Post-Revolutionary Transitions in the Middle East

Egyptian women wait in line to vote in Cairo during the May presidential election. Photo: Amr Nabil/AP

With the Egyptian presidential run-off election approaching, I thought that I would gain more perspective on the political transitions of other Muslim-majority countries. In a conversation with Inside Islam, Paul Kubicek, political science professor and recent presenter at our Islam and Democracy Conference, offered his thoughts on the similarities and differences between the political systems of Turkey, Egypt, and other emerging democracies in the Middle East.

Inside Islam: Do you think the future role of Islam in Egyptian politics in the coming months will accurately reflect the beliefs of Egyptians regarding that role? In other words, whatever emerges from these elections, are the results likely to reflect Egyptian society?

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The Amman Message: Uniting Muslims

A Sunni man and Shi'a man pray side by side. Photo: Spencer Haskins

A few months ago, I wrote about the Muslim 500, an annual review of the most influential Muslims around the world. The Royal Islamic Strategic Centre (RISC) has also published a number of other periodicals that can be downloaded for free. Although its textual resources serve as useful guides on Islam for novices and scholars alike, the RISC’s most important contribution goes back to its foundation in Amman, Jordan, based on a few key principles known as the Three Points of the Amman Message. Among other goals, RISC is using its resources and political clout to promote a “moderate” brand of Islam around the world.

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Islam and the New Modes of Participation

Professor John O. Voll. Photo: Georgetown University

This past weekend academics and journalists from around the world gathered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the Inside Islam-cosponsored conference Islam and Democracy. The changing political landscape of the Middle East was a central focus of the event in general and was the main topic of a keynote by John O. Voll, Professor of Islamic history and Associate Director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. In tune with perspectives expressed on Inside Islam by Reza Aslan, Marc Lynch, and Tariq Ramadan, Voll stressed that the desires of the people have largely stayed the same—peace, justice, economic stability—but that the ideologies and particular models of making these demands, have shifted. Continue reading

Islam and Christian Minorities in Turkey

This post is a preview of the upcoming conference, Islam and Democracy, to be held April 13-14 in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference will feature over 30 speakers including keynote addresses by John O. Voll and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Topics will include the Arab Spring, female Islamic activism, and the history of democratic principles in Islamic contexts. All conference events are co-sponsored by Inside Islam and Global Studies. See the conference website for more information.


Ramazan K?l?nç is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. On Friday, April 14 at 1:30 PM, K?l?nç will present his work on Islam and Christian minorities in Turkey.

The Aya Sophya in Istanbul, built in 305 C.E., originally served as an Orthodox and Catholic church, was a mosque from 1453 until 1931, and since 1935 has been a museum. Photo: Colin Christopher

In summer 2010, I met a Catholic bishop during my research trip in Istanbul. The conversation brought us to the status of Christian minorities in Turkey. I asked how he felt about the reforms that the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development (AK) Party had undertaken in recent years to address the problems Christian minorities face. He was happy with the general reformist atmosphere even though many of their problems were still unresolved. He then added, “They [the AK Party] see themselves as the grandchildren of the Ottomans. The Christians had more rights under the Ottoman Empire than they had under the republic.” The bishop wasn’t suggesting to bring the Ottoman monarchy back, but he was pointing out the limitations that Turkish secularism and nationalism have put on Christian minorities.

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Islam and Democracy

Protestors in Cairo, February 2011 Photo: AFP

Tomorrow (Thursday, March 15) at 3 pm Central Time, radio host Jean Feraca will speak with scholars Reza Aslan and Marc Lynch about Islam and Democracy. As part of our build-up to the Islam and Democracy Conference to be held April 13-14 in Madison, WI (see conference schedule), Aslan and Lynch will touch on a variety of topics related to the Arab Spring.

