Power of Place Ch. 3, part 2, QS
1. Explain how the “demonstration effect” focuses “global opinion on Islam’s low points” and why so few books are published in the Islamic world.
DeBlij explains that the “demonstration effect” is “the need to be seen to express solidarity with one’s cohorts and ensure approval from religious leaders as a matter of self-preservation in community or clan.” For the past few decades some of Islam’s religious leaders have stressed a rigid fundamentalist version of Islam. This emphasis has effectively silenced many more moderate Muslims. Should they speak out or publish books that express their support for a more moderate practice of Islam, they become vulnerable to retribution. This is a profound shame because Islam has experienced periods of great tolerance and intellectual freedom. However, the current image most commonly projected to non-Muslims is that of an intolerant, anti-intellectual, conservative faith.
2. DeBlij’s critique of Islam is blunt. However, he does balance it with a survey of the recent resurgence of fundamentalism in other faiths and how they have resulted in a restriction of freedom. What abuses does he mention for the following faiths?
Roman Catholicism: The continuing sexual abuse of children scandal.
Protestant Christianity: Their insistence and, in some cases, legislation, for the use of the Bible in public schools as the basis on which to understand biological evolution.
Russian Orthodoxy: The Patriarch’s insistence that Russian history and culture is inseparable from the history of the Russian Orthodox Church and that Russian school children must, therefore, must learn this history in school.
Hinduism: Insists on perpetuating its caste system under which large portions of India’s population are condemned to poverty simply on the basis of who their parents are. Also, this so-called peaceful faith has engaged in violent suppression of the country’s more than 160 million Muslims and made Hinduism the core of India’s nationalist identity.
3. What does it mean when a religion is “ethnic”? Ethnic religions do not obligate their member to convert non-believers. Judaism and Hinduism are ethnic faiths. Islam and Christianity are universalizing faiths because they obligate believers to convert non-believers.
4. What evidence suggests that globalization has created conflict within Hinduism? One aspect of globalization is the adoption of Western diets. The Western diet is based on eating meat, whether it’s poultry, beef or pork. Hindus traditionally are vegetarians. However, during the past decade Hindus are increasingly ignoring that part of their faith and eating meet products.
5. What evidence suggests that globalization has not “flattened” all of Indian society?
Although India has experienced rapid economic growth and its own hi-tech economic boom, a large portion of India’s locals live in hundreds of thousands of impoverished agricultural villages where their experience is dramatically different than that of wealthy mobals who live in Bangalore.
6. What is the record for Buddhism? Is it an ethnic faith? Where is it practiced? Does it suffer from sectarian strife?
Buddhism is a universalizing faith and it has spread widely from its place origin in northern India. Buddhists of a variety of sects are found throughout the Far East (China, Japan, Tibet, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan…). Buddhism has not suffered sectarian strife to the extent that Islam and Christianity have. However, the religion is not exclusively peaceful. Just last week reports from Burma described how Burmese Buddhists were fighting with Muslims in the western region of the country.
7. What is the “Endarkenment” to which DeBlij refers? Which religions does it affect?
DeBlij claims that an Endarkenment, which is the opposite of an Enlightenment, currently affects Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. DeBlij uses the term Endarkenment to encapsulate a collection of processes/movements that are occurring. They include: 1) a growing intolerance for believers of different faiths and members of different sects; 2) efforts to reinstitute or revive religious practices that fell out of use many decades, in some cases centuries, ago; 3) a growing intolerance of intellectual freedom; 4) efforts to institute religious indoctrination in the place of education; 5) efforts to force political institutions to accommodate religious beliefs rather than the rule of civil law.