Panel 5c Political Islam and the Arab Uprisings

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Chair: Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards, Professor of Politics, Queen’s University Belfast

Paper 1The Place of Islam and the Arab Revolutions
Professor Beverley Milton-Edwards, Professor of Politics, Queen’s University Belfast

The outbreak of revolt and revolution in the Middle East has given rise to a re-consideration of threat and security analyses as they pertain to the region and beyond. The resilience of some authoritarian regimes and the rapid collapse of others signals significant transition within the region to which radical Islamist groups form one part of a powerful matrix. This paper analyzes the part and place of radical Islamists in the revolts and revolutions. The paper contends that events provide both opportunities and threats in strategies aimed at countering terrorism in the Middle East and beyond. Internal debates and discourses within Islamism will also be analysed in terms of the issue of representation of ideas and claims to constituency which have resided within contemporary Islamist thinking.

Paper 2: How God’s Power Becomes the People’s Power: Faith as the Root of Pragmatism in the Muslim Brotherhood
Professor Ulrika Mårtensson, Professor, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

The paper explores the concepts of da‘wa and Islamic order in the Muslim Brotherhood, tracing the development of its political implications from Hasan al-Banna to the Justice and Development Party. Al-Banna’s concept of da‘wa was pragmatic both in the political and the philosophical sense, meaning that the substance of da‘wa would have to be reassessed continuously with reference to changing contexts. This has allowed the Muslim Brothers to continuously reinterpret the implications of Islamic order. Seeking political legitimacy through popular vote is thus not in contradiction with the belief in divine power as the only real source of power, but reflects a pragmatic reassessment of the implications of divine power and Islamic order in the current context. This makes the Muslim Brotherhood receptive to changed political conditions and shows that while religious belief is the unifying framework of the organisation it has no determining power for the substance of its members’ politics. The argument will be developed with reference to al-Banna’s writings; the 2007 draft political platform; and the 2011 platform of the Justice and Development Party. >> download the paper

Paper 3: Understanding the Arab Uprisings through the Analysis of the terms Intifada and Istishad
Marco Di Donato, PhD candidate, University of Genova – Italian Centre for the Study of Political Islam

By examining the use of the term Intifada to describe the recent Arab uprisings, this paper aims to understand the deep causes of the revolts, (particularly in Egypt and Tunisia). At the same time, the analysis of the term Istishad, and of its derivative Shahid, both used in order to define the victims of the revolts, helps explaining the role played by the Islamic factor within the uprisings. The paper looks at the Arab uprisings before their eruption and by investigating the root causes that had lead to the popular discontent. At the same time, this research tries to weight the real role played by Islamism, in order to understand whether Islam has been a fundamental actor in the revolts. >> download the paper

These are abridged versions of the abstracts submitted by  the presenters.
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