Tag Archives: religion

Changing the Space of Islam: France’s First ‘Gay Mosque’

by Jen Turner

 

By Dcubillas (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, the Jerusalem Post reported that a French-Algerian homosexual man is planning to open a ‘mosque for gays’ in France and hopes to eventually conduct same-sex Muslim marriages.  Parisian, Mohammed Ludovic Lütfi Zahed, says the mosque, situated in a Buddhist chapel in Paris, will also break another Islamic taboo by refusing to segregate women and men.  Joint gender prayers will also be permitted.  Zahed explained that “in normal mosques, women have to sit in the back seats and wear a headscarf and gay men are afraid of both verbal and physical aggression … After performing the Hajj, I realized that a mosque for gays was a must for gay Muslims who want to perform their prayers.”

It is clear that if this building is opened, it will be to much controversy.  Algerian law bans same-sex relations and France has been divided in recent years upon whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.  In finding interest in this recent piece of news I acknowledge this controversy, but do not wish to make this the focus of this post.  Instead, I turn my attention to the complex construction of space that the opening of such a mosque might result in. Whilst homosexuality may be fundamentally at cross-purposes for many Muslims, Zahed recognises a group of people wanting to practice their affiliation with their religion in an alternative kind of space.

In similar vein, an early view article by Claire Dwyer, David Gilbert and Bindi Shah in the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers addresses such themes. This paper attends to how spectacular new religious buildings have appeared in London’s suburbs, but have been viewed as somewhat incongruous in these spaces.  They exemplify the large golden dome of the Sikh Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha in Southall, and the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God and Holy Royal Martyrs in Chiswick; its blue dome, covered in golden stars and topped with a large ornamental cross bright above the rooftops of suburbia.  Dwyer et al use three case studies, of different faith groups, from North and West London to explore three distinctive articulations of the relationship between religion and suburban space that that call ‘semi-detached faith’, ‘edge-city faith’ and ‘ethnoburb faith’.

 

Whilst drawing upon very different examples, it is clear to see that contemporary societal practices are shaping the way in which religious spaces are constructed and used in everyday life.  Here lies a rich discourse that will only become more interesting as faith develops in response to our changing times.

Claire Dwyer, David Gilbert and Bindi Shah, 2012, Faith and suburbia: secularisation, modernity and the changing geographies of religion in London’s suburbsTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers, DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00521.x

Benjamin Weinthal, France slated to open first gay mosque, Jerusalem Post, 25 November 2012

Content Alert: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Volume 37, Issue 4 (October 2012) is Available Online Now

Cover image for Vol. 37 Issue 4

Volume 37, Issue 4 Pages 477– 657, October 2012

The latest issue of Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break for a full list of articles in this issue.

Continue reading

RGS-IBG New Content Alert: Early View Articles (25th May 2012)

The following Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Soil hydrodynamics and controls in prairie potholes of central Canada
T S Gala, R J Trueman and S Carlyle
Article first published online: 23 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01103.x

Paying for interviews? Negotiating ethics, power and expectation
Daniel Hammett and Deborah Sporton
Article first published online: 23 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01102.x

Domestication and the dog: embodying home
Emma R Power
Article first published online: 23 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01098.x

Adapting water management to climate change: Putting our science into practice

Runoff attenuation features: a sustainable flood mitigation strategy in the Belford catchment, UK
A R Nicholson, M E Wilkinson, G M O’Donnell and P F Quinn
Article first published online: 22 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01099.x

Commentary

Geography, libertarian paternalism and neuro-politics in the UK
Mark Whitehead, Rhys Jones, Jessica Pykett and Marcus Welsh
Article first published online: 21 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00469.x

Subaltern geopolitics: Libya in the mirror of Europe
James D Sidaway
Article first published online: 11 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00466.x

Original Articles

Faith and suburbia: secularisation, modernity and the changing geographies of religion in London’s suburbs
Claire Dwyer, David Gilbert and Bindi Shah
Article first published online: 22 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00521.x

