Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Sharing Sacred Spaces in the Mediterranean: Christians, Muslims, and Jews at Shrines and Sanctuaries

Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Sharing Sacred Spaces in the Mediterranean: Christians, Muslims, and Jews at Shrines and Sanctuaries

Article excerpt

Sharing Sacred Spaces in the Mediterranean: Christians, Muslims, and Jews at Shrines and Sanctuaries. Edited by Dionigi Albera and Maria Couroucli. New Anthropologies of Europe. Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 2012. Pp. 277. $70.00, cloth; $24.99, paper.

Gender, Nation, and Religion in European Pilgrimage. Edited by Willy Jansen and Catrien Notermans. Burlington, VT, and Famham, Surrey, U.K.: Ashgate Publishing, 2012. Pp. 232. $99.95.

Comparing and contrasting these two books is no easy task. Sharing Sacred Spaces contains a variety of clearly connected studies. Gender, Nation, and Religion is a compilation of disparate studies without a strong cohesive thread. As a reviewer, my assessment is informed by my interests, which, in this case, revolve around ecumenical studies. Since I am concerned primarily with promoting a better understanding of the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and improving relations between and among them, I seek information directly related to these goals. Readers motivated by other objectives will certainly find other interesting aspects in both books. How, then, do they contribute to interfaith dialogue?

As a Muslim scholar who is intimately familiar with Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, I found little of interest in Gender, Nation, and Religion in European Pilgrimage. Of the thirteen standard-fare scholarly studies dealing with pilgrimages of all kinds, the only two that aroused my interest were "Festivals of Moors and Christians" by Henk Driessen and "The Virgin Mary, the Sanctuary, and the Mosque" by Dionigi Albera. This is not to say that the other studies are of no value. They certainly make a contribution to scholarship. They do not however, contribute much toward ecumenical understanding.

As interesting as the festival of Moors and Christians, which replays the religious frontier in Andalusia, Spain, may be, the treatment of this topic leaves much to be desired. This article, published in 2012, is based in large part on the author's stay in Spain in the 1970's and in Melilla in the 1980's. As therapeutic as reminiscing about one's past may be for some, armchair scholarship is not what is expected from an academic. Throw in details of your past travels if you wish, but, please, make an attempt to conduct some field work that has some currency. As for the article's important points, I can summarize them as follows: Spaniards continue to celebrate the re-conquest, defeat, and expulsion of Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula (p. 186); the message of the festival is clear that "Christians embody good, spiritual health, humanity, faith and civilization; in contrast, Moors represent evil, spiritual malady, sub-humanity, heresy and barbarism" (p. 189). It comes as no surprise, then, that Muslims continue to be viewed with contempt by many Spaniards. …

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