Islam is in the news again, associated with international terrorism. Popular sentiment in many parts of the Muslim world manifests support for Osama bin Laden, alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks in the United States. Ironically, this episode comes at a point when political Islam, in itself, is no longer the major issue in Middle East politics. As political Islam has become integrated into the “normal” politics of various countries, its different currents have become more distinct. The September 11 attacks originated from transnational, de-territorialized networks, possibly directed from Afghanistan, but only effective because embedded in Western countries and taking advantage of their facilities, resources and liberties. Meanwhile, the radical and violent Islamic movements in most Middle Eastern countries are on the retreat, almost totally neutralized in Egypt, the targets of massive state repression in Algeria. Hizballah in Lebanon has become domesticated into a national political party. Popular admiration of the attacks and bin Laden recalls previous moments in modern history at which successful challengers to Western hegemony were celebrated, from Hitler to Stalin to Nasser to Khomeini, and most recently Saddam Hussein. These sentiments are not always Islamic, nor are they peculiar to Muslim countries.

In the meantime, the major issues of Middle Eastern politics are authoritarian and arbitrary government — and its converse, “democratization” — as well as the economic and welfare problems threatening the masses in most countries with poverty and degraded environments. The frantic attempt to recruit Arab governments to the international coalition against terrorism involves added support for dictatorial and corrupt regimes and acquiescence in their repression of common liberties and rights in the name of anti-terrorism. President Husni Mubarak of Egypt boasted in a CNN interview of his successful campaign against terrorism, also using the occasion to mock advocates of human rights. On October 16, he announced that 170 Islamist militants who have long been held without trial — presumably for lack of evidence of any connection to violent acts — would go before state security courts on terrorism charges immediately.

Islamic currents speak with different voices on social and political issues — and some keep silent, sticking to talk of morality, virtue and piety. But in the Arab world, as in Turkey and Iran, Islamists’ credibility as alternatives to the current regimes hinges upon the alternatives they can present to authoritarian government and the skewed distribution of wealth and resources. In this regard, different countries in the region present unique configurations of Islamic forces and opinions, as we shall see.

Citizens and Populations

The term “civil society” is currently used to designate the voluntary associations of individuals on the basis of common interests and objectives outside the realm of the state. In the classic model of democratic society, these associations are supposed to provide checks and balances on state power, and to press for particular programs and reforms. Civil society constitutes an important part of the “public sphere” of media and other fora of public opinion. In short, it is the sphere of citizens and citizenship. In the pre-modern dynastic state, by contrast, a sultan rules over subjects with the aid of a military-bureaucratic class. Classic democratic society also contrasts to the modern totalitarian state, in which all public life is subsumed within the state.

Partha Chatterjee, writing on India but generalizing to the post-colonial world, distinguished this “civil society” of citizens — a Western model of politics — from what he calls “political society,” which comprises the vast majority of the population. [1] Participants in “political society” do not relate to the state as citizens, but as loosely or tightly formed groupings with communal and corporate interests, making claims on the state for rights and services. To the rulers, these people constitute a population to be managed and controlled. Chatterjee, writing where a form of democracy actually functions, sees the communal and corporate groups within the Indian population relating to political parties by way of bargaining and deals, exchanging electoral support for welfare provisions delivered to the particular group.

In most Middle Eastern countries, this kind of bargaining, if it happens at all, is conducted outside electoral politics. State personnel or the ruling party strike deals with patrons and chiefs representing particular interests, to the mutual benefit of both parties. Coercion and violence play an important part in the management of the rest of the population. “Civil society” is seldom free and voluntary. In Iraq and Syria, as in Nasser’s Egypt, associational life is fully incorporated into the state (recent tentative steps at reform in Syria seem to have fizzled out). In today’s Egypt, it is heavily regulated and subject to arbitrary legislation. In effect, the modern Arab state combines the ruler/subject model of the dynastic state and the totalitarian model of a degenerate Leninist state. Besides Israel, only Turkey and Iran in the Middle East have the kind of electoral politics which can lead to changes of government.