Mobile nostalgias: connecting visions of the urban past, present and future amongst ex-residents
Alastair Bonnett and Catherine Alexander
Article first published online: 22 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00531.x

Dalits and local labour markets in rural India: experiences from the Tiruppur textile region in Tamil Nadu
Grace Carswell
Article first published online: 22 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00530.x

The Korean Thermidor: on political space and conservative reactions
Jamie Doucette
Article first published online: 18 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00528.x

‘Faith in the system?’ State-funded faith schools in England and the contested parameters of community cohesion
Claire Dwyer and Violetta Parutis
Article first published online: 18 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00518.x

The short-run impact of using lotteries for school admissions: early results from Brighton and Hove’s reforms
Rebecca Allen, Simon Burgess and Leigh McKenna
Article first published online: 16 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00511.x

Learning electoral geography? Party campaigning, constituency marginality and voting at the 2010 British general election
Ron Johnston and Charles Pattie
Article first published online: 16 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00527.x

Hidden histories made visible? Reflections on a geographical exhibition
Felix Driver
Article first published online: 16 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00529.x

‘Read ten thousand books, walk ten thousand miles’: geographical mobility and capital accumulation among Chinese scholars
Maggi W H Leung
Article first published online: 15 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00526.x

Content Alert: New Articles (11th May 2012)

The following Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Migration, urban growth and commuting distance in Toronto’s commuter shed
Jeffrey J Axisa, K Bruce Newbold and Darren M Scott
Article first published online: 8 MAY 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01097.x

Original Articles

Mobile ‘green’ design knowledge: institutions, bricolage and the relational production of embedded sustainable building designs
James Faulconbridge
Article first published online: 27 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00523.x

Creating and destroying diaspora strategies: New Zealand’s emigration policies re-examined
Alan Gamlen
Article first published online: 27 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00522.x

The demographic impacts of the Irish famine: towards a greater geographical understanding
A Stewart Fotheringham, Mary H Kelly and Martin Charlton
Article first published online: 27 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00517.x

Transnational religious networks: sexuality and the changing power geometries of the Anglican Communion
Gill Valentine, Robert M Vanderbeck, Joanna Sadgrove, Johan Andersson and Kevin Ward
Article first published online: 25 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00507.x

Geographies of transition and the separation of lower and higher attaining pupils in the move from primary to secondary school in London
Richard Harris
Article first published online: 23 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.519.x

Rethinking governance and value in commodity chains through global recycling networks
Mike Crang, Alex Hughes, Nicky Gregson, Lucy Norris and Farid Ahamed
Article first published online: 23 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00515.x

The ‘missing middle’: class and urban governance in Delhi’s unauthorised colonies
Charlotte Lemanski and Stéphanie Tawa Lama-Rewal
Article first published online: 20 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00514.x

Science, scientific instruments and questions of method in nineteenth-century British geography
Charles W J Withers
Article first published online: 20 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00513.x

Genome geographies: mapping national ancestry and diversity in human population genetics
Catherine Nash
Article first published online: 18 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00512.x

Militant tropicality: war, revolution and the reconfiguration of ‘the tropics’c.1940–c.1975
Daniel Clayton
Article first published online: 18 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00510.x

Beginners and equals: political subjectivity in Arendt and Rancière
Mustafa Dikeç
Article first published online: 13 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00508.x

Scaling up by law? Canadian labour law, the nation-state and the case of the British Columbia Health Employees Union
Tod D Rutherford
Article first published online: 13 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00506.x

“Goldman Sachs rules the world”, Islam-style?

by David Bassens

Goldman Sachs New World Headquarters (photo by Z4dude via Wikimedia Commons)

Last October, Goldman Sachs registered Islamic bonds – sukuk as these are called – for a total value of US$2 billion on the Irish Stock Exchange. Remembering the sobering BBC-statement late September by independent trader Alessio Rastani that “Goldman Sachs rules the world”, this paradoxical feat inevitably triggers the question of how it can be that a global investment bank renowned for its speculative behavior tries to attract ‘Shari’a-compliant’ capital that shuns interest, uncertainty, and speculation to finance its day-to-day business.

