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?
Muslims around the world are using multiple media to express their identities. For many Muslim artists, music has become an important space to talk about their faith and the struggles they face. The music ranges from the overtly political to the spiritual. The focus of this post is Maher Zain, a Swedish Muslim of Lebanese descent who rose to fame in 2009 and just released his most recent album Forgive Me this past April. Zain’s music is influenced by his faith and has strong religious overtones. Continue reading →
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 →
Today is the beginning of a two-day conference co-sponsored by Inside Islam, Islam and Democracy, to be held in Madison, Wisconsin. Although Senator Russ Feingold is not expected to speak at the conference, at an event earlier this week, he highlighted issues that will be discussed in detail at the conference. Islam and Democracy will feature over 30 speakers, including keynote addresses by John O. Voll and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. See the conference website for more information.
Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI). Photo: BarackObama.com
Former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold is known for taking on monumental challenges. In 2001 he was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act. These days, Feingold has turned his attention to another cause—US foreign policy. At a talk in Madison, Wisconsin, about his new book, While America Sleeps, Feingold argued for increased American engagement with the rest of the world. He said 9/11 highlighted the importance of engaging and understanding the rest of the world, and criticized Democrats and Republicans alike for failing to heed the message. Continue reading →
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.
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.
Christians protecting Muslims praying during Nigerian protests against the removal of oil subsidies. Photo: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde
A large portion of global current events coverage in the last year has been directed towards Arab revolutions and their subsequent political transformations–and rightfully so. But Arab Middle Eastern countries aren’t the only places where significant protests have arisen; from Moscow to Malé, Lhasa to Quito, Athens to Delhi, people have taken to the streets to voice their opposition to distribution inequality, ethnic/religious persecution, and corruption. One story that slipped largely under the radar earlier this year is notable for its multifaceted issues as well as some of its parallels to Egypt. Nigeria was the location. Like most of the Arab revolutions of the past year and a half, it was the local Nigerian population, not international actors, that catalyzed the opposition movement and was the source of the protest’s relative success.
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.
They say the onset of authoritarianism happens through a process of incrementalism. If indeed that is the case, I have missed a lot in the 6 years I spent in the United Kingdom away from the United States.
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.
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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