In This Issue
- Featured Story: Mormon feminists find problems and promise amidst church crackdown
- Gun control moves on to mainline, ecumenical agendas
- Current Research: March 2015
- Not all Pentecostals are growing in Latin America
- Jewish rebirth in Ukraine
- Growing nationalist attachments among Ukraine’s Orthodox, Protestants and Catholics
- Turkey’s new ‘mosque diplomacy?’
- Findings & Footnotes: March 2015
- On/File: March 2015
Featured Story: Mormon feminists find problems and promise amidst church crackdown
Feminists and other Mormon liberals have faced new setbacks in recent months as the LDS church has sought to discipline dissenters and limit their roles in leadership and church activities.
The recent excommunication of feminist Kate Kelly over her views on women’s ordination has been only the most publicized case of other disciplinary measures brought against church liberals. In the current issue of the independent Mormon quarterly Dialogue (Winter), Joanna Brooks surveys the present and future state of Mormon feminism and finds a unique subculture that has endured and even flourished, even though feminists have been increasingly marginalized; consequently, during the 1990s and 2000s, publishing of Mormon feminist books slowed to a trickle.
Mormon feminists have faced “cycles of retrenchment” going on since the emergence of the movement in the 1970s, but this pattern of crackdowns has meant that it has lacked any institutional anchorage or organizational history compared to feminism in other religious groups. The exclusion of women from most types of LDS leadership positions and the discouragement of Mormon women in academia have given Mormon feminism a vernacular and popular style that is more often expressed on blogs, Facebook pages, and self-published books than in scholarly journals. “Mormon feminist intellectual gatherings typically do not take place in university-based conferences but independent community symposia, mountain retreats or even camps welcoming to families and children,” Brooks writes.
Another bright spot for feminists in the church has been the growth of professional Mormon studies programs at secular universities such as the University of Virginia and Claremont Graduate University, “producing the first generation of professionally-trained Mormon feminist religious studies scholars,” says Caroline Kline, Rachel Hunt Steenblick and Amy Hoyt. Another article in the same issue by Courtney Rabada cites the recent lowering of the age of female missionaries in the LDS church as creating the potential for greater leadership responsibilities for women, even if it stops short at ordination into the priesthood.
The lowering of the age of female missionaries from 21 to 19 has caused a groundswell of applications of young women into the one-year mission program. Before the announcement of this change, “sister missionaries comprised only 15 percent of the total, while within six months of the announcement slightly more than half of the new applicants, and 36 percent of the missionaries called to serve, were young women.” [See May 2014 RW]
The change allows more women to serve before they are romantically involved and considering marriage, which has long been an impediment for women entering the field. Such large numbers of women entering missions have already created new leadership roles, including the Sister Training Leader to instruct new recruits. This position creates a corresponding office to the “highly coveted, male-only Assistant to the President position, and allows the women who hold these jobs to take on increased responsibilities and develop leadership skills,” as well setting up a scenario of men and women working together in the hierarchy for the first time, Rabada writes.
While the church officially emphasizes the role of males in missionary service and its role in strengthening the priesthood, the influx of women missionaries may eventually challenge that interpretation.
Gun control moves on to mainline, ecumenical agendas
Mainline Protestants and other ecumenical religious groups are using a range of strategies to fight for gun control, writes David A. Graham in The Atlantic (February).
“A coalition of mainline Protestant denominations, the Catholic Church, and Jewish and Muslim leaders are now among the staunchest institutional backers of stricter gun control,” he adds. Some of the gun control initiatives profiled in the article are based in prominent mainline congregations, such as New York’s Trinity Church and Washington’s National Cathedral.
In a bid to heighten its activist stance, Trinity Church is using its small amount of stock in Walmart to pressure the chain to discontinue its sales of guns—even suing the company in the process (and is now pending in the courts). The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops backs a ban on assault rifles, stronger background checks and limitations on high-capacity magazines. Both the Islamic Society of North America and the Union of Reform Judaism support stricter gun laws.
Other mainline denominations, such as the United Methodists, Presbyterians and Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, have likewise issued statements in support of gun control. While these churches’ leaderships are more uniform in their views than that of their congregations, surveys show that, unlike other social issues, the majority of members support such policies.
