In many respects, the sizeable Muslim populations in the United States and Canada have integrated well into the social and political mainstream. Most of them are first-generation immigrants, and face Islamophobic prejudice based on race as well as religious affiliation. Still, they are a comparatively well-educated population, and identify strongly with the countries they now call home. Exploring the response of these communities to sexual diversity, and to growing claims for recognition by queer Muslims themselves, goes to the heart of questions about the place of this growing community in North American settings. This inevitably raises questions about gender relations within those communities, in part because discrimination against Muslims is often justified with reference to their adherence to what are thought to be unchanging patriarchal values. Doubts about social and cultural integration are easily intensified by the racialized “otherness” of Muslim populations in the West generally, and these two North American countries in particular. The Pew Research Center in the United States and the Environics Institute in Canada have conducted surveys of the Muslim populations in their countries, permitting a comparison of attitudes in those communities with those in the general population, and in some cases also providing a view of cross-country differences. What this polling reveals is that Muslims are on balance more politically progressive than non-Muslim populations, and are strongly averse to supporting conservative parties. However, it also reveals relatively negative views of homosexuality, and this is echoed in the public statements, or silence, of the largest Muslim advocacy groups. The strength of such views owes much to the fact that the majority of North American Muslims have emigrated from regions of the world where such opinions are deeply embedded in social and cultural life. Traditionalist views of gender and sexuality are also reinforced by high levels of religiosity, which in other faith currents is also associated with what might be called traditionalist views of family. In the case of Muslims, their religious leadership in Muslim communities remains almost unanimous in its condemnation of homosexuality as an example of “Western” permissiveness. Mosque life, too, retains important elements of gender inequity. There are, however, important indications of change, induced in part by the urban environments where the great majority of Muslims live, and the increasing willingness of queer Muslims to assert their presence within their ethno-religious communities as well as in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) networks. Younger Muslims are more inclined than their elders to hold inclusive attitudes, particularly if they have been educated in North America. In the United States, too, the latest of the Pew surveys has shown an important overall shift toward more LGBTQ-positive attitudes. This is in part a result of Muslims’ recognition that exclusionary attitudes on issues related to sexuality are often held by those who are also harbor Islamophobic views, and that policies designed to protect one community are also necessary to protect them.
Carl L. Bankston III
Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia have historically been nations with large Buddhist populations. While Mahāyāna Buddhism predominates in Vietnam, most people in Cambodia and Laos have been dedicated to Theravāda Buddhism. In 1975, these three countries came under the domination of Communist governments, which had earlier been in conflict with factions militarily supported by the United States. This led to the beginnings of the massive movement of refugees from Southeast Asia to North America. An especially radical regime had taken power in Cambodia, and after war broke out between Cambodia and Vietnam the flow of refugees became a flood. All of the new governments of these countries were hostile to independent religious organizations and practices. The Khmer Rouge in power in Cambodia took its antagonism to religion to an extreme, attempting to violently eradicate traditional Buddhist practices and institutions. As refugees settled in ever-greater numbers in North America and other locations, they established Buddhist temples and other organizations in the new homelands. In consequence, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Lao communities in the United States and Canada have also become sites for the rapid growth of North American Buddhism. Southeast Asian Buddhism has become a part of a pluralistic religious environment, adding new rites, celebrations, and cultural activities to American society. Buddhism has also played a central part in maintaining ethnic identity among refugee populations and their descendants, as well as in helping Buddhists adapt to life under changing circumstances.
Karim H. Karim
Khojas constitute the predominant group in the Shi’a Nizari Isma’ili movement of Islam, globally and in North America. They are of South Asian ethnicities and belong to the 700-year old Satpanth tradition. Other groups attached to the movement are indigenous to Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and China. Khojas have led them in the formation of a diaspora spanning Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, and Australasia. This transnational religious collectivity holds Aga Khan IV, who ascended to leadership in 1957, to be its Imam in lineal descent from ‘Ali ibn ‘Abi Talib and Fatima, the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter. He has established a “Seat of the Imamat” (also designated a “Diwan”) in Lisbon, Portugal, and he resides in France, from where he provides religious and worldly guidance to followers around the world. The Imam appoints the leaders of the system of councils that govern the jamats (communities) in various countries. His non-denominational Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), which operates social, economic, and cultural programs, has become one of the world’s largest non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Elite Khoja families, particularly those of East African provenance, tend to dominate the leadership of the Imam’s institutions. They also have hegemony in the Canadian and American self-governance structures. As a group, Khojas are the wealthiest and most educated in the movement, offering substantial funding as well as professional and voluntary services to the Aga Khan’s institutional infrastructure. Their North American ranks provide a steady stream of monetary, physical, and intellectual resources for the Imam’s transnational programs. However, a paradox lies at the heart of the movement. The Satpanth tradition and Khoja cultural identity has been in the process of marginalization since the early 20th century. A steady effort has sought to eliminate what are perceived to be “Hindu” aspects of the Khojas’ religious and cultural heritage. The movement’s research, educational and cultural bodies give minimal attention to Satpanth. An essentialized Isma’ili Muslim identity is favored over what was, since the movement’s earliest days, a pluralist pursuit of universal truth.