Our recent study, published in Area, which focused on office networks of transnational Islamic Finance (IF) firms and which produced empirical insights with regard to the heavy entanglement of IF and conventional financial circuits, makes the above far less counterintuitive. IF firms have indeed emerged as an answer to faith-based demands for Shari’a-compliant finance, when during the oil-boom of the 1970s Gulf bankers laid the basis for a domestic sector. However, next to full-fledged Islamic banks, ‘conventional’ banks with a strong historical presence in the Muslim World have developed ‘Islamic windows’ to cater to the growing demand for Shari’a-compliant products. This globalization of IF has produced a geography that is marked by the emergence of a number of financial centers in the Gulf (e.g., Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Manama), where IF is gradually becoming a dominant finance form, but which are in turn heavily interconnected with ‘conventional’ financial centers that are striving to attract business in growing sukuk markets.

The recent engagement between IF and Wall Street investment bankers, then, allows us to conclude that these geographical entanglements imply that IF’s acclaimed ‘alterity’ is largely inflated. While the increased involvement of IF actors in ‘mainstream’ global financial circuits could potentially import a ‘new world’ of customs, values, demands, and ideologies into the realm of global finance, even in times of financial turmoil global finance is being persistently reproduced from Wall Street and The City through a formal, but not substantial adaptation of financial techniques to demands from ‘new’ places. Indeed, although much is done to present the bonds as Shari’a-compliant, a thorough investigation of the prospectus by Khnifer shows that Goldman Sachs has, put simply, issued conventional debt.

The motives for such formal adaptations are grounded in the current phase of capitalist crisis since it is mainly aimed at channeling surplus oil-liquidity through conventional financial centers, while still not actually adapting the ‘nature’ of global finance itself. This means that IF can also be understood as a manifestation of global finance as it reaches out and integrates ‘new and exciting’ emerging markets. In times when liquidity has become a scarce good, such engagements are likely to proliferate, but whether it will mean that Wall Street’s – or The City’s for that matter – investment banking community will start to limit its speculative behavior to conform to the Shari’a remains largely a rhetorical question.

The author: David Bassens is postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation – Flanders at Ghent University’s Geography Department. He was the winner of the 2010 Area prize for new researchers.

Bassens D, Derudder B and Witlox F 2010 Searching for the Mecca of finance: Islamic financial services and the world city network Area 42 35-46

BBC 2011 ‘Anyone can make money from a crash,’ says market trader 26 September

Khnifer M 2011 Disclosure of three likely flaws in Goldman Sachs’ milestone sukuk 9 December

Youthful Religiosities

By Sarah Mills

In their recent article in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Hopkins et al (2011) explore the influence of intergenerationality on the development of young people’s religious identities.  They review current trends in new ways of ‘doing’ religion and argue that religious spaces of meaning are becoming increasingly diversified.  Drawing on research with young Christians in Glasgow and their guardians, they highlight the multiple influences on the religiosity of young people and discuss these through themes of correspondence, compliance, challenge and conflict.  They “propose a new conceptual framework for better understanding the complex interplay between intergenerationality and religious beliefs” (p.315) and demonstrate their argument through stressing the importance of “sites such as grandparents’ homes, the journey to and from church, experiences of schooling, youth group practices, peer group relationships and popular culture” in young people’s articulations of their religiosity (p.326).

A number of recent news stories and events highlight the need to take young people’s religiosities seriously and to reflect on the diverse sites, influences and relationships that play a part in developing young people’s religious identities.  Some of these relate to education, for example the recent campaign on the future of RE in schools and the English Baccalaureate.  Others can be seen as features of more formal sites of institutional religion and worship, such as this year’s celebrations marking the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible, many of which involve young people.  These short examples highlight how crucial it is to reflect on the range of influences in the formation of religious identities and the complexities of religious beliefs.

