Islamic Law and the Challenges of Modernity, Edited by Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad and Barbara Freyer Stowasser. Walnut Creek, California: Altamira Press, …

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  Marla Frederick has provided her read-ers with an excellent ethnographic study ofblack church women in the rural and eco-nomically depressed area of Halifax County,North Carolina. She brought with her ashared common experience of worship andthe weekly cycle of spiritual, devotional,charitable and outreach activities cornmon-ly found in black churches. While thatcommon ground helped gain her entr›within the community at large, into con-gregations, and into people's homes andtheir personal thoughts, sometimes it alsoblurred the line between researcher andsubject. When Frederick agrees to sing atone church, for example, her participatoryrole as ethnographer may have become sec-ondary.However, the rich detail Frederick pro-vides for the spiritual context into whichthese black church women place their com-munity organizing, their grassroots politicalactivista and their outreach service to theirneighbors more than compensates for theslight blurring of her research role. She livesin and among these women, sharing joysand sorrows, births and deaths, life's victo-ries and tragedies. It is in this cycle of lifeshe finds the best evidence of her thesisthat these women's spirituality is less aboutthe political dynamics sparked by their faithand more about their cultural identity asblack women whose faith in and of itselfencompasses the battle against the margin-alization by race and class they all experi-ence.Ultimately, Frederick concludes, tostudy these black church women's spiritual-ity is to explore the consequences of theirfaith on a daily basis. Studies of the "blackchurch" structurally have focused on insti-tutional involvement in such aspects of thecivil rights movement as local politicalcampaigns, voter registration drives, schooldesegregation, community activism, etc. Iris not the analysis at the level of socialstructure, the organizational promotion ofthe black "cause," however, that interestsFrederick. Rather, she concludes, it is theeveryday spirituality of faith and moralrighteousness that drives these blackBOOK REVIEWS 437church women to engage in grass rootsefforts to promote econotnic deve[opmentanda black political agenda in the sameway they engage in visiting the sick, feedingthe hungry and tending the dying. Tostretch William Julius Wilson's argumentabout the declining significance of race,Frederick would argue, is to focus on thepersonal spirituality rather than the institu-tional commitment of these black churchwomen to explain more fully their concernfor the challenges caused by class and racein their corner of North Carolina. It is thispersonal spirituality, she argues, that givesthese women the necessary political influ-ence, social dominance and the culturallymandated moral standing to perform theleadership function within their communi-ties. In order to be transformational leadersof coalitions, activists for reform and organ-izers for social change these women locatethe source of their motivation and authori-ty, sometimes even their charisma fromwithin their personal spirituality, practicedin the manner associated with the blackchurches to which they belong.Although this is a volume funded bythe George Fund Foundation for AfricanAmerican Studies and certainly would beuseful in such a class, I also wish I had readit before choosing other ethnographicselections for a sociology of religion course.It is written in a personable style, well doc-umented anda good length for use withundergraduate students.Barbara J. Denison Shippensburg University of PennsylvaniaIslamic Law and the Challenges of Modernity, edited by YVONNE YAZBECK HAD-DAD and BARBARA FREYERSTOWASSER. Walnut Creek,California: Altamira Press, 2004, 274pp.; $69.00 USD (cloth), $26.95 USD(paper).  b  y g u e  s  t   onM a  y2 2  ,2  0 1 2 h  t   t   p :  /   /   s  o c r  e l   . oxf   or  d  j   o ur n a l   s  . or  g /  D o wnl   o a  d  e  d f  r  om  438 SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION Islamic Law and the ChaUenges ofModernity is a collection of essays that cen-ters on the theme identified in the title.The book specifically deals with Islamic lawin the Arab world, and how the legal tradi-tion in the region has changed through theintroduction of modern, European-basedcodes, first by the Ottoman Empire andlater asa result of European colonialism.For the most part, however, the book failsto meet its objective and appears more as acollection of half complete and poorly edit-ed papers.The introductory chapter of the bookproved promising; it acts as a tutorial forthose unfamiliar with Islamic law. Thefoundational texts, which are not limited tothe Koran, the four main legal schools, andthe differences between shari'a, or revealedlaw, and fiqh, or the complex system ofjurisprudence that applies shari'a, are allexplained. It also provided a referentialargument which many of the followingchapters repeated: pre-modern Islamic lawwas flexible and in a process of constantchange in reaction to social necessities,while the introduction of the modern stateentrenched an immutable form of law thatdestroyed this flexibility in favor of certain-ty and centralized power. However, thestraightforward and interesting first chaptersoon gives way to a jumble of unresolvedarguments, cursory descriptions, and con-fusing publishing and layout.The first section of the book is titled'Modernization and Legal Reform in theArab World' and second 'Legal Reformsand the Impact on Women.' In the first sec-tion, the argument from the introduction istaken a step further, and it is assumed that areturn to an 'authentic' version of Islamiclegal traditions is a cause with unquestion-able worth. This search for authenticity isaccompanied in one case by an overt desireto return to an authentic shari'a and fiqh based legal system. In delineating therequirements of such a return, Wael B.Hallaq states "The Iranian experienceaffords an eloquent example