“I belong to no religion. My religion is love”: Sufism, Religious Studies, and Love

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By now you’ve probably heard about the theme for next year’s American Academy of Religion (AAR) annual meeting, revolutionary love, and the controversy surrounding it.  Some of my colleagues, Russell McCutcheon and Merinda Simmons, have written about it, and the Bulletin for the Study of Religion is posting a series of responses.

Revolutionary love, or any kind of love, has not been considered the purview or state of being of all people.  Scholars have played an important role in using ideas about love to reassert feelings of estrangement, difference, and exclusion.  Europeans in the 18th and 19th century used love and its connection to Sufism to create distinctions between Western civilization, European culture, colonial society, and the Islamic tradition.  More recently, both Muslims and non-Muslims have used the idea of Sufism and its connection to love to distinguish between authentic and inauthentic Muslims. By uncritically adopting the theme of Revolutionary Love and positing love as universal, the AAR has overlooked how “love” has been and continues to be used to construct “the West” through the exclusion of Muslims. Continue reading

Calculating the Other: ISIS and Paris

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After a lovely dinner at a restaurant the other night, with my mom and husband, we came home, checked our cell phones, and were consumed by the unfolding story about the attacks in Paris.  In the flurry of articles trying to make sense of the situation, “Crimes Jihadists Will Sentence You to Death For,” caught my attention.  Its argument mirrored many of the discussions that were happening on people’s Facebook walls – there’s something so distinct, so different about ISIS, its religion, political aims, use of violence, that renders it beyond comprehension. Continue reading

UA at SECSOR

This past weekend, several faculty members and one former student presented research and networked with colleagues at the Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion (SECSOR) Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Andie Alexander, a recent grad and office worker extraordinaire, presented a paper entitled “Shifting the Focus: Understanding the Teller Behind the Tale” for a Method and Theory in the Study of Religion undergraduate research panel.

Dr. Finnegan presented a paper entitled “The Digital Discourses of Muslim Environmentalist,” which tracked the construction of the terms environment, environmentalist, and Islam. She was also appointed co-chair of the Islam section.

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To help lead a conversation on Ronald Neal’s Democracy in 21st Century America: Race, Class, Religion, and Region, Dr. Simmons presented her thoughts on authenticity and identity.

On Saturday, Dr. Ramey finished his tenure as the President of SECSOR.  He also shared many of the exciting things that we do in the department, like buttons, blogs, and Facebook as part of “What Will You Do With That? A Workshop on Encouraging Majors and Enrollments.”