The Arab Awakening: Islam and the new Middle East

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  1. The Arab Awakening: Islam and the New Middle East by Tariq Ramadan
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  5. THE ARAB AWAKENING: ISLAM AND THE NEW MIDDLE EAST

The Arab Awakening: Islam and the New Middle East by Tariq Ramadan

Observers in the Middle East and the West raise the issue of whether or not the movements were indigenous or manipulated by foreign powers. In chapter 2, Ramadan argues that both elements are involved: significant outside help assisted in the development of the oppositional skills of the "cyber-dissidents," and the United States was involved in shaping the role of the military, but the mass movements were expressions of powerful popular discontent.


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Ramadan concludes, "Whatever the schemes and manipulations of the Great Powers, the future of the Arab awakening will depend on the capacity of each society to take its fate into its own hands" p. Defining this future, Ramadan argues in chapter 3, means going beyond the old "hollow debates" about secularization and Islamism.

Introduction

In these arguments, "some people continue to refer to secularization and secularism, or to Islam and political Islam, in terms either directly borrowed from Western definitions and categories, or little better than ideologically generated caricatures" p. The real issues, in Ramadan's view, involve defining "the relationship of Islam to authority in its many forms" p.

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The important distinction between divine authority and human authority provides a conceptual framework that transcends the old categories. At present, both advocates of secularization and the traditionalists, conservatives, and Islamists accept "the terms of the warped debate between 'secularists' and 'Islamists'" p.

The new framework presented by Ramadan in chapter 4 redefines the relationships between human and divine authority in politics, economics, and society. Rather than a secularist separation of "religion" and "politics," Ramadan speaks of Islam "as a corpus of principles and objectives capable of orienting and inspiring political action" pp.

Also, rather than an old-style Islamist unity of "religion" and "state," he replaces the concept of "Islamic state" with an ideal of a "civil state" involving "the existence of two distinct authorities: one political, the other religious" p. In this framework, the "shari'a is not a rigid, sanctified legal structure.

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It is hallucinatory to think that the Western premeditation was for the wellbeing of the Arabs. Quite the opposite.

The Western powers have been the allies of the Arab dictators that people struggled to overthrow. Their alliance was formed simply because it was more profitable to work with a despot like Saddam Hussein than with Islamists.

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Yet, it should be recalled that the problem for the West is not Islam or Islamism, but whether Muslims and Islamists can be bought. Islamism has been used as a pretext by the West to intervene in the national affairs and fates of Muslim countries. Due to economic and security reasons, the Middle East and North Africa are too strategic for America, Europe and Israel to be left to their own people.

They are therefore parts of the problem and not the solution to democratization. Under such circumstances, where Arab dissidents are sandwiched between dictators at home and malign foreign powers abroad, what role can Islam play?

THE ARAB AWAKENING: ISLAM AND THE NEW MIDDLE EAST

Ramadan argues that there is a single Islam with basic principles and diverse interpretations, one of which is political Islam, itself a conglomerate of various interoperative subgroups. As an example, Ramadan outlines the evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Arab Awakening : Islam and the New Middle East

It began as a nonviolent anti-colonialist movement, but then became radicalized under more repressive conditions in the s. It is suggested that Muslims must pay attention to two matters.


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  • First, secularization is not irreconcilable with Islam. Along this line, Ramadan briefly mentions that Ibn Rushd criticized state authoritarianism, and Malin ibn Anas and Ahmad ibn Hanbal opposed adopting a sole legal standard imposed by the state.


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