All journalists regularly covering religion around the world find themselves reporting on Islam and, in 2019, we encounter extreme voices—fueled by a rising tide of nationalism in response to global conflicts, migration and the plight of refugees. IN THIS COLUMN, you’ll find helpful resources you can use today—and a series of fresh ideas about ways you, too, could contribute to the global conversation in a helpful way.
For hundreds of millions of Muslims, Sharia is a way or a path to divine understanding that enables human beings to reach their full potential. So why does so much public conversation about “sharia” or “sharia law” focus on extreme interpretations grounded in intolerance and ignorance? The answers are complex, involving historical, political, cultural, regional and religious factors that need to be understood in context. Yet complexity and reason are often dangerously absent amid the emotion and politics attached to Sharia.
Who are the nonreligious? Depending on how they are counted, the nonreligious today may be considered the world’s third largest ‘religion,’ trailing only Christianity and Islam. They exercise an increasingly influential voice on issues from the immigration crisis in Europe to secular-religious tensions in Asia Pacific. Now a developing body of research is shedding critical light on the diversity and complexity of this group in an age when the makeup and balance of religious and nonreligious populations, along with their shared history, matters in ways both small and large.
Across the world, billions of worshippers this weekend will be going to mosques, temples, churches and other places of worship hearing messages declaring that the choices they make in this life can affect their eternal destiny. How each of them, and secular individuals, face the great existential question of the meaning of life in the face of mortality can make a major difference in areas from mental health to preventing terrorism and promoting more generous, compassionate societies less likely to experience civil strife, new research shows.
In a series of scientific advances, researchers are developing a body of evidence challenging old stereotypes of humility as the province of weak-willed, stoop-shouldered individuals of low self-worth. The reality, research shows, is that it takes a strong will and courage to celebrate the gifts of others, while being honest about one’s own shortcomings. But it pays off. Just as a lack of humility can lead to a downward spiral of suspicion, distrust and violence, so, too, can the practice of humility reinforce other virtues and contribute to a more generous, inclusive, caring society.
In September 2016, South Africa based journalist Yazeed Kamaldien reports on the Hajj, traveling to Madinah and Makkah in Saudi Arabia to follow the route of millions of Muslim pilgrims from around the world. In order to help journalists who are planning to cover this major religious event this year or in the future, Yazeed Kamaldien shares with the IARJ some helpful tips.
The global refugee crisis represents a potential transformational moment in world history. Nations from Africa to Asia to Europe to North America with troubled pasts of ethnic conflict and of putting political and economic self-interest above humanitarian needs have an opportunity to write new chapters in their national stories. Religion is playing and will play a critical role.
Religious fashion matters. It matters to individuals who view wearing head scarves, kippas and turbans as a positive expression of faith, and it matters to societies increasingly setting restrictions on religious attire in response to concerns ranging from security to the belief that increasing diversity represents a threat to the essential character of their nations. So how, in the face of intense political and social pressures, can nations balance issues of religious freedom, tolerance and national identity? A developing body of research sheds some light on the debate.
An increasing importance of faith, an openness to alternative medicine and a lack of access to quality care are contributing to a resurgence in religious healing among Arab Muslims. The tasks that lie ahead include creating stronger, cooperative relationships among the religious and medical communities, and building health-care systems enabling citizens to receive quality medical care at a price they can afford.
The transition to more religiously and ethnically diverse societies is rarely a smooth one. An economic downturn and heightened security fears have made it particularly challenging for countries throughout Europe. Amid the turmoil, many governments have forgone efforts at social integration in favor of legislation restricting religious freedom. But research indicates such efforts only increase conflict.[