Friday, April 8, 2011

2012 MRM Proposal: Multiple Impacts of Islam in the International Politics of the Contemporary Mediterranean Affairs

Status: rejected


Nassef M. Adiong 


Dr. Ben Kirat*
Oxford Consultancy International

What is the workshop all about?

Throughout history Islam has been interpreted in various often discordant and conflicting ways. The debates over the question of authority and legitimacy to speak for and thus define Islam are particularly intense in contemporary times. As a result of this confusion and perplexed comprehensions exist among Muslims and non-Muslims alike as to what ‘Islam’s position on a number of different issues such as human rights, democracy, international cooperation etc.
     This workshop aims to understand how discourses on Islam are employed in relation to one specific field of study, namely International Politics. Of course, there is no better regional case study from where it all originated than the Mediterranean region itself which is commonsensically understood in terms of its geography as stretching from Western Asia, Northern Africa to the Southern tip of Spain. The workshop is delimited by a defined timeframe which started with the vacuum left by Arab-Nationalism giving a rise to the post-Nasserism (1970 onwards) era and saw the intensification of Islamic and Islamists movements emerging as a political force in the entire region and whose activities are well rooted now in the region and extending to international relations as they have become a force to reckon with nowadays.
     There are different and acceptable means of measuring political impact of a certain ideology, religion or concept. One successful way is through the behaviourist approach in Political Science, which seeks to provide an objective and quantified approach to explain and predict political behaviour. Others use historicism and empirical research under the umbrella of social sciences. The workshop will humbly try to analyze and present critical research of discovering and assessing the multiple impacts of Islam to the discipline and practice of international politics/relations in the contemporary affairs of countries within the geographical context of the Mediterranean region, particularly within the Union pour la Méditerranée.
     The proposed themes and topics below will be the wider and general focus of the workshop guiding the participants on what category their research interest will be aligned to. Critically analyzing the impact of Islam to various sets of paradigms and explanations under the tenets of International Politics is the primal objective of the workshop. However, discovering, finding, and looking whether there was an impact or not is the prerequisite requirement for every paper proposals.

Keywords: Islam, International Politics/Relations, Broader MENA, Mediterranean Affairs

Please elaborate further the workshop?

The workshop will be looking at Islam, first and foremost as part of Europe and the West, on the one hand, its impact on international politics and the various notions such as democracy, state, sovereignty, secularity, terrorism and immigration…and their effects on the Mediterranean region, on the other. How these different notions have shaped the new thinking and to what extent the balance of power really holds true on the ground, for example, Bin Laden’s Mujahedeen requiring most of the forces NATO could gather to threaten, rather than control the few. This might further examine Bin Laden’s role with the CIA during the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan and turning the Cold War into a hot one by proxy. As a result it created its own damnation and the 9/11 catastrophe that marked the end of the 20th century and setting the pace for the 21st, as well as examining American State terrorism within Chomsky’s parameters.
     Islam has been part and parcel of international politics since it ventured out of Medina in the 7th century to reach Spain in the 8th and to continue in its international role with the Ottoman Empire from the 16th to the 20th century. Faced with colonialism a new renaissance emerged, though obscured, to certain extent by other influences coming from both Western and Eastern hemispheres. The role, in relation to the field of International Politics, of Muslim modernists in the 21st century will be examined together with that of obscurantism that emerged from Strauss and the neo-conservatives in the US matched by Pakistan/India’s Mawdudi, Egypt’s Qutb and Hassan el Banna to Bush’s counter-part Osama Bin Laden.
     The debate whether Islam is compatible or not with secularism, democracy and its interpretations to such notions and concepts like sovereignty, state, regime, theories of International Relations, International Law, war, conflict, occupation, peace, nationalism, and its irredentist characterization are added to provide a diverse paradigms to describe the complexity of international politics and show the flexibility and evolution of Islam as a religion, ideology, and/or political philosophy.
     One of the contentious concepts that supplanted Islam in the global discourse of contemporary international relations is terrorism. It is as old as politics and form part of the whole prism to make a historical and a comparative analysis of this phenomenon which is, in the main, international and goes back to the Crusades, to the Romans, the Egyptians and far beyond. However, in the modern times, there is according to security studies’ experts, both State terrorism as the one exercised by the US government and individual or group terrorism as exercised by Bin Laden, a set to undertake violent activities. Nevertheless, there is also the notion of Freedom fighters, as the case of fighting colonialism or liberating France from the Germans and many more examples like the Question of Palestine, Hezbollah, Hamas, Iraq, and Afghanistan under the Soviet Union and under the Americans: what is the difference? Where do we draw the line? Who gets to draw the line? Who gets to define who a terrorist is?
     Islamism, in its various manifestations, is the latest wave of political movement against the unipolar system of American hegemony that no one dared to challenge since the end of the Cold War. In the post Cold War, vacuum space for Islamist integrants to take over opened up. The recent terrorist attacks and the US led Iraqi and Afghani invasions have demonstrated that the balance of power with equality of force has no much value when confronted with the optimal and influential power of Islam in the practice of international politics. The American balance of power has been check-mated by that of Bin Laden and Zawahiri, facing the Zionists, as they see them and their allies. Islamism as a political force is alive and has been since the Moors in Spain and has emerged with confidence in Turkey’s Erdogan’s AK Partesi (Justice and Development Party) and to a lesser extent in the Moroccan JDP. Modern Islam has to fight on all corners, that is, national and international against Zionism and neo-conservatism as well xenophobes and Islamophobes throughout the world.
     As evident in the recent uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, and Jordan in 2011 modern Islamists have demonstrated their aspirations to modernity and antipathy toward fanaticism and religious dictatorships. They opted for openness, freedom of the individual, the media, and above all religious freedom of the individual. Consequently, this workshop will try to seek answers to questions such as:
1. Is there an Islamic impact in the international politics of the contemporary Mediterranean affairs?
2. If there is, how can we measure, assess, and evaluate that impact.
3. How true is it that Islam is an exceptional force that it has an optimal influence in the practice and discipline of international relations within the Mediterranean region?
4. What is the nature of relations between Islam and International Politics?
5. What are the elements or factors that caused Islam to influence the international politics of the Mediterranean region?