 Read Peter Hopkins, Elizabeth Olson, Rachel Pain and Giselle Vincett (2011) ‘Mapping intergenerationalities: the formation of youthful religiosities’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 36 (2):314-327.

 Read ‘Campaign for the future of RE in schools’ on BBC Online

 View events during 2011 celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible

Religion, science and geography

I-Hsien Porter

Adi Holzer, "Die Taufe"Earlier this month, it was announced that the astronomer Martin Rees had been awarded the Templeton Prize. Administered by the Templeton Foundation, the prize rewards a person who has made “exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension”.

Critics of the Templeton Foundation warn against placing religion on a par with science, arguing that the two are “incompatible.”

However, as a geographer, I’m interested in seeking to understand the world around us. To this end, I believe that science and religion are both important forms of knowledge. Religion cannot explain the complex mechanisms of climate change. Nor can ‘rational’ science can fully understand the social, cultural, emotional and spiritual complexities of people around the world; our actions are often apparently irrational.

A quick search for ‘religion’ through the geographical journals linked on the right of this page returns dozens of articles. In one paper in Area, Benedikt Korf discusses an idea of “spiritual geographies” – engaging with religion, rather than treating religion as an object for scientific study.

Korf argues that, in research, much is to be gained from engaging with both science and religion. Such an approach offers a broader understanding of how we humans interact with our world. It also provides a useful context in which to critique the motivations for our research; for example, whether geographers should be seeking to actively change some of the situations we encounter.

Science is not without its own uncertainties and assumptions. So to frame science as superior to religion is itself an act of belief. I don’t intend to argue that religion is a viable alternative on its own. However, as geographers, much is to be gained from listening to both, as forms of knowledge and a means to understanding our world.

The Guardian (6th April 2011) ‘Martin Rees wins controversial £1m Templeton Prize’

Korf, B. (2006) ‘Geography and Benedict XVI’, Area 38 (3) 326-329

Women and the informal economy – Palestine

Palestinian women knitting skull-caps in Lobban al-Gharbia

by Michelle Brooks

In a recent article for BBC News MiddleEast, Jon Donnison reports on the Palestinian women who hand-sew Jewish kippot to be sold in the markets of Jerusalem. Kippot are the small white skull-caps worn by Jewish men to remind them of God’s presence above. The irony that these highly religious items, symbolic of Judaism are made by Palestinian women across the heavily fortified borders of Israel is not lost in this article. However, the news story does illustrate the prioritising of livelihoods over religiosity and the political lens through which the outside world views all things middle-eastern. This example of activity in the informal economy (Roberts 2009;10) is a strategy of survival of livelihoods through some of the most intolerable and harsh economic and social conditions on the face of the earth. The women in the photo above are representative of the highly gendered nature of the informal sector where women and children constitute by far the largest proportion of workers. There are many reasons for this such as withdrawal of education from an early age, lack of access to skills training especially where mechanisation takes place in for example agriculture, and domestic responsibilities. There has been much work in geography to date on the informal sector especially in the developing world (Lloyd-Evans 2008:1893, Potter et al 2004: 405). However, what is interesting here is the cross-border collaboration that occurs in the face of such a polarised and politically charged region; the women’s hands working and trading through difference and yet unravelling seemingly insurmountable division with every stitch.


read the BBC news story (2010) BBC News Middle-east




The Rise of Hate and the Battle for Understanding

By Alexander Leo Phillips

Those of us who follow the news will be no strangers to the controversy surrounding the proposed Park 51 Community Centre in Lower Manhattan.  Also known as the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ (despite being neither a Mosque nor located at ‘Ground Zero’), the project has led to numerous claims that its a signal of the ‘victorious Islamic take-over of America’.  Given it’s true nature, the project is  naturally supported by President Obama; or has a member of the Tea Party Nation likes to call him as a result the “Muslim crypto-commie usurper”.