Tariq Ramadan recently offered his perspective on the Muslim Brotherhood and their ascendance within the new Egyptian political climate. Building on Ramadan’s perspectives, Aslan and Lynch will focus on the political transformation of the Middle East and the role of democratic principles inherent within Islamic philosophy.

You can learn more about Lynch’s recent work on the Middle East on his blog and website. And you can listen to past Inside Islam shows with Reza Azlan on such varied topics as Whitewashing Tales from the Arabian Nights, 100 Years of Literature from the Middle East, Losing the War on Terror, and Young Muslims and New Media.

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The Future of Egypt

Egyptian Women display their inked fingers after voting at a Cairo polling station. Image: Bela Szandelszky/AP/Press Association Images

Our recent Inside Islam radio show with Oxford University Professor Tariq Ramadan was a good history lesson for me. Ramadan talked about how both the western media and many of Egypt’s politicians are missing the boat: the role of Islam in future structures of Egyptian government is a relevant and important question, but there are much more pressing issues that need to be discussed. The western media has been especially interested in highlighting the headscarf or other tangibles that are symbolic of religious life, when there should be more of an emphasis on what Ramadan identified as the six themes all governments should work towards in their own way: rule of law, equal citizenship, universal suffrage, accountability of elected leaders, separation of power (executive, judicial, and legislative branches), and separation between religious and political power. He argued that it’s dangerous to have our sights on the trees when Egypt should be focusing on its future vision of the forest.

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Inside Islam Radio Show: Tariq Ramadan on the Muslim Brotherhood

Saad al-Katatni, member of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, and newly elected head of the Egyptian Parliament Photo: AP

Today at 3 PM CST (GMT+4), Jean will speak with Tariq Ramadan about the Muslim Brotherhood, and what its near control of the Egyptian Parliament means for Egyptian society. Ramadan, a Swiss academic, poet, and writer, holds a unique position, as he is the grandson of the founder of the Brotherhood, and also a harsh critic of many Islamic interpretations and notionally Islamic governments.

As tens of thousands gather in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to commemorate the Egyptian revolution of 2011 and celebrate the fall of the Mubarak regime, listen in to hear Ramadan’s thoughts on  the influence of the Brotherhood, and the future of Egypt.

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The Death of Gadhafi: an Islamic Perspective

Libyan men lined up for hours to view Gadhafi's body Photo: Suhaib Salem/Reuters

Asmah Sultan Mallick is a master’s student of International Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Weeks after the Colonel’s death, attention is now shifting from Moammar Gadhafi to the importance of establishing a new order for Libya and its people. It is safe to say most people are very happy that Gadhafi is gone, and gone for good. While I am just as excited as the next person and optimistic for a brighter future, I can’t help but to be disgusted by the images and videos that were publicized in the media around the demise of Gadhafi. The images were quite disturbing, an old man wiping blood from his face saying “God forbids this” while guns were being shot and chaos everywhere, then later people posing with his bloodied body all while smiling and giving the peace sign with their fingers. Continue reading

Women Driving and Voting in the Kingdom: Two Saudi Male Perspectives

Thousands of Saudi Arabian students are learning English in the U.S. under the King Abdullah Scholarship Program.

Sally Jolles is a PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is currently researching Saudi students living and studying in the United States. Jolles interviewed two Saudi men in their 20’s and 30’s studying English in Madison, Wisconsin, through the Saudi Arabian King Abdullah Scholarship Program. The following statements are unedited transcriptions from their recent conversation related to women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. The names of the speakers have been changed at their request.

Sally: So, recently King Abdullah said that he was going to give women the right to vote and also to be on the Shura Council. What do you think about that? Continue reading

Fines for Wasting Food

Last month, Marmar, a restaurant in Saudi Arabia, announced that it would begin fining customers who order food and do not finish it. According to the restaurant owner, Fahad Al Anezi, the motivation behind the new policy is to stop food wastage. Al Anezi maintains that many customers will order large quantities of food to show off, a practice he aims to stop at his restaurant. Continue reading