Sunday, June 1, 2014

Proposed ISA Panel: Islam and Democracy: The Case of the Arab Spring




Chair: Elizabeth Cobbett
Discussant: Raffaele Mauriello
The panel consists of a theoretical paper that discusses the link between the principle of public welfare and democratization according to Islamic jurisprudence. The other four papers on the panel examine the relationship between the Arab Spring and the beliefs of its peoples; namely, Islam. The papers vary in addressing issues such as comparative authoritarianism, comparative social movements, political Islam, and the new controversial proposition of "post- Islamism". The panelists views on Islam's role in the Arab Spring is diverse in its coverage of political and theoretical analyses of the place of Islam in the future of those respective societies.

1. Deina Abdelkader’s “Islamic Law, Democratization and Public Welfare”[1]
This paper is composed of three interconnected sections. In the first section the paper is focused on the importance of Islamic law to Muslims in general, it then moves to address and research a particular principle in Islamic law that serves as the connection between governance and the law, namely; the principle of public welfare. The second part of the paper researches and connects ideological common grounds between Islamic and Western political thought. This segment compares St. Thomas Aquinas and al-Shatibi, and tests the common roots that Islam shared and contributed to what is known today as “Western” liberal democracy. Finally, the paper defines the contemporary impasse at the academic level: misrepresenting faith, and particularly Islam as inimical to Western liberal democracy. This paradigmatic complex is the greatest obstacle to research that addresses the common grounds previously mentioned. The research thus changes the question from the conventional query: Is Islam compatible with democracy, to: Did Islam contribute to the theoretical underpinnings of democracy?

2. Caroline Abadeer[2] and Scott Williamson[3]’s “Tracing the Roots of Authoritarian Durability in the Arab Spring”
The Arab Spring offers an important opportunity to conduct a comparative study of the factors that influence authoritarian durability in the region, since this wave of social mobilization affected nearly every country in the Middle East between 2011 and 2012. Using process tracing, we consider three crucial turning points for the unrest. 1) Where and why did protests expand into uprisings that threatened regimes with collapse? 2) Given the occurrence of an uprising, when and why did a state’s coercive apparatus choose to remain loyal to the regime? 3) Finally, if the coercive apparatus did remain loyal, why were some regimes then able to marshal adequate resources to suppress opposition, while others failed? Through our investigation, we find that access to oil wealth, monarchy, coercive apparatuses built on ethnic linkages, and support of foreign patrons predisposed certain regimes to success at one or more of the aforementioned turning points, which made them more robust to the challenge of popular unrest. Our findings demonstrate the extent to which many conventional explanations of authoritarian durability in the Middle East prior to the Arab Spring have paradoxically been vindicated by the uprisings.

3. Nicholas P. Roberts’ “Political Islam and the Invention of Tradition”[4]
The changing nature of activism in the Middle East since the Arab Spring includes a newfound prominence of ‘political Islam’ in shaping the public sphere. This requires new methods of thinking about the relationship between religious mobilization and democratization in the Islamic context. Contrary to popular perception, Islamists have made innovative contributions to democratic political philosophy by drawing upon dynamic interpretations of their history. The epitome of this is the concept of an ‘Islamic state,’ founded upon a social contract between rulers and ruled that is framed as indigenous in tradition – not simply a product of Western imitation. Drawing upon dozens of works by prominent Islamists, this paper demonstrates how these intellectuals have reinvented traditional understandings of bay‘a, shura, ijma‘a and hisbah to invent a tradition of religiously informed political thought that engages with many of the most pressing issues facing Muslims today. This paper, in its specific analyses, raises broader questions for contemporary international affairs. Scholars must understand regional movements as their actors understand themselves, without the preconceived biases of Western-centric theoretical frameworks. Accordingly, this paper suggests that civilizations have always learned from each other and continue to do so, especially regarding issues of social justice.

4. Fernando Brancoli’s “Arab Spring’s Metanarratives: Circulation of Political Islam Discourses in Egypt and Libya”[5]
The paper proposes a critical discussion of the role of Political Islam in the so called Arab Spring, focusing on two specific groups: the Muslim Brotherhood, in Egypt, and the National Liberation Army, in Libya. The article argues that the Islamic grammar employed by these actors usually highlights a narrative where the religious values cannot be combined with Western practices.  In fact, the exogenous performs are constructed as harmful and destructive to the society. However, at the moment these political actors acquire certain level of political centrality, especially after the revolutions and the deposition of Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi, the narratives changes, promoting what we called here a “discursive hybridism". In this new proposition, the religious apparatus is perceived in a constant enmesh with western social organizations, forming hybrid political organizations that intermingle modernity and traditional Islamic forms. The article is deeply based on interviews conducted by the author in the region between 2011 and 2013, also using official documents and public statements.

5. Muqtedar Khan’s “The New face of Post-Islamism: Islamists after the Fall of Morsi”[6]
This paper re-examines the idea of post-Islamism, as advanced by Asef Bayat and his colleagues in his book Post-Islamism: The Changing faces of Political Islam (OUP, 2013). This paper focuses specially on the changing discourse of Islamists in response to the fall of the Presidency of Muhammad Morsi in Egypt. The paper will show that the discourse of Islamists from June 2012 to June 2103, when Muhammad Morsi was President and Islamists had power used the symbols and concepts of Islam profusely.  But in their response to the military takeover the Islamists have increasingly employed the language of democracy and human rights to criticize the oppression of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It appears that Islamists now have a post-Islamist Discourse that raises several issues about their commitment to both Islamic values and democratic values.  This comparison of Islamists discourses, when in power and when underground, raises issues about what are the essential core values of Islamists today? Do they seek a normative reality or do they seek power for the sake of power?

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[1] Deina Abdelkader is currently an assistant professor in the department of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. Abdelkader is a Comparitivist and International Relations specialist. Her scholarly interests and research, focus on the Middle East and North Africa, Comparative Democratization in the Muslim World, Islamic Activism, and the Role of Muslim Women in Religious Interpretation. She is the author of Social Justice in Islam (2000) and Islamic Activists: The Anti-Enlightenment Democrats (Pluto Press, 2011).She has also authored a number of articles; her latest is : Coercion, Peace and the Issue of Jihad in the Digest of Middle East Studies, and a book chapter titled: “Modernity, Islam and Religious Activism”, The New Global Order and the Middle East, Ashgate Publishers, (2012) Abdelkader is also one of two women on the Islamic Jurisprudential Council of North America (Fiqh Council of North America) and she is also part of the editorial board of the Digest of Middle East Studies, and the new President of Voile : “Voices of Islamic Law and Ethics”.
[2] Caroline Abadeer is a PhD student in Political Science at Stanford University, and holds a BA from the University of Minnesota (2011). An aspiring scholar of North African politics, Caroline has also lived in Morocco as a Fulbright grantee, where she studied Moroccan Arabic, Islamist politics, and democratization.
[3] Scott Williamson will be a PhD student in Political Science at Stanford University beginning in the fall of 2014 and holds a BA from Indiana University (2012). He has been a junior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a CASA Fellow at the American University in Cairo.
[4] Nicholas P. Roberts studied Islamic intellectual history and Islamic movements with Dr. John Voll at Georgetown University in the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. He has lived and studied in Tunisia and Yemen. Prior to his appointment at Georgetown, he was Special Assistant to the former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Department of State and worked in the private sector.
[5] Fernando Brancoli is a Lecturer in International Relations at Pontifícia Universidade Católica (PUC-Rio), in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He has conducted extensive research in the Middle East and North Africa, mainly on the use of mercenaries in Libya and the the role of Political Islam discourses in Egypt. Prior to his academic position, Brancoli worked on humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, especially in Somalia and Syria.
[6] Muqtedar Khan is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science, and International Relations at the University of Delaware. He is also the founding Director of the Islamic Studies Program at the University of Delaware. Prior to that he was Chair of the Department of Political Science and the Director of International Studies at Adrian College. He was a Non-resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution from 2003-2008. He earned his Ph.D. in international relations, political philosophy, and Islamic political thought, from Georgetown University in May 2000. His areas of interest are Politics of the Middle East and South Asia, Political Islam, Islamic Political Thought and American Foreign Policy in the Muslim World. Professor Khan teaches courses on Arab and Middle Eastern Politics, Politics of Development, Globalization, and Islam in World Affairs.