“Topography of the Piety Movement” from Politics of Piety by  Saba Mahmood

I have, in the past few years, come across many people who claim to identify as “culturally Jewish,” meaning that they are not religious, they likely do not believe in the tenets and values of Judaism, and merely participate in common traditions practiced by Jewish people. While I certainly embody this to a degree, I find the concept of it problematic; while it certainly encourages pride in culture and history, the purpose of the religion itself is lost, along with the depth of its teachings and values. This concept is brought up in a quotation used by Saba Mahmood in her discussions of the “Piety Movement:” “The state and society want to reduce Islam to folklore, as if Islam is just a collection of ceremonies and customs, such as hanging lanterns from doorways or baking cookies during Ramadan…Mere ceremonies without any bearing on the rest of life”(49). Similar to what is happening in Judaism, Muslims seem to be straying from the true purpose of religion, and maintaining a “good conscience” and “feeling of connection” through customs that only gather their meanings from cultural history and their implications for community and pride. This is the result of globalization, technology, consumerism, and communication between diverse peoples. While communication and sharing of customs may seem like an objectively “good thing,” is there a line to be drawn? Or is this move away from piety simply a step on the path to fulfill John Lennon’s dream of peace through “no religion?” Certainly, Mahmood sees it as a dangerous and sad phenomenon, hence her discussions of the “Piety Movement.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *