Thursday, June 30, 2016
Here's Dan, at the "Lawfare" blog, with "Culture War or Common Heritage? On Recent Critics of Global Religious Freedom". Dan is reviewing two new books that have been getting a fair bit of notice, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd's Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion (Princeton, 2015) and Saba Mahmood's Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report (Princeton, 2016). Here's a bit:
Hurd’s and Mahmood’s commitments and criticisms ring strikingly similar. Both books bear the footprints of the late French philosopher Michel Foucault on every page. Both authors also draw heavily upon the analysis of the contemporary anthropologist, Talal Asad, whom Foucault influenced in turn. From these fonts flow four tenets shared by Hurd and Mahmood.
The first is a characteristically postmodern rejection of universals. Both authors actively doubt what the human rights conventions assert: that religious freedom is a universal right, belonging to every human being and every religious community. There cannot be religious freedom because there is no such thing as religion. . . .
The second tenet, also exuding Foucault, is that the promotion of religious freedom (or religious minority rights) is a projection of power. . . .
Their third shared tenet is that modern religious freedom and the notion of religion on which it is based are products of developments in Western history, especially the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment. . . .
Fourth and finally, each makes the normative judgment that the West ought not to export religious freedom (or religious minority rights). . . .
If Hurd and Mahmood are right, then the rise of religion policy in the West – the promotion of religious freedom, religious minority rights, and religious forces that favor democracy, tolerance, peace, reconciliation, humanitarian aid, women’s rights and the like are misbegotten and ought to be abandoned. Are they right?
Well . . . read Dan's essay and find out!