This is in contrast to white evangelicals who are more divided on the issue. A survey of leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals showed three-fourths support stricter gun control, while 38 percent of evangelicals as a whole support such measures. Graham concludes, “American faith communities remain the most steadfast institutional supporters of gun control.” Whether that translates into material success at the national level remains to be seen.
Current Research: March 2015
01: The growth of the non-affiliated (or “nones”) continues unabated among incoming American college students, and it may be diminishing the importance of spirituality among such young adults, according to the American Freshman, an annual study conducted by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. The study, which has consistently asked incoming students their religious affiliation, surveyed 153,015 students at 227 four-year colleges. In 2014, more than a fourth of incoming freshman (27.5 percent) selected “none” for their religious affiliation, a one-year increase of 2.9 percentage points from 2013 and a 12 percent increase from 1971. Among men, 30 percent said they were unaffiliated, compared to 25.4 percent of women. Even at Catholic and other religious colleges, the proportion of nones has consistently increased—almost doubling in non-Catholic schools (from 9.3 to 17.4 percent).
When respondents were first asked to rate their level of spirituality in 1996, 44 percent reported their spirituality as “above average” or highest 10 percent.” This figure dropped to 35.7 percent in 2014. Students who identified with a religion were more likely to put a high rating on their spirituality—43 percent compared to 16.4 percent of nones.
(The study can be downloaded at: http://www.heri.ucla.edu/monographs/TheAmericanFreshman2014.pdf)
02: Religious influence and involvement among Mexican youth have a significant impact in their aspirations to migrate to the U.S., according to a study in the current issue of the Journal of International Migration & Integration (No. 16). Authors Stephen Hoffman, Flavio Francisco Marsiglia and Stephanie Ayers, surveyed 474 students from eight rural alternative high schools in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. They classified those who are more institutionally involved in the Catholic parishes as being influenced by “external” religiosity and those exhibiting an “internal” faith, such as reading religious literature on their own. The findings indicate that as external religiosity increases, the desire to work and live in the U.S. decreases.
More surprisingly, holding to an internal religiosity increased the desire to live and work in the U.S. The authors argue that deterrence of migration may be linked to higher rates of religious participation, such as church attendance, because such activity may lead to greater life satisfaction (as has been found in several studies), thus decreasing their desire to migrate. A greater integration into social networks associated with religious involvement could also be a deterring factor. But, it could also be the case that having a strong personal religiosity provides a sense of divine protection that could encourage such risky actions as migrating to the U.S.
(Journal of International Migration & Integration, http://link.springer.com/journal/12134
03: A study of Pagan practitioners in the U.S. finds that most follow multiple religious paths and largely engage in pagan practices on an individual rather than a group level. In the current issue of The Pomegranate (16.7, 2014), a journal specializing in Neopaganism, Gwendolyn Reece provides the results from a large survey of 3,318 Pagans and finds an unexpectedly high number of those engaging in individual rituals—96.1 percent. This figure includes both those who are members of formal groups and those who are strictly individual practitioners.
This confirms previous research on the rise of solitary practitioners. In Reece’s study, group members were probably overrepresented yet the importance of individual practice was paramount. Solitary practice could encompass meditation, casting spells and other magic, as well as rituals, such as those involving the seasons. Reece also did not find sharp differences between practitioners in the various groups (such as Wicca); rather, finding that they identified with multiple groups or paths.
(The Pomegranate, http://www.equinoxpub.com/journals/index.php/POM/issue/current)
04: A new survey of British young adults finds an increase in atheism and support for atheist politicians, intensifying a growing divide between young and old in the country. The survey, conducted by YouGov, a British marketing firm, finds that as many as one-third of all Britons do not believe in “any sort of God or any higher power.” Almost one in three under the age of 24 declare themselves to be atheists, compared with only one in 10 people over the age of 60. The respondents showed strong support for public figures embracing atheism, such as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labor Party leader Ed Millbrand.
In a Religion News Service article (Feb. 12), Trevor Grundy writes, “The survey shows that while atheists in England are ready to stand up and talk about their non-belief in God, most Christians are reluctant to proclaim their faith.”
05: There are two times more children growing up as Muslim in the UK than a decade ago, states a report by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), reports John Bingham in The Telegraph (Feb. 11). One in 12 schoolchildren in England and Wales is now a Muslim. On one hand, this is linked with the growth of the Muslim population. In 2001, there were fewer than 1.6 million Muslims in England and Wales, and 2.7 million in 2011, i.e. a 75 percent jump in only 10 years. On the other hand, in a country where the population is aging, the profile of the Muslim population is significantly younger.
