Focused Series »

Indo-European Origins
Northern California
The Caucasus
Imaginary Geography
Home » Archive by Category

Articles in Religion

Religious Complexity in Ivory Coast

By Martin W. Lewis | April 26, 2011 | 6 Comments
Map of Islam in Ivory Coast

As we saw in the previous post, great uncertainty surrounds the demography of religion in Ivory Coast. Even basic figures on religious adherence are subject to heated debate. While most sources estimate the country’s Muslim population at thirty-five to forty percent, others put it at more than sixty percent, arguing that Muslims in the

Syria’s Ethno-Religious Complexity – and Potential Turmoil

By Martin W. Lewis | March 31, 2011 | One Comment
Map of Languages in Syria

Most Americans would be surprised to learn of the ethnic and religious diversity that exists in present-day Syria. Standard references sources give an impression of clear domination by Arabic-speaking Sunni Muslims. The CIA World Factbook summarizes Syria’s cultural make-up as follows:

Confusion About Syria’s Alawites

By Martin W. Lewis | March 29, 2011 | 8 Comments
Alawite region of Syria

News stories about the recent demonstrations and reprisals in Syria routinely mention that the country’s government is dominated by members of the Alawite sect, but rarely describe Alawite beliefs and practices. Many mention only that the Alawites form a minority in primarily Sunni Syria, sometimes noting that the Alawite faith stems from Shi’ite Islam. A March

Egypt’s Religious Diversity and Its Forgotten Shi’ites

By Martin W. Lewis | February 14, 2011 | One Comment

Issues of religion have figured prominently in news reports and commentaries on the recent political upheaval in Egypt. A number of rightwing pundits have warned that the uprising could allow the Muslim Brotherhood to seize power and establish an Islamic state. They have also highlighted recent attacks on Egyptian Christians by Muslim extremists, arguing

Actually, The Russian State and Church Did Persecute Pagans

By Martin W. Lewis | January 29, 2011 |
Actually, The Russian State and Church Did Persecute Pagans

The January 26 Geocurrents posting on the historical toleration of animism among the Volga Finns by the Russian church and state needs to be revised. Recent work, mostly by Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian scholars, indicates that repression was far more severe than had been previously supposed. It is possible, however that such works go too

Threats to Mari Animism

By Martin W. Lewis | January 27, 2011 | 6 Comments

As we saw yesterday, the traditional animism of the Mari people of Russia’s Middle Volga region was historically tolerated by both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Empire. In Mari El today, animism is officially regarded as one of the republic’s three traditional faiths, along with Orthodox Christianity and Islam. Such has not always

The Survival of Animism in Russia – and Its Destruction in the West

By Martin W. Lewis | January 26, 2011 | One Comment

The continued existence of animist (or “pagan”) religious practices among the Finnic-speaking peoples of the middle Volga region, especially the Mari, is usually considered a curiosity. The Mari, after all, are merely one of a plethora of ethnic groups scattered across the vast reaches of Russia, many of which are noted for their

The Complex Relations Between Kurds and Christians in Northern Iraq

By Martin W. Lewis | November 5, 2010 | 3 Comments

The relationship between the Christians of northern Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government is complicated. Kurdish authorities portray their land as a safe haven for all minority groups – and for good reason. But local Sunni Arab politicians, and some Christians as well, have accused Kurdish militias of driving Assyrians out of their homes

Iraqi Assyrians and Other Christians in Syria

By Martin W. Lewis | November 3, 2010 | 2 Comments

As Assyrian Christians have been forced out of their homes, they have had to seek sanctuary elsewhere. Many have migrated overseas, primarily to the United States, Germany, Australia, and Sweden, but visas are difficult to obtain, costs are formidable, and subsequent expulsions are not uncommon; even asylum-friendly Sweden has been vigorously deporting Assyrians after somehow

Anna Eshoo and the Ignored Plight of the Assyrians

By Martin W. Lewis | November 1, 2010 | 11 Comments

In looking over the sample ballot for the 2010 November election, my mind turned to the Assyrians as I came to the name of Anna Eshoo, their champion in the U.S. Congress. By “Assyrians” I mean not the ancient empire-builders, but rather the modern community, several million strong globally, that claims to be their

Religion in Africa; Agriculture in California

By Martin W. Lewis | October 25, 2010 |

Geocurrents is not usually concerned with touting books or other websites, although requests for such consideration to do come frequently. But some works are so geographically impressive that they do deserve special mention. As a result, today’s posting will consider one website, Eugene Adogla’s Religiously Remapped: Mapping Religious Trends in Africa, and one book

Mapping Religion in Indonesia

By Martin W. Lewis | October 14, 2010 | 6 Comments

As mentioned in Monday’s post, maps of the global distribution of Islam often portray Indonesia and Malaysia as solidly Muslim countries. The close-up segment of the popular map “World Muslim Distribution (Sunni and Shia) 1995” posted above, for example, colors Malaysia and Indonesia* a uniform shade of light green, indicating the prevalence of

Mapping Islam: Bad and Good Efforts

By Martin W. Lewis | October 11, 2010 | 7 Comments

Mapping the distribution of religious groups is often a frustrating exercise. Good data on the numbers of adherents of any particular faith or sect, let alone the intensity of their beliefs, are often lacking, while the spatial intermingling of different religions presents formidable cartographic challenges. As a result, even the best maps of

Deobandi Islam vs. Barelvi Islam in South Asia

By Martin W. Lewis | October 7, 2010 | 5 Comments

Radical Islamist groups in South Asia such as the Taliban are often classified as Wahhabis, belonging to the austere, puritanical form of Islam institutionalized in Saudi Arabia. But while the ties between the Wahhabis and the Taliban are tight, the latter actually belong to a different branch of the faith. The clearest differences are

Geopolitical and Religious Conflict in the Spanish Exclave of Melilla

By Martin W. Lewis | August 26, 2010 |

As mentioned in Monday’s post, tensions came to a boil this summer between Spain and Morocco over Spain’s possessions on the North African coast, Ceuta and Melilla. The squabble began in July 2010, when Spanish forces allegedly beat five Moroccan men in Melilla for carrying a Moroccan flag. The government of Morocco subsequently encouraged

?php get_sidebar(); ?>