THE NEW COLD WAR? by Mark Juergensmeyer


Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State
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 A sensitive survey of religious nationalism around the world, with some gentle advice for Americans bewildered by all the uproar. The aim of religious nationalists of every stripe--Buddhists in Mongolia, Muslims in Palestine, Sikhs in India--is invariably the same, says Juergensmeyer (Religion and Political Science/University of Hawaii): to dismantle the secular state, perceived as morally and spiritually bankrupt, and replace it with a government founded on religious principles. Juergensmeyer rejects calling this trend ``fundamentalist''--mostly because of the word's pejorative connotations--and instead labels it ``anti-modernist.'' Perhaps postmodernist would be more accurate, for the movement is growing by leaps and bounds. Instead of ``the emergence of mini-Americas all over the world,'' as anticipated just a generation go, the new world order seems to consist of various religious groups warring for theocratic states. The foremost example, of course, is Iran. But Juergensmeyer covers a number of other tinder spots, such as Egypt, where an Islamic revolution may be imminent; Israel, under pressure from the ultraright; India, where Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims clash with each other and the secular federal government; and Sri Lanka, where Buddhist extremists slaughter villagers and in turn are ruthlessly suppressed. Juergensmeyer outlines the threats (violence, destruction of human rights) and blessings (a restoration of morality to public office) of the phenomenon. He concludes that religious nationalism will continue to expand, urges cooperation rather than confrontation on the part of American policy-makers, and holds out the possibility of a happy synthesis in which ``essential elements of democracy will be conveyed in the vessels of new religious states.'' Valuable for its global perspective and its ability to see things from the viewpoint of the religious nationalists themselves; as such, must reading for the Clinton Administration.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-520-08078-5
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993