Half of Muslims living in Britain are under 25, and a third under 15. This demographic growth of the Muslim population raises questions about the political impact it might have, especially considering that almost three quarters of Muslims identify exclusively as British in the census. For instance, writes Bingham, Muslims make up more than a fifth of the population in 26 parliamentary constituencies. But Muslims are only 4.8 percent of the overall population, thus the consequences should not be exaggerated.
However, according to David Voas (Essex University), such an expansion is unprecedented among ethnic-religious minorities. Even if immigration would stop, Muslims would reach the 10 percent threshold around the middle of the century. It might lead slowly to some adjustments in social practices as well as to changes in foreign policy.
While young Muslims identify closely with Britain, their faith can represent a strong identity resource at the same, Voas explained. A recent BBC poll of 1,000 Muslims in the UK finds that 46 per cent believe that the nation is becoming less tolerant of the Islamic community that may fortify such a religious identity. See more at:
(The full report can be downloaded in PDF format from the MCB website: http://www.mcb.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/MCBCensusReport; for more on the BBC poll visit: http://www.skynews.com.au/news/world/europe/2015/02/25/survey-finds-muslims-feel-uk-is-less-tolerant.html#sthash.mUSxbA2W.dpuf)
Not all Pentecostals are growing in Latin America
Although Pentecostalism shows few signs of decline in Latin America, one prominent denomination is seeing serious losses, and it may be because they are behind the curve in using technology and media.
For the first time since its inception, the Congregação Cristã in Brasil (CCB) has lost members— 200,000 members in the last decade—while other traditional Pentecostal churches’ membership continue to grow, writes Rubia Valente in the journal PentecoStudies (14.1). In 1991, CCB accounted for 20 percent of Pentecostals in Brazil, but since then this “proportion has been declining rapidly.” An analysis of baptism trends shows the CCB attracted new members until the end of the 20th century, when the trend started to decline. This pattern suggests that the church is not only losing members, but is also not gaining as many new members through baptism as it has gained in previous years, she adds.
In a survey of members conducted through social media networks, Valente finds that there are two opposing trends in the church: “fundamentalism” and “progressivism.” Progressive members criticize the church’s lack in use of media and technology, its non-involvement in children and youth ministries, and its disinterest in outreach programs.
The progressive dissatisfaction can also be seen in the “unprecedented numbers of schisms.” In recent years, the most significant was Congregacao Crista Ministerio Jandira, led by three former CCB elders. In two years, this splinter group has more than 220 churches in Brazil and abroad. One prominent leader, Joel Spina, who was also prominent in establishing CCB congregations in the U.S., has been outspoken in criticizing the church’s view that it is the manifestation of God’s grace on earth.
Jewish rebirth in Ukraine
Since 1991, a number of Jewish communities and organizations have reappeared in Ukraine, writes Juliana Smilianskaya, director of the Institute for Jewish Studies in Kyiv, in Religion & Gesellschaft in Ost und West (February).
Their number has regularly grown since Ukrainian independence and has enjoyed the support of international Jewish organizations. Currently, 290 Jewish communities are registered. Those communities are affiliated with different movements: 123 belong to a Chabad-Lubavtich federation, 84 to an association of Jewish religious organizations in Ukraine, 13 to a Ukrainian congress of Jewish religious communities, 50 identify with an association for progressive Judaism, and 26 are independent.
The restitution process has allowed the recovery of old synagogues, but new ones have been built too, mostly in smaller cities. There are permanent rabbis active in more than 30 cities. A Jewish educational system has been rebuilt and is being used by some 10,000 children and adults.
According to a survey conducted in 2001, approximately 100,000 people identified themselves as Jews in Ukraine, while close to 300,000 had at least one Jewish parent or grandparent. Around 15 percent of the Jewish population is religiously active. But a majority has some knowledge of Jewish religious traditions and visits a synagogue from time to time.
Orthodox communities have received more funding, also from local sponsors (whatever their own religious involvement), but dynamic Reform communities are gaining young and middle-aged people and, despite being materially less prosperous, are attracting more support in recent years. They also attempt to make a place for non-Jewish members of Jewish families.