of the combi-nation of political and legal governing." (p.47). Post-revolution Iran is perhaps one ofthe states that has been most challenged bythe norms of modernity, and yet the perva-sive power of the politico-religious elitewould not be possible without the controlapparatuses of the modern state. This questfor the authentic is fodder for Said's critiqueof Orientalism. The taxonomic descriptionsof the real shari'a of pre-modernity and theinauthentic shari'a used and adapted byArab states, and their cursory forays intothe application of each of these in a numberof political and geographical areas, is notpersuasive scholarship.The second section also often utilizes aromantic version of pre-modern Islamiclaw, this time in the attempt to make liber-al feminism and Islam coexist culturally,politically and legally. The chapter byBarbara Freyer Stowasser and Zeinab Abul-Magd provides an interesting account ofhow the pre-modern loopholes in Islamicmarriage law are slowly being closed by thestate; however, the second section is notespecially well done. For the most part theargumentation is difficult to follow; whenthey are obvious, as in the case of the chap-ter on the Arab states' responses to theConvention on the Elimination of AllForms of Discrimination Against Women,they are overly polemical. This particularchapter is simply a summary of the brow-beating received by Arab diplomats at theUnited Nations for their respective coun-tries' non-compliance with theConvention.The articles collected in this volumeare only tenuously linked to the centraltheme as proposed in the introductorychapter. The lack of detailed scholarshippoorly supports the various arguments pre-sented. As mentioned, the introductorychapter is enlightening for those who arenot familiar with the particulars of Islamiclaw and how it functioned within societyprior to the importation of the modern stateto the area. The main theme that the mod-ernization of law in the Arab world is thedisruption of a pluralist, flexible legal tradi-tion in order to establish and strengthenthe role of the state as the universal legaland political referent is interesting, though  b  y g u e  s  t   onM a  y2 2  ,2  0 1 2 h  t   t   p :  /   /   s  o c r  e l   . oxf   or  d  j   o ur n a l   s  . or  g /  D o wnl   o a  d  e  d f  r  om  not exactly new. There are other studiesavailable that take pains to avoid theromanticized representation of Islamic lawfound in this book.Andreas Krebs Keele UniversityCulture, Class, and Work among Arab-American Women, by JEN'NANGHAZAL READ. New York: LFBScholarly Publishing LLC, 2004, 158pp., $55.00 USD (cloth).Arab-American women are stereo-typed in the United States to be oppressed,undervalued, and generally submissive. Inaddition, the pan-ethnic category of Arab iserroneously equated with the religion ofIslam. These perceptions have becomemore prevalent in the aftermath ofSeptember 11, 2001, when extremists fromthe Muslim world attacked U.S. soil. Culture, Class, and Work among Arab-American Women, by Jen'nan Ghazal Readpresents a critical view of Arab-Americanwomen by directly taking on these persist-ent stereotypes through careful social scien-tific analysis. Read provides a much neededcontribution to the study of religion, gen-der, and Arab Americans by examiningboth the structural and cultural influenceon labor force activity of Arab-Americanwomen.The book is unique in that it includesboth Christian and Muslim ArabAmericans as the topic of study, presentingmuch needed balance to the work on ArabAmericans generally, which tends to focuson one or the other religion. The end resultis a portrait that allows for the examinationof culture broadly, as well as providingspecificity in terms of understanding therole of religion on Arab women's status inthe United States. Read introduces ArabAmericans as an immigrant group that is BOOK REVlEWS 439 understudied, yet diverse and complex. Theeconomic activity of Arab-Americanwomen is highlighted as an area in need ofattention that will provide significantinsights into adaptation patterns. One ofthe major goals as stated by Read is to"challenge stereotypes of Arab-Americanwomen as Muslim traditionalists" (p.7).A theoretical review of immigrantwomen's adaptation to the U.S. is present-ed. Read reviews theories of female laborforce activity, highlighting the competingexplanations of structural (e.g. educationalattainment) versus cultural (e.g. norms)descriptions and justifications for immi-grant adaptation. The review incorporatesthe significance of gender and religion,making the important observation thatpatriarchy has historically characterizedrelations between men and women in theU.S regardless of ethnicity, a critical detailthat provides a context for understandingArab-American women's experiences andsituations. Too often researchers state that agiven immigrant culture is patriarchal with-out asserting that the U.S. has similar ten-dencies. Read makes the case for studyingArab American women by presenting avail-able data from the U.S. Census. She high-lights labor force activity by ethnicity,examining the structural effects of educa-tion, and cultural predictors includingnational srcins, English language profi-ciency, length of time in U.S., and presenceof children. While the U.S. Census doesnot provide information about religiousaffiliation, Read draws from previousresearch regarding Islam and gender tohypothesize the role of religion on Arab-American women's economic activities.Drawing from her own survey of anational sample of Arab American women,as well as U.S. Census data, Read analyzesthe situation of Arab-American women. Incomparative perspective, Read finds thatArab-American women mirror the patternsevident among Asian and white Americanwomen in terms of education level andincome. However, labor force participationis lower. To address this finding, Read bold-ly attempts to uncover the influence that  b  y g u e  s  t   onM a  y2 2  ,2  0 1 2 h  t   t   p :  /   /   s  o c r  e l   . oxf   or  d  j   o ur n a l   s  . or  g /  D o wnl   o a  d  e  d f  r  om
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