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Flora Rustamova

December 20th, 2022

2022 in review: Top ten blogs from LSE Religion and Global Society

0 comments | 10 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Flora Rustamova

December 20th, 2022

2022 in review: Top ten blogs from LSE Religion and Global Society

0 comments | 10 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

It has been another turbulent year and for a blog covering religion and global society, our 2022 was filled with a spirited variety of topics.

This year what captured our readers’ attention most were articles on freedom of religion or belief, war in Ukraine and the surrounding drama for the Orthodox Church, questions of tolerance and phobias, and, as ever, brand new conversations brought by the broad subject of religion. Here are the ten most viewed and shared blogs from the past twelve months.

#1 Putin’s Spiritual Destiny by Giles Fraser

The latest invasion of Ukraine has energised a lot of discussion around the relevance of religion and the importance of taking religious history into account. In this article, published on February 25th, Fraser writes about the “spiritual destiny” of Putin and what this could tell us about the war.

Soviet Communism tried to crush all this — but failed. And in the post-Soviet period, thousands of churches have been built and re-built. Though the West thinks of Christianity as something enfeebled and declining, in the East it is thriving. Back in 2019, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, boasted that they were building three churches a day. Last year, they opened a Cathedral to the Armed Forces an hour outside Moscow. Religious imagery merges with military glorification. War medals are set in stained glass, reminding visitors of Russian martyrdom. In a large mosaic, more recent victories — including 2014’s “the return of Crimea” — are celebrated. “Blessed are the peacemakers” this is not.

2. Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: The First Religious War in the 21st Century by Lucian N. Leustean

Similarly, the second most-read blog frames the war within the context of religious identity and a growing split within the Orthodox Church, a potential schism which has been in the making since 1990. Here, Leustean articulately explains the extent to which today’s war is a religious one and the implications it may have on the future of the global Orthodox Church. Since February 24th, the Church has been fraught with questions around identity, independence, allegiances, and the relationship between the church and state, and these questions aren’t going away.

3. Putin’s War and the Making of a Ukrainian Jewry by LSE fellow Marina Sapritsky-Nahum

To justify his invasion, Putin has mimicked his Kremlin predecessors with the myth of “denazification” of Ukraine. The absurdity of this justification is not only exposed by the rapidly rising profile of Ukraine’s president, who is Jewish, but by the long history of Judaism in Ukraine. In this timely post, Sapritsky-Nahum writes about the Jewish community in Odesa and the impact this war has already had on their Jewish and Ukrainian identities. Later in the year, Sapritsky-Nahum wrote another stunning article on Ukrainian Jews who have newly arrived in Berlin.

Seventy-seven years after the Holocaust, who would have ever thought we would be hiding from the Russians in Germany?

#4 Islam, Women and Sport: The Case of Visible Muslim Women by Haifaa Jawad

One of the first in our Faith and Sport series, Haifaa Jawad takes a detailed look at the current motivations and challenges for Muslim women in sport. With women’s football reaching record audiences, leading fashion brands releasing modest sportswear, and visibly Muslim women starring in marketing campaigns, Jawad looks at the origins of the obstacles Muslim women still face when accessing proper physical education. Things like Islamophobia, religious texts, modest dress, gendered approaches to schooling, and sex segregation, each have an impact on individuals’ experiences of participating in sport.

#5 Tolerance versus Toleration: The Lost Civility of the Muslim Empires by Jocelyne Cesari

The Clash of Civilizations theory has provoked lengthy debate about tolerance in Islam. In this post, Cesari interrogates common perceptions of Muslim Empires through a history of religious plurality, multiculturalism, and nation-building. In this, Cesari notes a difference between the nation state’s approach to religious difference, and what individuals think, “Paradoxically, citizens express a greater acceptance of pluralism than their state rulers; surveys show that most Muslim citizens across countries do not see religious diversity as an issue.

#6 The New Spirit of Capitalism: How neoliberalism has changed the way we do religion by Mathew Guest

This year Mathew Guest published his new book, Neoliberal Religion: Faith and Power in the Twenty-First Century, in which he offers a comprehensive review of the relationship between contemporary religions and neoliberal logic, and how the former have used the latter to build their movements. Bringing the conversation to a more current perspective than Weber’s analysis of 17th century Protestantism, Guest talks us through examples of the “enduring affinity” between strands of Christianity and unregulated capitalism. It makes for intriguing reading for anyone interested in the dynamics of economics and religious or any other global organisations today.

#7 Religious Freedoms and Crematoriums: No Rest for the Dearly Departed by Qamar Rafiq

The concept of religious freedom is naturally contextualised for the lives of the living – religious minorities who wish to practice their faith freely. However, in this post, Qamar Rafiq address the question of religious freedom as it pertains to the departed. This is a problem around the world; Zoroastrians as a modern-day diaspora struggle to find a contemporary replacement for funerary towers, Muslim communities here in the UK have found difficulty with the dwindling availability (and affordability) of burial sites, and in this piece, Rafiq takes a closer look at the limits on cremations for Sikh and Hindu minorities in Pakistan.

#8 Continuing Norwegian Leadership on Freedom of Religion or Belief by Knox Thames

Freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) is essential to billions of people, given the classic Pew Research Centre statistic that roughly 80% of the world believes in God or a higher power. At the same time, Pew found that almost two-thirds of humanity live in countries with restrictions on the practice of faith.  Known around the world for its advocacy on human rights, Norway is a staunch advocate for FoRB and the protection of religious minorities around the world. In this article, Thames discusses the FoRB legacy of Norway, how it has led Europe on the issue, and what Norway could do to grow its global leadership regarding religion and belief.

#9 What shapes national NGOs and faith-based organisations in South Sudan? by Leben Nelson Moro

The political situation of Southern Sudan, which became the Republic of South Sudan in 2011, has been shifting dramatically, in turn influencing the operations of NGOs and faith-based organisations in the region. This article, originally published on the Africa at LSE blog, traces the historic development of these organisations, and the shifts in factors such as donor demands, leadership, and changes in political landscape, which give rise to their seemingly unstable trajectories.

#10 The Language of Hate: Investigating Online Shiaphobia Following the ‘Āshūrā’ Commemorations in 2022 by Michael Dhanoya

While there is a broad scope of research into Islamophobia in the UK, Dhanoya looks in more detail at recent waves of online Shiaphobia and the intersections of race, gender, and religious history impacting them. The article concludes with some recommendations for improving our understanding and preventing future incidents.

“While research indicates that all forms of hate crime are under-reported, specifically, Shiaphobic incidents reported to the police are recorded as religiously-motivated – thereby seen as being Islamophobic – rather than as intra-religiously-motivated – thereby Shiaphobic. Thus, such incidents are rendered invisible in official hate crime statistics.”

We would like to thank all of our writers and readers for supporting us. If you’re writing or thinking about writing something for us, find our full guidelines here, including a list of our current series’ and calls for submissions.

About the author

Flora Rustamova

Flora is the LSE RGS blog Editor. With a BA in Religious Studies and Anthropology, and an MA in Religion and Global Politics, she is particularly interested in religious activism, homonationalism and Islamophobia, and religions in the ex-Soviet world.

Posted In: From the editor

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