(Religion & Gesellschaft in Ost und West, Birmensdorferstr. 52, P.O. Box 9329, 8036 Zurich, Switzerland – http://www.g2w.eu)
Growing nationalist attachments among Ukraine’s Orthodox, Protestants and Catholics
In a country with a weak state such as Ukraine, religious bodies have gained respect through their presence with the people during the 2013-2014 protest movement that led to the current political situation.
Now Ukraine must choose either to attempt to use religion as a support for political legitimacy or embrace a secular path in consideration of the religious diversity in society, writes Catherine Wanner (Pennsylvania State University) in an article introducing a collection of analyses on the current situation and challenges of religious groups in Ukraine, published in the last issue of Religion & Gesellschaft in Ost und West (February).
Regarding Orthodox Churches, attempts to establish an autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church clash with the vision of a “Russian world” promoted by the Moscow Patriarchate and incorporating Ukraine. Nikolay Mitrokhin, a Russian scholar who is currently working at a German research center in Bremen, reports his research findings on those Orthodox affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate, who currently make the largest religious group in most areas of Ukraine, with the exception of some Western areas.
Mitrokhin identifies three currents within the (already autonomous) Ukrainian Church under the Moscow Patriarchate. First, primarily in Central Ukraine, there are those who would like to be granted (peacefully) full independence (autocephaly) by the Moscow Patriarchate. Second, most parishes in Northern and Eastern Ukraine as well as in the most Western areas (Transcarpathia) are satisfied with the current autonomous status, which allows them to enjoy full freedom in internal affairs. Third, mostly in Eastern and Southern areas, primarily in large cities, but also at other places across the country, there are those who do not want more autonomy and actually feel that there is no such thing as an Ukrainian Orthodox Church, rather only a Russian Orthodox one.
In such a situation, the church has to act in a very careful way, in order to avoid losing part of its faithful. Since the beginning of the political turmoil, only few parishes have defected to the competing Kyiv Patriarchate, but there are those within parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate who would like to have the ability to have liturgical celebrations in Ukrainian too, Mitrokhin reports.
Regarding the Protestant diversity in Ukraine, Mykhailo Cherenkov (Ukrainian Seminar for Protestant Theology) estimates that, from “Protestants in Ukraine,” they have fully become “Ukrainian Protestants” during the protests at Independence Square in Kyiv, associating with other Ukrainian Christians in a crisis situation. But this has considerably strained relations with Russian Protestants, on the basis of different political views. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (also known as the Eastern Rite Catholic Church) in Ukraine is seeking to become a “major European player,” as it aids government forces in the east fighting separatists. The Christian Century (Feb. 4) reports that the church, which is the largest of the 22 eastern Catholic churches in communion with Rome with about 7 million members, has been supplying Ukrainian troops with military equipment, in hopes that such support will win followers.
The church donates not only medical equipment to the forces but also significant amounts of body armor, ammunition, helmets, sleeping bags, and stretchers, according to church records. Researcher Geraldine Fagan says that the UGCC wants to “assert itself beyond its far western heartland on the back of the growth in Ukrainian self-identity in more central regions of Ukraine. The Kiev Patriarchate has also reported donating military gear, as has the Moscow Patriarchate has been linked to supplying the rebels.
(The Christian Century, http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2014-12/ukraines-greek-catholic-church-equips-military)
Turkey’s new ‘mosque diplomacy?’
A state sponsored program to build mosques in foreign countries has emerged as a foreign policy instrument for Turkey and a way to assert a leadership role in the Muslim world, writes Thomas Seibert in Al Monitor (Feb. 13).
The Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) runs the international mosque-building program through a foundation. Most recently, during a visit to Cuba, President Erdogan announced that Turkey would like to build a mosque in Havana, although an agreement has already been made with Saudi Arabia for that purpose. There is already a Turkish-built mosque in Haiti. According to governmental information, Turkey is currently involved in building 18 large mosques, including in the US, the UK and post-Soviet Central Asian States. In Tirana, Albania, the Turkish-built mosque will be the largest in the Balkans.
Seibert notes that last year the Directorate of Religious Affairs was placed directly under Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. This was seen as marking a new “campaign of religious diplomacy” by Turkish media. According to political scientist Beril Dedeoglu (Galatasaray University), quoted in the article, the mosque-building program would serve “as an instrument of soft power to widen Turkey’s influence.” Domestically, it may also boost the ruling party image among those conservative Muslim segments in the electorate.
