Power of Place Ch. 3, part 1, QS


1. “Religion can constitute a dominant ingredient in the power of place, and that power varies geographically.”


2. The recent furor that the video “The Innocence of Muslims” caused is an example of the insult and passion DeBlij refers to in this passage:

But nothing matches the passion incited by religious insult or humiliation. What is seen as a minor instance of freedom of expression in secular context may be regarded as a capital offense by those who view themselves as defenders of their faith.”


3. How is religion a “countervailing force, roughening rather than flattening the landscape of globalization”?

Shared beliefs and priorities among the world’s diverse peoples contribute to globalization and “flattening”. DeBlij points out that currently religious conservatism is growing in several regions throughout the world.  One aspect of this phenomenon is that fundamentally different religious beliefs can cause different regions to become even more different. This process hampers globalization.


4. How is the relationship between latitude and linguistic diversity similar to the relationship between latitude and religious diversity?

Similar to linguistic diversity the greatest religious diversity is found in the low, or tropical, latitudes. Outside of the tropics in the “drier higher latitudes” only a handful of religions, practiced by large populations, are present.


5. DeBlij’s summary of the evolution of different types of subsistence (agriculturalists, hunters and gatherers, herders) in different physical environments (tropical rainforests, mid-latitude arid regions) is related to different sorts of religions (monotheistic vs. polytheistic) and gender status and roles and descent systems (matrilineal vs. patrilineal) is interesting.


He concludes with the important point by Sapolsky: “ours is a Judeo-Christian/Muslim world”, three religions that emerged from the arid regions of Southwest Asia.


6. What is the fate of the belief systems of peoples of the tropical rainforest? Why?

The belief systems of tropical peoples will probably go extinct. Tropical rainforest populations speak a great diversity of religions and practice a great diversity of religions. However, each language and religion can claim only small populations of speakers and believers. As you learned in an earlier chapter, the current trend is for peoples of the tropics to migrate to urban areas. As they do they often leave behind their native languages and religions.  Once in an urban slum they become exposed to large religions such as some version of Christianity or Islam.



7. Which religion prevails in the global core? Where else? How did it come to spread to those regions?

Christianity prevails in the global core and in former colonial holdings of the Americas and parts of Africa. It was spread throughout the Roman Empire and spread throughout the world as European powers established their far-flung colonies.  


8. Which religion prevails in the global periphery? Islam


9. What is the population of Christians and Muslims?

Christians = ~1.6 billion

Muslims = ~1.2-1.3 billion


10. Why might the population of Islam surpass that of Christianity?

Because Muslim populations have higher rates of population growth than most Christian populations, and because Islam’s tradition of charity is attractive to potential impoverished converts to Islam, the population of Islam might surpass that of Christianity.


Remember these two points. They both reflect how effectively Islam has spread out of the Middle East.

1.         Most Muslims are not Arabs.

2.         Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population.



11. Note the 1 billion believers in China and India who practice an East Asian faith or Hinduism. And, India’s 14 million Muslim citizens (I got this wrong.)  14% of India’s population is Muslim. That’s more than 100 million Muslims. That’s quite a large minority.


12. Also, be aware that world maps that show cultural patterns (language and religion) obscure lots of diversity. The patterns they show are also only temporary. Languages can spread and/or die. So, too can religions. Currently Europe is becoming more Muslim. Will that process continue? Will China become more Christian? Will Africa become more Muslim? These questions are difficult to answer. However, current trends suggest that Europe might become even more Muslim. China’s government might continue its process of increasing individual freedoms and Chinese Christians will be able to profess their faith openly and convert other Chinese to the faith.  And, in Africa, persistent poverty might lead Africans to embrace Islam.


13. What is the “north-south” religious split to which DeBlij refers and how did it manifest itself in the Americas?

In Europe, sectarian wars during the Middle Ages resulted in a Roman Catholic southern region and a Protestant northern region. Because this pattern, “split”, emerged before the age of European colonization, it influenced the religious geography of Europe’s colonies. Lands colonized and settled by Europeans from Protestant Northern Europe (British Isles, Scandinavia, Germany) planted Protestantism in territories in that became Canada and the US. Land colonized by Europeans from Roman Catholic Southern Europe (Portugal, Spain, France) planted Roman Catholicism in what became known as Latin America.



14. Concerning membership and worship in Europe’s traditional religions, what is the current trend?

 Since the Enlightenment Europe has become increasingly secular and membership and regular worship in Christian denominations has decreased.


15. What religion entered Europe after World War II? Who brought it? What are some of the results?

Islam. Mobals from European colonies in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East came to Europe and provided the labor necessary to help re-build war-torn countries. Results include the construction of mosques, and the introduction of Muslim sectarian conflicts within Europe’s borders, in addition to Muslim-Christian disputes”.


16. What are the two main sects of Islam? What percent of Muslims belong to each sect?

Sunni = ~ 85%

Shi’ah = ~ 15%

DeBlij omits mention of Sufi Muslims, probably because they represent such a small portion of Muslims. 


17. Describe the geographic distribution of each sect.

Shi’ite Islam is Persian (Iranian)-based. Its core is in Iran.  However, large populations of Shiites are found in neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are remnants of an expansive Persian territory from the past. Pockets of Shiite minorities can be found throughout much of North Africa and the Middle East.

Sunni Islam occupies the rest of the Muslim world and extends across North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and all the way to the Southern Pacific, including the country of Indonesia, which has the world largest Muslim population.


18. Identify the regions from which Muslims migrated to Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Germany = Kurds from Turkey

France = Algeria and Morocco

Spain = Morocco

Netherlands = Morocco, Southeast Asia

United Kingdom = South Asia (India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan) and Nigeria.


19. According to DeBlij, why might radical forms of Islam be attractive to Muslim mobals in Europe?

Muslim mobals in Europe experience severe religious indoctrination as part of their practice of Islam.  At the same time, they often are treated as outsiders even if they are born in Europe.  And, their home mosque operates as a tribal unit that resists assimilation into the general culture of Europe. The combination of indoctrination, alienation and isolation can make radical forms of Islam attractive. A significant portion of Europe’s Muslim mobals, and some globals, feel like they are minorities under siege by a “decadent” culture.  This situation can make a radical imam’s twisted interpretation of jihad, struggle, appealing.


20. What demographic characteristics of Europe’s Muslims and non-Muslims make the notion of a “Muslim Europe” less than far-fetched?

Muslim Europe is young, fervently religious and growing faster than the older, secular population of Christian Europe.