01: A discussion about whether sects and denominations exist within Islam sounds esoteric, but this once-academic topic is becoming more pressing in the post-9/11 world.
The current issue of Nova Religio (October), a journal of new religious movements, includes several articles that wrestle with finding the right category to describe groups like Osama bin Laden’s Al Qa’ida. Although the articles raise more questions than answers, there seems to be a division between those who deny that sects and denominations have a place in Islam which depends on the ideal of unity and those who see groups like Al Qa’ida, and Hamas as possibly following in the classic pattern of sects and moderating their positions over time.
For more information on this issue, write: Nova Religio, University of California Press, Journals Div., 2000 Center St.., Berkeley, CA 94704.
02: A good part of the January/February issue of the sociological journalSociety is devoted to faith-based social service, bringing recent research to bear on how these ministries will function under Charitable Choice and other attempts to fund them through government sources.
Stephen Monsma compares largely government funded secular groups and privatey funded religious social service programs. Both models present dilemmas that Monsma hope charitable choice may bridge: The secular model is less likely to be independent but more influential in the community, while religious groups are more independent though with a far more limited scope.
In another article, Amy Sherman reviews most of the recent research and concludes that faith-based organizations are effective and are growing throughout the nation, though the ideological debate and divisions on this issue in Washington are increasingly removed from this reality. The issue also includes a thorough overview of faith-based groups and how even government funding of some of their activities is nothing new in American religious history.
For more information on this issue, write: Society, Transaction Press, The State University at New Jersey, Dept. AO1LS, 35 Berrue Circle, Piscataway, NJ 08854.