Survival as Resistance

In Turkey and Iran, as in much of the Arab world, the politics of citizenship are often eclipsed by the politics of community. One example is this common phenomenon in the Middle East: the unauthorized occupation of public land by squatters, whose habitations radically alter the geography of major cities. [2] The squatters occupy land simply to survive, coming into repeated conflicts and compromises with coercive authorities. Their sheer numbers, their persistence or the lack of alternatives usually lead the authorities to acquiesce in their demands — for legalized building or sanitation services. So squatting and other survival strategies might seem a highly effective form of “politics.” Yet they are far from the politics of citizenship, of parties and ideologies. For the most part, the actors do not intend the political consequences that result from their cumulative actions for survival. Above all, they do not challenge the regime; they only pose practical problems to it.

In Turkey’s system of competitive electoral politics, communities of squatters and illegal builders bargain with political parties, trading votes for some legalization of settlement and building. Elsewhere, deals are made outside the framework of elections, between functionaries and local patrons based on partnerships or informal exchanges. In either case, deals over squatting serve as mechanisms of management and social control.

People involved in this form of politics may not have previous ties, but they act together when they find themselves living close together. Tribal or kin-based forms of leadership and patronage, however, often develop. In Turkey and Egypt, squatter groups often hail from the same village or region. Once a settlement is established, kin and neighbors from the same or contiguous villages arrive to swell its size. Residents with means and connections become chiefs and patriarchs, and often also landlords and employers. They serve as intermediaries between the community and the police and other state functionaries. Religious groups and parties also provide these services and social controls, as we see in Islamist groups’ infiltration of poor urban communities in Cairo’s squatter neighborhoods, in the peoples’ councils established by Islamic municipalities in Turkey and in the hay’at (religious associations of the bazaar) of pre-revolutionary Iran, which no doubt persist under the mullahs’ patronage in some places. In these ways, feelings of community grow.

Old urban quarters, often themselves transformed by mass migrations and settlements, share many characteristics with squatter communities, as Diane Singerman’s study of a popular quarter in Cairo shows. [3] The inhabitants negotiate the legalities of marriage, work and housing through powerful intermediaries closely related to the black or gray market. Singerman regards these survival strategies as a form of politics — “avenues of participation” for the common people. Certainly, with the suppression of conventional politics by the regime, Singerman’s channels seem to be the only realistic avenues of participation. She presents them as channels of resistance, in that they subvert formal government procedures to their own ends. Yet such “resistance,” because it bypasses the rules rather than challenging them, fits very well with the interests and stability of the regime and its components. Only when, in Egypt and elsewhere, Islamist groups have taken control of elements of the informal economy has the state found a rival to its power and influence.

Trajectories of Rule

Indeed, there is a close affinity between the politics of patronage and authoritarian rule. Authoritarian rulers always limit and suppress ideological politics of reform, which threaten their grip. Rulers and government agents can cut deals with patrons and chiefs, doling out profit and privilege in return for loyalty and social control. Patriarchal and religious authority can also engage in this form of politics.

The trajectory of nationalist parties which took control of government illustrates this point well. The Ba‘thist regimes in Iraq and Syria started as eminently ideological movements, but came to power through military putsches. Once in power they suppressed or incorporated all other political forces or civic associations. Through the party, the regimes continued to mobilize the population in the name of Arab unity, freedom (of the nation, not the citizen) and independence, and against the enemies of the nation. The regimes furthered their push to control and regulate through a combination of coercion and welfare spending.

When party ideology weakened and resources for welfare dwindled, especially the Iraqi regime turned to “primordial” means of social control, attempting to reconstitute tribes though most tribal members had moved to the cities. At its ideological height in the late 1970s, the Iraqi regime had considered tribal customs about gender to be divisive relics of the past, to be transcended by the modern nation. But by the end of the war with Iran in 1988, with demobilized soldiers facing unemployment and worries about the “honor” of their women, previous legislation was revoked and “honor killings” were recognized in law. After the 1990-91 Gulf war, tribes were revived as legal entities. Tribal courts were restored, to judge in accordance with tribal customary law among their members, with a portion of all financial settlements going to the government. [4]

Iraq is an extreme case of this trajectory, but similar developments can be observed elsewhere. In Egypt, Nasser’s welfare state evolved through a managed and controlled pluralism under Sadat and now into Mubarak’s era where the ruling National Democratic Party is nothing but an instrument of loyalty to the president.

