Muslims were brought from North and West Africa to what would become the United States. Many of these African Muslims were literate in Arabic. Even in the face of formative obstacles, enslaved people and their descendants continued to observe their faith and to adapt Islamic and Islamically influenced practices in the United States. In the mid-1800s to early 1900s, Muslims began to immigrate to the United States from the Middle East and South Asia. Muslim immigrants used a variety of tactics to establish communities in the United States while navigating segregation, miscegenation, and restrictive citizenship laws. A few small-scale Muslim institutions were established, including mosques and cultural centers. Prominent Muslim and Islamically influenced movements flourished in the early 20th century, such as the Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA) and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community movement. The MSTA was an African American–majority movement born of the Great Migration. The Thesophist movement was largely white. Both movements were similar in terms of their exploration of the occult and emphasis on bodily control as a means of spiritual purification. The Ahmadiyya produced and translated much of the religious literature that circulated in the United States across Muslim sects in the first half of the 20th century, including the most popular translation of the Qur’an, often without attribution. Sunni and Shi’i communities were also present in this time period. The Nation of Islam (NOI, 1930–1975) surpassed the MSTA and Ahmadiyya to become the largest and most influential Muslim American movement in the secondhalf of the 20th century. The NOI emphasized communal economic empowerment and self-reliance for Black Americans in order to achieve the goal of separation from Whites as a means of achieving racial justice. Prominent figures from the NOI, such as Malcolm X, are frequently invoked by different Muslim American groups in the 21st century. When Elijah Muhammad died in 1975, NOI members went in different directions. Elijah Muhammad’s son, Warith Deen Muhammad, led a large portion of the community to Sunni Islam. Other members joined Louis Farrakhan’s NOI. The Harter-Celler Act of 1965 opened up non-European immigration, leading to a large increase in Muslim immigrants from the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. Due to the law’s stipulations, these immigrants were largely upper-class and well-educated. In the 1960s and 1970s, there was also a push by many different Muslim American groups toward Sunnism. The 1979 Iranian Revolution and hostage crisis increased anti-Muslim hostility in the United States and created the stereotype that all Muslim Americans were immigrants from the Middle East. The 9/11 attacks amplified this backlash, but also led to the creation and strengthening of nationwide Muslim civil rights and advocacy organizations. Advocacy campaigns and heated debates have also taken place within the Muslim American community in the 21st century. Professor of Islamic Studies Amina Wadud has been particularly influential in shaping conversations around gender and Islam, both in the United States and globally. Wadud is also well-known for leading a mixed-gender congregational prayer in New York City in 2005, which sparked a global debate over the permissibility of women leading prayer. In the early 21st century, so-called third spaces proliferated, including art spaces and gatherings facilitated through online groups such as Meetup, where Muslims who felt left out of more traditional mosque spaces found community. This entry ends in 2010, almost a decade after 9/11 and before the rising presidential candidacy of Donald J. Trump.

Article

The Violence at Jonestown  

Rebecca Moore

The eruption of violence carried out by members of Peoples Temple, in which more than nine hundred men, women, and children died by ingesting cyanide-laced fruit punch in 1978, seemed incomprehensible. Scholars, journalists, pundits, and government officials presented a variety of explanations to account for the mass murder–suicides of US citizens that occurred in Jonestown, Guyana. The range of analyses in the weeks, months, and years that followed sought to understand why group members assassinated a US congressman and fatally shot four other people, why parents murdered their children, and why they then took their own lives. Shocked by news reports and goaded by professional cult-watchers, popular opinion focused on so-called brainwashed followers who did as they were told under the authority of a charismatic—some said deranged—leader. Psychiatrists and psychologists tended to blame maladjusted individuals seeking refuge from autonomy and independence. Scholars who specialize in new religions studies noted historical precedents, religious beliefs (especially apocalyptic theology), and the influence of cultural opponents—relatives, the news media, and government actors—placing pressure on the group. Political analysts found religion in general, cult leaders, and vulnerable followers responsible. Contesting official and consensus understanding, conspiracy theorists viewed the deaths as mass murder rather than mass suicide. Some former members of Peoples Temple adopted this perspective, although many came to believe that residents had been conditioned by coercive practices to follow the leader. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, documents and audiotapes generated in Jonestown have illuminated the community’s internal practices and rhetoric and have served to complicate traditional views. This evidence has made it clear that Jonestown leaders conspired to develop a mass suicide plan to be enacted when the community faced imminent destruction. Although the logistics were carefully crafted, the various justifications for this irrevocable step remain obscure and ambiguous.

Article

Lone Wolf Race Warriors  

Mattias Gardell

The term “lone wolf” is a metaphor that began to be used by advocates of White radical nationalism in the United States in the 1970s to name unorganized individuals who committed violent crime, including murder, to further White racist and White radical nationalist aims. In the 1980s and 1990s, seminal radical nationalist thinkers, including James Mason, William Pierce, Louis Beam, Tom Metzger, and David Lane, incorporated lone wolf violence as part of decentralized revolutionary tactics, often, although not exclusively, named “leaderless resistance.” Contemplating the fact that White racist organizations, including the Ku Klux Klan, had not been able to safeguard the privileges, resources, and powers long attached to Whiteness by US law, Mason, Pierce, Beam, Metzger, and Lane concluded that White racist organizations not only were too dysfunctional but also far too visible, and therefore easy to monitor, infiltrate, and neutralize. While the White nationalist cause still needed public figures and organizations to attract and educate new cadres, armed White racist resistance had to be decentralized and leaderless. White nationalist leaders should issue generalized calls to arms but give no direct orders and have no knowledge about who was planning to do what. The perpetrators would themselves be responsible for preparing and executing their violent crime and securing adequate resources. The lone wolf should go under the radar and melt into the general population by avoiding racist organizations and attributes and should never tell anyone about his—White racist lone wolves are so far predominantly male—opinions and activities. The perpetrator would risk his life or freedom but be awarded heroic status in the White nationalist hall of fame. To White nationalist leaders, the tactics are cost effective. Should the lone wolf succeed, the violence would benefit the cause; should he fail, he could bring down no one. During the Internet age, the lone wolf tactics spread through viral marketing and globalized media throughout what White nationalists call the “once White world” in America, Europe, South Africa, and Oceania. The tactics had by then evolved into two schools or types of lone wolves: the lone racist serial offender, who seeks to avoid getting caught and operates in the shadows for an extended period of time; and the mega-impact lone wolf, who wants to get everyone’s attention by one sensational attack, in which the perpetrator is more likely to die or get caught during, or immediately after, the big assault—a sacrifice that is likely to increase the fame of the perpetrator. Both lone wolf types count on the media to amplify their impact and heroic status, and to spread the message of the White revolution to which lone wolves seek to contribute. Lone wolves inspire copycats, and the number of attacks escalated during the first decades of the new millennium. In early 2020, the increase of lone wolf violence was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, as restrictions closed attackers’ favorite targets, for example, mosques, synagogues, churches, and schools, and imposed curfews and banned public gatherings.