What are the aims of the workshop?
1. To find, assess, and evaluate Islamic influences in the international politics of contemporary Mediterranean affairs.
2. To present Islam as an imperative and significant force in the study of International Politics/Relations.
3. To deepen the understanding about the intricate and complicated Islamic interpretation of the International Politics and how it is utilized by state actors domestically and externally.
4. To guide novice researchers through the recommendations and critiques of senior scholars who will be participating in the workshop. This will help graduate students and junior scholars to publish their written works in scholarly peer-reviewed journals.
5. To update the participants with new research tools and development of discourses through an alternative reasoned debate by partaking in the workshop without preconceived views and subjective perceptions as religious (practicing Muslim, Christian, Jews and etc) and non-religious (aspiring) scholar.
6. To be able to contribute in the presently growing literature regarding the influence of Islam in International Politics through well-sounded and groundbreaking publications and other notable academic activities.
7. To present published materials for the perusal of other young (graduate students and novice researchers) participants and intellectual sharing among scholars (referring to all participants) who may advance for their scholarship (learning) as well as for career development.

How the workshop will be carry-out and what themes or topics may specifically include?

There will be one chair for every session, most probably from one of the workshop directors or any from the presenters depending on his/her expertise and willingness to partake, and intermittent discussants. The discussants are also the presenters who will be randomly exchanging their roles during the live sessions, e.g., presenter A will be the discussant of presenter B afterwards and vice versa. It is the role of the director to give a copy of the full paper of presenter A to presenter B within one or two week(s) before, so s/he will have time to prepare as discussant and jot down his/her comments or questions.
     The Session’s Chair will have all the copies of the papers which will be provided by the directors. The Chair will serve as emcee and at the same time moderator during the discussions, but s/he cannot convey his/her opinion until his/her chaired session ended. Only at the closing session s/he will have the opportunity to deliver his privilege speech summarizing, evaluating, recommending further research, and critically analyzing the highlights of his/her chaired session. There will be clustering of participants to form one session (comprising 4 to 5 papers) that have common and related topics. Below are proposed interrelated themes and topics but this list is not exhaustive. As long as the proposed paper falls within the scope of the overall workshop’s description, then it is accepted but subject for reviews and assessment. You may propose a paper on the following topics and subtopics:

I. Relations between Islam and politics: Islamic Politics or Politics of Islam
            A. Islamic political thoughts vis-à-vis Western and non-Western political thoughts
II. The debate on Islam versus secularism
            A. The (in)compatibility of Islam and democracy?
                        A.1. The great Middle East new wave: Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt
                                    A.1.a. Measuring a domino effect: Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Libya, Kuwait
                        A.2. Kemalism: The Turkish Experience
                                   A.2.a. Turkey’s Zero-Problems Foreign Policy
                        A.3. Public Opinion(s) in the Muslim world towards the US, EU, and Israel: Political                             and security threats or not?
                                   A.3.a. Post-9/11 impact to the Muslim world
                                   A.3.b. The representation of Islam and Muslims in the international media:                                                Demonization, Balanced, and/or Exceptionalism?
                                   A.3.c. The representation of the US, EU, and/or Israel in the domestic and                                     regional media of Muslim countries: Demonization or Balanced?
                        A.4. Contextualizing Islam in Democratic Peace Theory
III. Influence of Islam in the making of constitutions of Mediterranean countries
            A. Islamic factors in the implementation of laws and public policies of a specific country
            B. Islamic factors in the implementation of foreign policy of a specific country
IV. Islamic theory of International Relations?
            A. Developing a Post-Western theory or Homegrown theory of International Relations
V. Islamic concepts of state and sovereignty
VI. Islamic views on International Law
VII. Islamic concept of regime in International Relations
            A. Islamic influential parameters to international and regional cooperation
                        A.1. Organization of the Islamic Conference
                                    A.1.a Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
                        A.2. The League of Arab States
                        A.3. The Cooperation Council For The Arab States of The Gulf
                        A.4. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries
                        A.5. United Nations
                                    A.5.a. The Group of 77
                        A.6. The Muslim World League
                                    A.6.a. The International Islamic Relief Organization
            B. Islam views on Liberal Institutionalism
VIII. Role of Islam in times of war, conflict, occupation, terrorism, and peace
            A. Islamism and the War on Terror
                        A.1. Non-state actors such as Al-Qaeda and its networks.
            B. Extrapolating views of Wahhabism and Salafiyya
            C. Post-war and Pax-Americana effects: Afghanistan and Iraq
            D. The Palestinian question and Arab-Israeli conflict
IX. Contending views on Islamic nationalism or Ummah and its irredentist characterizations
            A. Deciphering the notion on Pan-Islamism
                        A.1. Estimating the political role of the Society of the Muslim Brothers
            B. Deciphering the exportation of Iranian revolution
            C. Deciphering the notion on Pan-Arabism or Arab unity
            D. Deciphering the political neologism of “Eurabia” thesis
            E. Deciphering Pan-Turkism: From Central Asia, Broader Middle East to Eastern Europe
            F. Deciphering Kurdish nationalism and other ethnic/minorities with nationalistic aspirations
X. The political influence and rise of Shi’a: From Iran, Syria, Lebanon to GCC
            A. Analyzing the present situation and future of Hezbollah and Hamas

Opening Session: An Introduction of Islam in the International Politics and the Mediterranean as the Regional Case Study

This session will formally open the workshop by discussing the debates between the peculiar relationship of Islam and International Politics. It will initially describe and later define clearly the differing concepts and notions discussed and argued by scholars in the debate. This, of course, is in line and within the scope of the Mediterranean region. It is the focus of the study and will be use by outlining the geopolitical effects of the Islamic faith as a political ideology. Accepted papers related in the above description will be part of the opening session.

Body Sessions: Clustered Paper Presenters with Related Theses (topics and issue-areas)

Based from the proposed themes with specified topics and their subtopics, all papers will be clustered and joined with related research areas and objects to form one session. Most probably four to five papers would suffice a session to survive. Further, the number of body sessions depends on the number of accepted papers which a minimum of three and maximum of five presenters will form one session.

Closing Session: Assessing Islamic Impacts of the international relations of the Mediterranean region

There will be no paper presenters for this session. It will be the moment for all the presenters to reflect, discuss, brainstorm, and argue on the impacts of Islam in the contemporary Mediterranean political affairs.
     The discussants for every session will present their assessment, feedback, and evaluation of their assigned session’s panel. They will be chronologically presented as per the order of the clustered body sessions. Afterwards, the presenters will react, comment, clarify, and elaborate first on what the discussant had argued and then furthering their thoughts (their presented papers) to support their counterarguments. The audience can participate in the discussion by pointing out on certain ideas, suggesting, commenting, reacting, and giving interrogative remarks during or after the presentations of both the presenters and discussants.
     At the last part of the closing session, the Chairs for every session will give their evaluative and concluding statements reflecting on what have been discussed from the very beginning to end and may suggest significant recommendations for further research.

*Dr. Ben Kirat is a graduate of Oxford Brookes University, he holds a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from Westminster College Oxford, an M.A in French Studies and a PhD in International Relations from Nottingham University.he worked as a Project Coordinator for Davy Mackee (Sheffield UK), the fourth UK multinational. He worked as an International Consultant for over 20 years, specializing in European-US affairs, North Africa and the Middle East. He was an adviser to ‘Le Quotidien de l’Economie’ (R.P.C.) Brussels Bureau. He was a Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University and M.A Supervisor in French Studies and held other post as Head of Department, Director of Studies and Marketing Manager in Colleges in Oxford and in Italy. He was Examiner, Regional Co-ordinator and Examinations’ Consultant for the Institute of Linguists.

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