The term 'minorities', when applied to Christian and other communities in the Middle East, opens up a range of contradictory emotions and responses, says Dr Harry Hagopian. But perhaps there could be a greater alliance of purposes among those who do and do not use this term, distinguishing a definition that allows for a range of legal and political remedies for those involved, while distancing it from its more disparaging, negative, intimidating and unhelpful resonances?
An apparently religious marker is frequently used to break down populations into ‘Muslims’ and ‘others’, with the ‘others’ often being called, more charitably, ‘the minorities’ of the Middle East, says Dr Michael Marten from the University of Stirling. There are many problems with this kind of designation, he suggests: primarily that it feeds into binary understandings of the world exemplified by the misleading ‘clash of civilisations‘ model.
Classifying communities and their practices and values as ‘religious’ often has the effect of marginalising them from the mainstream of public debates on justice and the proper ends of the good life, says scholar Timothy Fitzgerald. Such classification has the effect of clothing secular reason with the misleading aura of neutral objectivity, he suggests.
The recent disturbances in England show that fundamental issues concerning the legitimation of government, social justice, and societal stability need to be addressed ever more urgently, says Professor Richard Roberts. He argues that scholars of religion should not simply remain reluctant but paid tools of an industrialised system of defective socialisation that initiates students into informed passivity, but rather the source of a truly critical discourse that broadens the imagination and enhances personal agency.
Why it is that so few ‘secular’ scholars engage meaningfully with ‘religion’, wonders Michael Marten. Or to put it another way: why is it that so many religion scholars depend upon and practice disciplinary heterogeneity, whereas many of the scholars they use do not appear to engage substantially with what they write?
When it comes to evil, says Alison Jasper, we have a tendency to mystify it - that is reproduce unchallenging representations of it, from the monster in the movie with unclean appetites for human flesh and blood, right through to the 'monstrous perverts' of the tabloid press. Much more careful analysis and understanding is required to discover what lies behind the routine (but often imprecise) label 'evil'.
Pursuing the topic of the role of the university in an age of economic constraint and multiple other social and political pressures, Dr Andrew Hass from the University of Stirling proposes a fourfold way of rethinking universities and their purpose beyond the restrictive, and ultimately self-defeating, parameters set by the economic and business paradigms.
Ethnohistorical and other studies show the great influence and power the historic Spanish mission had over the native population?s lives and souls in the Andean region, says Sabine Dedenbach-Salazar. At the same time as they document the missionaries' daily struggle to impose European ways of life onto other cultures, they also indicate that indigenous people were not only victims, but also agents in re-shaping their living conditions and their cultural identities.
If the modern secular state has depended for its conceptualisation on the related concept of 'religion' as a private right of faith in unseen mystical powers separated from the state, then so have those modern discourses which construct “political and socio-economic forces”, and are thereby in danger of reifying them, says Timothy Fitzgerald. He assesses some key arguments in Scott M. Thomas's widely praised book The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Relations: The Struggle for the Soul of the Twenty-First Century.