Findings & Footnotes: March 2015
01: The International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society devotes its current issue (No. 28) to Muslim chaplaincy in prisons in several countries of Europe—an issue closely linked to Islamic extremism in recent years. Reports that prisons have served as breeding grounds for jihadist Muslims has led various European governments and law officials to view chaplains as agents for security and de-radicalization, especially in a case such as France, write Kristina Stoeckl and Olivier Roy in issue’s introduction. They note that all the contributors find growing rates of accommodation and acceptance of Muslim chaplains in prison, but the “main motive for accommodation . . . notwithstanding lip-service being paid to religious pluralism, is security.”
An article on Muslim chaplains in French prisons finds that even with the push for chaplain involvement in counteracting radicalism, there are insufficient numbers of chaplains (allowing for radical and “fundamentalist” inmates to become spokesmen for Islam in prisons) and that they can serve as sources of conflict and contention among both prison officials and prisoners.
Some groups of Muslim inmates accuse chaplains of being government “lackeys,” even though the drive to encourage “moderate Islam” leads to tense relationships with prison officials, which often includes rules against encouraging conversions. Researcher Fahad Khosrokhavar finds that jihadists in French prisons are outnumbered by Salafist Muslims, who stress pure Islamic teachings and strict practice.
But chaplains are more likely to stress a ritual-based faith that doesn’t reach the emotional needs and sense of desperation that young prisoners face. An article comparing Muslim chaplains in Switzerland, Germany and Italy finds that the prison administrations tend to use Christianity as a “lingua franca” in shaping prison chaplaincies, creating a “professional figure on demand.”
For more information on this issue, visit: http://www.springer.com/social+sciences/journal/10767
02: The growth of anti-Islamic sentiment and activity comes under sociological scrutiny in the new book Terrified: How Anti-Muslim Fringe Organizations Became Mainstream (Princeton University Press, $35) by Christopher Bail. The author traces the rise of such groups as Jihad Watch and the Middle East Forum and efforts including anti-sharia bills, to the anti-Islamic sentiment that started after 9/11. To study the media messages about Islam before and after 9/11, Bail uses big data including plagiarism detection analysis programs, which show how the press releases sent out by these organizations are cited by the media.
The findings indicate that Muslim and non-Muslim “civil society organizations” lost influence to fringe groups propagating anti-Islamism in the years since the attack. The scope of this activity is vast, with an estimate of 245 million donated to these organizations. The discourse of such groups often travels rapidly to Muslim societies, such as the publicized case of the U.S. pastor Terry Jones burning the Koran, and confirms the views of extremists that the U.S. is at war with Islam.
The author studies 120 religious and other civil society organizations that are “currently struggling to shape shared understandings of Islam within the United States.” He tends to categorize religious-based anti-Muslim groups and efforts (such as Christian groups opposing Islam on theological grounds) in the same camp as the more secular conservative political organizations that have had the most influence. He argues that these groups were better able to attract media attention by their sensationalist approach, which helped them develop new networks to raise funds and gain acceptance as “terrorism experts.”
By achieving such expert status, these organizations have had considerable political clout, which could be seen by the number of states adopting anti-sharia bills, as well as shaping public opinion. Even the Bush administration, which had stressed pro-Muslim messages and connections to mainstream Muslim organizations, moved closer to the anti-Muslim groups by 2008. Bail concludes that in effect, these groups and their discourse have become mainstream.
03: Hans Joas, a leading German sociologist, focuses on the contention questions of secularization and the future of religion in Europe in his new book Faith As An Option (Stanford University Press, $22.95). In the first part of the book Joas seeks to show how the misconceptions of both secularists and believers that “non-believers [are] at the cutting edge of progress and, conversely, the holier-than-thou self-certainty of being a morally better human beings by virtue of being a believer” have been disproven. Joas holds that the process of secularization has taken place in “waves”—the most recent in the 1960s—that have been shaped by the actions of secularists and believers rather than by the pervasive process of modernization. Unlike many sociologists, Joas does not see growing pluralism as weakening religious faith, arguing instead that religions may show more vitality with the growth of other religious and ideological options.