Mark A. Granquist
The United States as a country was religiously formed by Reformed Protestants, who were later joined by substantial numbers of immigrant Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and Jews. The role of Martin Luther in this religiously varied and pluralistic society has often changed over time, and has depended greatly on the context of those who have written about him. In some periods of time, especially the 18th century, Luther was little noticed or commented about, generally a figure solely in the distant past. In the 19th century, many American writers and scholars took notice of Luther, but often as a past symbol of some reality the author wished to address. Thus, Luther was seen essentially as one of the first modern individuals in the West, standing for religious and personal liberty against the reactionary forces of church and state. Some Protestants noted him for his stance against the medieval Western church and the papacy, which mirrored their own anti–Roman Catholic positions; American Roman Catholics saw him as the cause of the splintering of the true church and the author of all that was religiously problematic. After the Civil War, scholars began to access modern German scholarship about Luther, and the Luther birth anniversary of 1883 was perhaps the high point of his reputation in America. In the 20th century, there were positive and negative developments. On the negative side, two world wars soured Americans on things German, and some saw Luther as contributing to the rise of the Nazis and of the Holocaust. On the positive side, many of Luther’s works were translated into English, and many new historical and theological studies of the reformer were produced in English, along with translations of European works. American Lutherans began to produce substantial contributions to Luther studies, and newer works, even among Roman Catholics, sought to put Luther into his historical and theological contexts.
Matthew J. Smith
Home Missions in the United States was a white Protestant missionary movement within the geopolitical borders of the US empire—both its contiguous states as well as its colonial territories—as they developed and shifted through a long history of US imperial expansion, settlement, and conquest. From the beginning of the 19th century, Anglo-Protestants in the United States became invested in the home missionary movement to secure Christian supremacy on the land that made up their newly forming white settler nation. Home Missions was occupied with both the formation of a sacred homeland and the homes within that homeland. As a dual-homemaking endeavor, home missionary projects functioned as settler colonial technologies of space-making and race-making. They not only sought to transform the land into an Anglo-Protestant possession but also racialized people as foreign to maintain Anglo-Protestant sovereignty over the spaces mapped as a home through colonial conquest. Centering settler colonialism within an analysis of Home Missions denaturalized home and foreign as taken-for-granted spatial categories by considering them colonial significations. Home Missions sought to remake conquered territory habitable for Anglo-Protestant settlement, using the concepts home and foreign to govern people differently within that conquered territory. Gaining prominence in the postbellum United States, women’s societies for Home Missions cooperated across multiple Protestant denominations and between multiple missionary sites across the US empire in forming a transcolonial network aimed at uplifting the homes of the nation. These colonial sites included missions to “Indians,” “Negroes,” “City Immigrants,” “Orientals,” “Mountaineers,” “Loggers,” “Porto Rico,” “Alaska,” and more. White women entered new public spheres by making the racial uplift of homes across the nation a practice of imperial domesticity. Women in Home Missions sought to create subject citizens of the US nation by shaping the habits, tendencies, and racial constitution of people through the cultivation and management of Christian homes. Homes were spaces of both racial uplift and the maintenance of racial purity. Thus, missionaries were not only preoccupied with making Christian citizens for the nation but were also concerned with maintaining racial distinctions characteristic of the anxieties of US colonial governance at the turn of the 20th century. Through Home Missions, Anglo-Protestants participated in an imperial process that sought to transform the land and its inhabitants while also forming racializations, gender systems, and political economies that mapped onto an imaginary in which a particular vision of settled homes/homeland occupied a central analytic. By treating “home” in Home Missions as a critical category, one is able to reconsider the maneuverings of religion, empire, nation, race and gender/sexuality within the context of settler colonial conquest, possession, and settlement.