Conservatives and Radicals

Not all Islamists view the crisis of oppressive rule and economic failures and corruption in the same way. The different Islamic currents in the politics of the region may be classified — with some simplification — into three major ideal types: conservatism, radicalism and a third which can loosely be called modernism. [5]

Conservative Islam, like conservatism generally, upholds the values of property, hierarchy, authority and family, with reference to religious texts and authorities. The “traditional” Muslim bourgeoisie of ulama, businessmen, professionals and functionaries adhere to this trend, which is old and not always political. Conservative Islam predates Islamist currents, but their stridency impelled it to step into the limelight to assert its authority, as did the ulama of al-Azhar in the 1980s. Increasingly important for legitimizing the state against radical Islamism, conservatism acquired greater confidence, often adopting independent or even oppositional positions to the government. Nowhere is this more evident than in al-Azhar institutions’ intervention to censor cultural production and attempt to dictate standards of public morality, a stance often accepted if not encouraged by the Egyptian government. [6] Many elements in the political opposition, primarily the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamist lawyers who have brought cases against secular intellectuals, share this stance, as does a considerable body of the judiciary.

In Egypt, conservatism straddles government and major sectors of the opposition. This opposition is “political” only insofar as it advocates the enforcement of virtue and moral discipline through the law and government policy. The Saudi state epitomizes conservative Islamism in power, though its non-violent opposition (the so-called Salafi Wahhabis) is somewhat more critical of government policy than are conservative oppositions elsewhere in the Arab world. In Iran, this describes the position of the powerful mullahs who head government and Islamic institutions and foundations, fighting against the reformists to protect their entrenched interests. In Turkey, conservatism prevails among the provincial bourgeoisie, supporters of the “old guard” of the Islamist party represented by Necmettin Erbakan. It is also dominant in the religious communities, such as the influential Fethullacilar organization.

Radical Islam aims to overthrow infidel governments by force and impose an Islamic state. Khomeini’s initial populist ideology, combined with left-inspired stances of liberation, captured the radical moment in Iran. In Egypt, the very different messianic current drawing on Sayyid Qutb’s doctrines cultivated a revolutionary vanguard to topple the government and install the rule of God. The Saudis tried to exile their messianic current in the early 1990s. In Iran this current was spent, as Khomeini’s populism faded into conservative theocracy. The radicals back the reformist bloc associated with President Mohammad Khatami. In Egypt, the militant radicals have been largely defeated by government repression, and the survivors now hold similar positions to the conservatives. Their violent rhetoric is maintained only in exile, mostly in Afghanistan.

The Third Way

The third Islamic current is “political” in that it presents programs for social, economic and government reforms, and attempts to form and mobilize constituencies on that basis. It draws on Islam for general ethical and legal guidance, rather than aiming for an Islamic state or deriving strict rules from sacred sources. In this respect, this current is in the mainstream of reformist Islam. There is no necessary political consensus within this current, and in some instances it divides into left and right. Its left shares with some of the earlier radicals (especially followers of Khomeini) a populist rhetoric, in which “the people” are identified as the true Muslims suffering under ungodly oppressors. Religious righteousness is superimposed on class conflict.

This third current is most inclined to pluralist politics and the democratic game, and thrives where these procedures are followed. But the democratic currents’ experience of both secular (Turkey) and Islamic (Iran and elsewhere) authoritarian states in recent decades has predisposed them to suspicion of the state. The thinkers Abdolkarim Soroush and Mohsen Kadivar in Iran, and Ali Bulaç and his associates in Turkey, as well as Hizb al-Wasat in Egypt, have argued that Islam is not essentially about the state, but about the community (umma). They proceed to identify the community with a “civil society” of actively participating citizens. Some Islamists in exile, such as Tunisian writer Rashid Ghanoushi, echo this theme.

In Egypt, this political current is actively suppressed by the authorities and scorned by conservative Islamists. Hizb al-Wasat was repeatedly refused a license to function as a political party, and its protagonists harassed and arrested. Islamists of this inclination have also been ousted from the leadership of professional associations, which were heavily regulated by government. This is part of the increasingly harsh suppression of any oppositional political expression and organization by the regime. These conditions favor conservative moralism over political expression.