The book is especially interesting in discussing changes in Germany. For instance, Joas argues that while confessional milieus (Catholic and Protestant) may well be eroding in Germany, there is the “emergence of a supraconfessional Christian life world” through increased ecumenical marriages and friendships that is more vital than the older ones based on territory and tradition.
Today the dividing line runs between Christian and non-Christian rather than between different kinds of Christians. In the rest of the book, Joas looks at religion and politics, ecumenism and specific challenges facing Christianity, stressing that both the religious and secularist share a “universalism” that can counter nationalist and racist currents.
04: Despite their mythic image as bearers of ancient Christianity upholding a strong tie between nationhood and faith, the new book Armenian Christianity Today (Ashgate, $98.96), edited by Alexander Agadjanian, suggests that Armenians hold a range of religious identities, including strong secularists and fervent evangelicals. The Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC) has been considered a leading example of an “ethno-religion” in that Armenian ethnicity is seen as inseparable to membership in the church. Church leaders regularly invoke their lineage going back to the arrival of Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries and even further in time to Noah’s Ark and even the Garden of Eden. The AAC’s claim that it stands at the foundation of the Armenian nation has given it wide legitimacy and privileges in society, even if most Armenians are nominal in participation and even widely anti-clerical in their attitudes, according to Agadjanian.
Other churches and denominations are highly restricted, backed by public support, but the contributors note that pluralism has made strong inroads in the country. For starters, the AAC is itself divided, as its ecclesial authorities have two separate seats of authority—the Etchmiadzin and Cilician Patriarchates—and it contains movements that are distant from the church hierarchy, such as a brotherhood that has Protestant features like revival meetings.
Another chapter finds that evangelical and Pentecostal churches have grown fairly rapidly. But even among some of these churches there is a tendency to link Armenian nationality and its ancient Christian roots to church identity. Traditional Armenian hymns and poems, even if they are mystical and quasi-Christian or part of the AAC, are put to use in many evangelical and charismatic services. Even those newer charismatic and evangelical churches rejecting the AAC heritage may accept the traditional role of the godfather during baptism. The far-flung and numerous Armenian Diasporas—from Lebanon to St. Petersburg, Russia to Southern California—are the subject of the last part of the book.
In most cases, Armenian identity is closely linked to religious identity. Even in California, according to a survey by contributors Dyron Daughrity and Nicholas Cumming, 80 percent of Armenian Americans viewed religion as either “somewhat important” or “very important” with 85 percent agreeing that their Armenian identity is equally or more important than their American identity. Yet on other measures, the respondents shared more commonalities with the West; 15.5 percent of the Armenian Americans, especially younger ones, viewed religion as unimportant in their lives, which is somewhat similar to the 16.1 percent of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated.
On/File: March 2015
01: Endowed with a powerful voice, Ahmet Muhsin Tuzer is an unusual full-time imam because he is also an active part-time singer in a rock band, wears jeans, sports long hair and rides a Kawasaki motorcycle. He has been performing with his Firock band since 2010 and has become a celebrity, although conservative Muslims denounce rock music as a deviation from Islamic culture—something reminiscent of debates in other religious traditions regarding the legitimacy of specific musical styles. Yet the unusual imam has gained sympathy from more secular circles in Turkey. He appeals also to those who appreciate spirituality without being religious.
“Tuzer’s lyrics are filled with references of the love for and compassion of God,” although his popularity could also be a prelude to a coming post-conservative phase in Turkey, now that conservatives have reached the peak of their power, according to one observer. The phenomenon is reported to be an example of synthesis between Islam and modernity. (Source: Al Monitor, Feb. 24)
02: Shahid King Bolson, a former Catholic convert to Islam, is an influential leader in a movement blending anti-globalization rhetoric and Islamist politics. Bolson, a 43-year-old native of Boulder, Colo., is based in Egypt and is part of a new wave of anti-corporate activism associated with acts of violence against businesses across the country. He mixes Koranic verses with attacks against “corporate crusaders,” arguing that multinational corporations are the real power behind the military takeover in Egypt. The acts of violence have mainly hit empty banks, stores and restaurants, although two people have been killed.
King makes his living giving private English lessons and mainly disseminates his message through Islamist web sites, satellite television networks and social media. His Facebook page has more than 56,000 followers, most of whom are Egyptians.
(Source: New York Times, March 2)