The Bible and Koran as Political Models in Africa and the Middle East
Scriptural Politics examines how the Koran and Bible are interpreted and acted upon by political movements in the Middle East and Africa. It is commonly held that the Koran has more specific rules for the organisation of society than does the Bible: thus while Islamic activists see the Koran as a model from which they can derive concrete and all-encompassing instructions, Christians view the Bible as source of political visions, images, symbols and metaphors. The contributors to Scriptural Politics argue that this assumptions should be reassessed, given the way the Bible is being interpreted in contemporary African Christianity. They go on to explain how the different political traditions of Africa and the Middle East shape reactions to the Koran and the Bible. Scriptural Politics also offers a comparison of Islamic and Christian radicalism in the 1990s. Islamist and radical Christian groups of a charismatic-pentecostal orientation have been on the rise in Africa and the Middle-East in the 1990s, and they show remarkable similarities, not only in their principles of scriptural interpretation and opposition to secularism, but also in their explicit demand for unmediated access for lay people to the true meaning of the holy scriptures, thereby providing them with a crucial role and hence undermining the monopoly of religious specialists — the ulama and pastors.
Niels Kastfelt is a Lecturer at the Institute of Church History, University of Copenhagen.