In Turkey, where the authoritarian state still operates within a pluralist political framework, the efforts at suppression have not been so successful. The Islamist party was always able to restart itself after repeated legal prosecution and prohibition, and its modernist wing, the younger generation of leaders such as Recep Erdogan and Abdalla Gul has benefited at the expense of the hardline conservatives in the Erbakan camp. After a 2001 court ruling declared the Fazilet (Virtue) Party illegal under Turkey’s secular constitution, the modernist wing under Erdogan took the initiative to form a new party, significantly entitled Justice and Development (and proclaimed to be not a religious but a right-wing party, and one with a heavy dose of moralism in its declarations). Electoral competition at the national and municipal levels has aided this political current, allowing it to mobilize more support than any other party. Islamists are also well-represented in business associations, trade unions, cultural forums and media groupings, part of a thriving field of rival associations which the state cannot suppress or coopt. Nothing less than a direct military takeover will stop greater Islamist participation in Turkish politics.

The Iranian Revolution culminated in a multiplicity of centers of power. No single individual, dynasty or clique succeeded in totally subordinating all others. Though authoritarian mullahs controlled the powerful positions in state and revolutionary institutions, these remained autonomous. Elements of civil society, including intellectuals, artists and media, though intermittently suppressed, nevertheless managed to negotiate some liberty for themselves. [7] The recent evolution of competitive elections, to the advantage of the diverse reformist front, has strengthened civil society, the press and associational life, though all are heavily circumscribed by the institutional power of the conservative mullahs. This lively “political” Islam, by all accounts, has elicited widespread popular participation. It is, however, Islamic in a different sense from its equivalents in neighboring countries, where the discourse of Islamic community and ethics is directed against an authoritarian state which is not Islamic. In Iran the language of Islam is used in a critique of the Islamic state, and its thrust is to separate the state from religion. Paradoxically, this thrust points toward the secularization of state and politics, though it dare not proclaim itself as such. Conservative Islam is in the ascendancy, but cannot eliminate the political challenge of the reformist front. Radical Islam — the true voice of the revolution — is no longer credible. Its adherents have merged, for the most part, with the reformist front, struggling for greater openness, democracy and reform.

Common Antipathy

These diverse Islamic currents tend to converge, at least in sentiment, on one front: anti-imperialism, and specifically antipathy to the US. This anti-Western sentiment differs from its counterpart among leftists and secular nationalists because it is conceived in religious terms: Islam is under attack worldwide, facing a conspiracy of Christians and Jews, indeed Crusaders. Muslim regimes in alliance with the West are complicit. For the radicals this “clash of civilizations” poses no contradiction. Indeed, the “Arab Afghans” who comprise Osama bin Laden’s network are recruited from their ranks. For the modernist Islamists it represents a continuity with the anti-imperialism of the nationalists and the left. Many Egyptian leftists, such as ‘Adil Hussein and Tariq al-Bishri, moved into Islamism after the Iranian Revolution, maintaining many of their leftist positions on international and economic issues.

The conservative current does not have a unified position with regard to Western influence in the Islamic world. Conservatives allied with the state are generally in favor of capitalism, markets and trade, but opposed to the “corruption” of morals and lifestyles which emanates from the West. They perceive a danger to Islam from the cultural invasion of the West. Conservatives in nominal opposition to the state are much more likely to espouse blanket anti-Western programs, including scathing critiques of capitalism. This debate among conservatives finds its starkest expression in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Some Salafi Wahhabis in those countries are active supporters of the Taliban and the al-Qaeda network, who share their Wahhabi ideology, a set of ideas practiced in their starkest form by the Taliban. For the most part, conservatives are inclined to bolster order and social control in their own countries. But, as in the case of the Salafi Wahhabis, they may approve of, and even abet, subversion and violence elsewhere. Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan is likely to sharpen these debates among Islamists about future relations with the West, particularly if significant civilian casualties intensify anti-Western feeling on the street.