Religions, in almost every case, are concerned with healing the sick and the broken. Of course, healing is not the sole feature or function of religion, but for many people, restoration of wellness and wholeness is a central component of their religious experience. Religious healing comes in many forms, from miraculous supernatural intervention, to the manipulation of metaphysical energies, to the proper ordering of healthy human relationships and societies. Some religions rely on the ministrations of healing specialists such as shamans, parish nurses, or gifted miracle workers. Others focus on therapeutic modes of self-help, while yet others link healing with redemption from iniquity. In many cases, various kinds of religious healing overlap, all in service of that which is most efficacious in providing relief and recovery. The history of religions in the United States is likewise full of instances and varieties of religious healing. Americans of many creeds and diverse heritages have often sought healing within their religious traditions, and they have innovated new religious movements that focus primarily on the alleviation of suffering. Moreover, the attention to healing within American religions predates the rise of scientific biomedicine, evolves alongside of it, and endures through the present. Finally, recurrence to religious healing has often played a role in ethnic identity construction and maintenance in this largely immigrant nation. Given the scope and impact of healing on U.S. religious history, it is imperative to consider how the idea of healing has captivated and motivated religious actors. Of particular interest is the complex and sometimes violent process by which religious ideas and practices related to healing have been exchanged, modified, and even appropriated. Throughout the course of American history, religious healing—in its many expressions—has been characterized by ongoing competition, collaboration, overlap, and constant change. Ultimately, it bears little fruit to look for a common thread that might run among all the various traditions and formulations of American religious healing. Rather, it is more rewarding to consider carefully the interactions and evolutions of healing in the ever-changing American religious scene.
Derek H. Davis
The United States Supreme Court’s religion jurisprudence is typically analyzed based on whether a court’s decision emerges from an Establishment Clause analysis or a Free Exercise Clause analysis. While this method is useful, a more in-depth analysis can be undertaken by identifying various philosophical themes that describe the court’s varied approaches to deciding religion cases. The cases can be analyzed under at least four separate but interrelated themes: separation of church and state, cooperation between sacred and secular activities in religion-based contexts, equal treatment among religions, and the integration of religion and politics. This article examines the High Court’s often controversial decisions affecting religion through the lenses of these four themes. The term “separation of church and state” is frequently used to describe the American relationship between law and religion, but this term is far too simplistic a description of how church and state interact in the American system; the ways in which the system sometimes embraces separation but sometimes does not, are analyzed and explained. Consistent with the misconception that the Supreme Court always seeks to “separate” church and state, court analysts will sometimes describe the court’s strategy as giving “no aid” to religion. This also is a simplistic analysis, since it can clearly be shown that the court does not seek to “wall” off religion from government aid in all cases. Rather, the court tends to sanction state support of “secular” activities that arise in religion contexts while denying state aid to the “sacred” components of religious activity. “Equality” is a hallmark of American democracy. While the Founders did not earmark equality as a goal of the religion clauses, the concept has nevertheless emerged as a byproduct of deeper goals, namely sanctioning religious pluralism and providing equal access to government office. If separation of church and state were really the centerpiece of how religion and state activity interact in the United States, the Supreme Court would not sanction the involvement of religion in public debate and discourse, nor would it permit political candidates and officeholders to freely talk about religion in their personal lives and its role in American political life. But the court carefully crafts a jurisprudence that rarely intrudes on this kind of activity. In sum, looking at Supreme Court religion cases through a number of philosophical lenses is a fruitful guide to understanding court decisions that are otherwise often highly complex and confusing.
M. Kabir Hassan, Tahsin Huq, and Aishath Muneeza
Islamic finance is an alternative source of financing to the conventional financing that emerged via institutionalization in the 1960s. It has gained popularity in the world irrespective of faith convictions due to the universal and ethical principles adhered in the practice of it. In this regard, North America is not an exception. In the United States and Canada, Islamic finance has been adopted, and there is an established regulatory environment for the operation of it with political support. There is also a wide range of innovative Islamic finance products structured and used in this part of the world that is conducive to the demand of the population and regulatory environment of Islamic finance found in the respective jurisdictions. These two countries are often described as competitors in the region, but the reality is despite the competitive relationship they are in by default, they are also collaborators in developing Islamic finance in the region. More than one million self-identified Muslims in Canada represents 3.2 percent of the total Canadian population. In comparison, the Muslim population in the United States represents 0.9 percent of the total population. Hence, Canada has been viewed as more suitable to become the hub of Islamic finance in the region simply because the number of Muslims in Canada is greater than that found in the United States in terms of religious representation in each nation’s total population. Furthermore, in terms of the regulatory environment, though the regulatory landscape applicable to financial institutions including Islamic financial institutions in the United States is much more sophisticated, the lack of a regulatory environment in Canada for Islamic finance is viewed as an opportunity for Canada as this provides flexibility required to develop and innovate unique Islamic finance products and increase the number of institutions dealing with Islamic finance. Sharia governance is the backbone of the Islamic finance industry in any jurisdiction. A common weakness found in both countries in the development of Islamic finance is on adopting a uniform Sharia governance framework applicable to all institutions offering Islamic finance products and services. In the early 21st century, the practice of Islamic financial institutions in the region indicates that there is no uniform yardstick to adopt in this regard, leading to confusion as well as lack of confidence—not only among “laypeople” but among Sharia scholars as well—in the Sharia-compliant products offered. In the absence of regulatory backing in this regard, an agreement among the industry stakeholders in the region would be sufficient to standardize this practice and implement procedural requirements that ought to be followed in offering Sharia-compliant products and services.