Emotions are running high this week as Saturday marks the 9th anniversary of the 11th September, 2001 terrorist attacks, which so painfully defined the last decade.  To the mark the occasion a small Florida church known as the Dove World Outreach Centre (DWOC (an ironic title as we’ll see)) has propelled itself into the media spotlight by holding an ‘International Burn a Koran Day'; after all little invokes the image of doves and outreach quite like a good old book burning, just ask the Nazis!

Their intentions have rightly sparked a sense of horror and disapproval from many Americans, with General Petraeus stating that the action “could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort [of American foreign policy]“ (BBC).  Sadly, along with the Park 51 project and the rising levels of ‘ hate crimes’ like the Jacksonville Mosque pipe bomb perpetrated in the US, this action appears symptomatic of the wider issue of Islamophobia which fails to go away.  As a direct result of the DWOC’s plans the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have recently launched a new campaign to battle what it terms as the “growing anti-Muslim bigotry in American society”. This ‘bigotry’ is indeed widespread amongst a vocal minority and is increasingly backed up by elements of America’s right-wing media outlets, politicians and fringe religious organisations.

In the current issue of Transactions, Dr. Nick Megoran details how the ‘Reconciliation Walks’  project has acted to transform the “deeply entrenched geopolitical understanding[s]“ (2010:395) of those who participated in them. Furthermore, it demonstrates how just the simplest acts of genuine outreach and understanding work to easily destroy pre-existing feelings of fear and mistrust.

As many geographers with an interest in politics and religion would argue, both are often inseparable.  Indeed religious groups can act as a positive force as Dr. Megoran’s paper implies; but I feel its equally important to remain mindful that the opposite is often just as true as the DWOC so shamefully demonstrates.  Furthermore, I suggest that our work is largely wasted if we don’t in some way conduct some ‘outreach’ activities ourselves, in order to help end these circles of hate, lies and fear.

For more information on Park51: http://www.cordobainitiative.org/

For more information on the DWOC: http://www.doveworld.org/

For more information on CAIR: http://www.cair.com/ArticleDetails.aspx?ArticleID=26609&&name=n&&currPage=1

N, Megoran, 2010. “Towards a geography of peace: pacific geopolitics and evangelical Christian crusade apologies”, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Vol. 35 (3). pp. 382-398.

U.S. and African Churches Unite Around Homosexuality

By Georgia Davis Conover

The Parliament in Uganda is considering a law imposing the death penalty or life in prison for some homosexual acts.  The law was proposed a few months after American evangelical and president of “Defend the Family International,” Scott Lively, spoke before the parliament calling homosexuality a threat to societies organized around the family, and recommending that gay people get therapy.  Lively says he did not suggest making homosexuality a crime punishable by death and he thinks the bill goes too far.  Some other notable American evangelicals have remained silent on the Uganda bill.  So far, the sponsor has not withdrawn the bill despite calls to do so by the President of Uganda who has expressed concern about international relations.

Some American evangelicals who have broken from US churches because of disagreements about homosexuality, have gravitated toward some countries in Africa where gay people are less tolerated.  This story is of interest to cultural geographers in many ways.  Evangelicals, concerned about the diminution of the patriarchal family structure in the United States, are taking their anti-gay message international, to more sympathetic locations.  Yet, how that message gets interpreted and played out is different in different places due to cultural differences.

According to the work of Andrew Tucker, it is also important to understand that the politicization of sexuality cannot be separated from other social processes, like Imperialism and racism.  Tucker’s work shows how racial difference is a vehicle for creating difference and exclusion even within homosexual communities in South Africa.

Read and listen to the NPR story.

Read Tucker, Andrew.  (2008). Framing Exclusion in Cape Town’s Gay Village: the Discursive and Material Perpetration of Inequitable Queer Subjects. Area 41(2) pps. 186-197.