The Question of Democracy

Another challenge to Islamists as they face the structural crisis of governance is the ever-present question of democracy, or lack thereof. Most political voices in the region at present affirm the language of democracy, from presidents and kings to leftists to many Islamists. From the 1960s to the 1980s, “democracy” was regarded with suspicion as a Western import, part of an imperialist conspiracy. Leftists had always considered democracy and the rest of liberal ideology as “bourgeois,” a fraud that hides real oppression and injustice. The nationalist ideologies of Nasserism and Ba‘thism enthusiastically borrowed this hostility to democracy: the priorities for the nation, argued the scribes of the state, were real independence, power and prosperity. Democracy was a luxury Arab nations could not afford, quite apart from its alien and fraudulent nature. Iranian revolutionaries, both Islamist and leftist, denounced the “liberal” opposition to mullah power, in favor of a hard anti-imperialist stance following Imam Khomeini’s line. Conversion to democracy in many quarters followed the collapse of communism and the ascendancy of the West. Opposition turned increasingly against oppressive domestic rule, now denuded of its nationalist garb by repeated defeats, retreats, open subservience to the US and transparent corruption. For many of the Islamic currents, disillusionment with the ideal of the Islamic state led to a search for alternative routes to the good society, which included forms of democracy. Only the most backward quarters of conservative Islamism, especially the Wahhabi currents, continued to refuse the language of democracy.

Yet, when it comes to the practice of government, politics and associational life, we find few democrats. Oppressive governments in Turkey and most of the Arab world protest their democratic legitimacy. Opposition figures, whether Islamist or leftist, conduct the affairs of their own associations and parties through stratagems which are far from democratic. Egyptian opposition parties and media often urge the authorities to greater excesses against opponents and “deviants,” as we see in the shameful stance they have taken on the Saad Eddin Ibrahim case, and on the persecution of homosexuals and the invented “satanic” cults. Turkish Kemalist parties and media eagerly stump for banning and persecuting Islamists and Kurdish activists, while proudly trumpeting the democratic nature of their state. Many have a peculiar understanding of democracy as majoritarian rule, an understanding fully consistent with excluding or suppressing minorities and undesirables.

Human Rights

Nowhere is this duplicity clearer than in the field of human rights. The language of human rights now constitutes a common medium of opposition to tyrannical rule. Leftists and ethnic advocates, such as Kurdish or Berber activists, as well as some Islamists, have converged on human rights as a medium of opposition and contest. They are aided in this endeavor by the prominence of human rights advocacy at the international level, as Western governments and NGOs alike champion the concept. International NGOs have often provided funding, and some degree of protection from the authorities, to national and regional human rights associations. Yet we find few principled human rights activists in the region. Some of them follow funding opportunities and avoid confrontations with authorities. Others, such as some of the ultra-leftist and Kurdish activists in Turkey, pursue sectarian political struggles in the name of human rights. In the ongoing police and press campaign against homosexuals in Egypt, some human rights organizations declared that gay rights were not human rights.

While the language of human rights may be adopted opportunistically in various contests, there are no solid constituencies to advocate for human rights. Human rights associations and campaigns, lacking local or national support, are often only viable through association and aid from international agencies. In Turkey, for instance, police and military “security” measures against Kurds and legal moves against Islamists seem to enjoy solid support by the majority of the electorate, as demonstrated by the success of the ultra-right MHP in the 1999 national elections. In Egypt, few would stand up for the human rights of unpopular groups or individuals, as evidenced again by indifference toward the arbitrary prosecution of 52 homosexuals in 2001.

Many secular intellectuals, as well as liberal Islamists, have tried to link human rights to Islam, to show their compatibility with, if not their original foundation in, that faith. This endeavor overlaps that of trying to declare a peculiar set of Islamic human rights. Regardless of the intellectual merits of these endeavors (and they are doubtful), they have little political point or impact. Only those already disposed towards human rights advocacy are convinced or moved by these arguments. Others can find equally, if not more, plausible religious arguments against their advocacy. The majority of believers are, naturally, indifferent. It is not the Islamic “nature” of human rights which will mobilize support for their advocacy, but only the transparent linkage of human rights to popular interests and aspirations. A clear example of this possibility comes from India.

A popular movement for freedom of information developed in the Indian state of Rajastan in the 1990s. [8] Federal funds for local agricultural and infrastructural improvements did not result in the promised projects, but mostly disappeared into the pockets of officials in league with contractors. Activists led a mass movement for freedom of information, demanding the opening of the books and records of the bureaucracies in question for auditing and accountability. Bureaucrats resisted these demands, but the campaign eventually achieved some degree of success with the aid of local politicians competing for votes. Once local people had tasted victory through organized activism in pursuit of principles closely related to their interests, they acquired a taste for activism itself, the experience of self-organization and confidence in their collective ability to produce change.

