in part because of their association with Westernization, globalization, and the perceived secularization of the world. Islamic traditionalism has existed for many years, but it is only recently that militants within this religious movement have adopted terrorism to help them accomplish their goals. What is jihad? Jihad is popularly understood to mean “holy war,” but a preferred translation yields the phrase “utmost struggle.” This phrase has two meanings. It can be understood as a personal struggle to uphold the tenets of the faith or as a defense of Islam from threats posed by nonbelievers. In contrast to conventional Islam, some Islamic traditionalists take a very literal interpretation of this second sense, claiming that it justiﬁes the use of terrorism as a way for Muslims to defend their faith. However, most Muslims reject this view.
Religious Law and Social Space Religion clearly forms a signiﬁcant part of the everyday functioning of society. Religion has a major presence in numerous dimensions of private and public space. Institutions such as the legal system, education, and government can reﬂect and be inﬂuenced by faith. These close relationships between religion and society may seem odd or unusual to most Americans, who are accustomed to the separation of church and state. Yet, in a number of states, Sunday-closing laws, or blue laws—laws that prohibit the sale of certain nonessential merchandise such as alcohol, tobacco, or even motor vehicles—still
exist. Blue laws derive from Sabbath-day laws that were once common in England and were designed to encourage proper observance of the day of rest. Observance of the Sabbath is stipulated in the Ten Commandments and forms a part of the Judeo-Christian tradition but certainly is not unique to it. For Jews, the Sabbath extends from Friday to Saturday evening. As with Christians, there are variations among Jews in how the Sabbath is observed. Orthodox Jews, for example, eschew use of electricity and of motor vehicles on the Sabbath. Jewish law, called halacah, goes beyond the Ten Commandments and includes principles given in the Torah as well as other Jewish teachings. Dietary practices associated with keeping kosher, such as not mixing meat and milk products, stem from the divine law of the Torah. Muslims use the term sharia to refer to Islamic law derived from the Qur’an, the teachings of Muhammad, and other sources. Sharia addresses different dimensions of people’s lives, such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and the status of women. Across the Muslim world many different interpretations of sharia exist. Broadly speaking, modernists see the need for sharia to be flexible and open to different interpretations in order to apply in today’s society, whereas traditionalists favor narrower, more literal interpretations. Some of the strictest interpretations of sharia are associated with the Taliban. In Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 and in the Swat Valley of Pakistan in 2009, Taliban forces used sharia to justify their tyrannical control over local citizens, including prohibiting girls from
b. Shown here is a mass conversion to Buddhism in Mumbai, India. As it developed, the caste system sanctioned discrimination. Nowhere was this clearer than in the treatment of the Dalits, who were excluded from Hindu temples and other public facilities. Understandably, many Dalits and other lower caste Hindus have converted to Buddhism.