The success of this particular campaign was considerably aided by the fact of competitive elections, and politicians anxious for votes, a factor confined to few situations and countries in the Middle East. There are, of course, examples of public environmental campaigns in Egypt and elsewhere. But these tend to have limited local or popular participation, often in a top-down organization run by elite groups. In India, too, many popular claims of rights and advantages are communal, rather than a pursuit of interests in relation to democratic principles. But the framework of competitive electoral democracy opens the door to the possibility of such development. In the Rajastan case, Chatterjee’s administered population of “political society” approximates the citizenship politics of “civil society,” which, after all, is how the politics of citizenship won out in the advanced capitalist countries. Rajastan illustrates the possibility, under the right political conditions, of the resurgence of a popular politics of citizenship, alongside the politics of community. This possibility, fragile as it is, exists in contemporary Iran and in Turkey. “Why not the Arab world?” is a frequently asked question for which there is no simple answer. Pertinent factors include the reinforcement of state power by oil wealth, and the confrontation with Israel, giving a pretext for prioritizing state security and military ascendancy.

Making Space for Citizens

In various Middle Eastern countries, the different voices of political Islam intersect with other socio-political elements to shape the political landscape, in accordance with local histories and political cultures.

In Egypt, the regime is increasingly repressive and intolerant of any political or social current which may escape its control. Civil society is in full retreat, with many of its elements complicit in state repression. The public sphere is increasingly susceptible to moral outrage, emanating mostly from conservative Islamism, straddling establishment and opposition, fanned by a sensationalist press, addressed to a receptive pious population, demanding ever more draconian censorship of art and culture, and suppression of dissidents and “deviants.” A fierce and paranoid nationalism — a kind of Nasserism in decadence — characterizes the political mood of many intellectuals. This mood feeds intellectuals’ subservience to the state. Whether from Islamist quarters, such as the now banned al-Sha‘b newspaper, or the supposedly “liberal” Wafd party and its press organ, cries of political opposition are often directed at urging the authorities to intensify censorship and repression. The politics of citizenship has little space. The politics of community, patronage and the black economy remains the main recourse for the survival strategies of the population.

Iran presents a very different picture. Here, a vital civil society has acquired its own corner of the state — albeit a weak and fragile corner. The population was agitated by revolution, and subsequently was never quite quiescent despite repression. To some degree, civil society and ordinary Iranians are empowered through participation in the country’s fierce factional politics and electoral contests, but at the same time people are frustrated at the lack of progress toward “reform” and economic stagnation. All these factors are reflected in Iran’s different Islamic voices. But the numerically dominant younger age groups appear to be cynical about the religious pretensions of the conservative establishment, tired of enforced piety and virtue and thirsting for greater personal liberties and pleasures. In this respect, the Islamic Republic of Iran appears much more “secular” than supposedly secular Egypt.

In Turkey, competitive electoral politics, and an equally pluralist civil society and public sphere, ensure that the deep conflicts of Turkish society are expressed and fought out, sometimes to the point of crisis. Having to compete for votes has prevented the ossification of conservative Islamists in their struggle with both modernist Islamists and secularism, forcing them to develop platforms that go beyond issues of morality and family. The secularist establishment is never able to fully suppress Islamist politics, often eliciting the intervention of the army brass as the guardians of Kemalist virtues. The diverse media reflects these conflicts. Even the once taboo Kurdish question can no longer be eliminated from these contests. Crucially, class struggles actually break into politics. During the economic and financial crisis of 2001, Turks from different walks of life came out in vociferous protests in defense of their livelihoods. In government and big business, free-marketeers oriented toward international markets and the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund are fighting against the beneficiaries of state protectionism and crony capitalism. All this is complicated by Turkey’s ambition to join the European Union and the conditions which attend EU accession. It is interesting that many of the modernist Islamists, once hostile to Europe and in favor of closer links to the Muslim world, are now enthusiastic supporters of integration into Europe. They call for greater democracy and human rights.

The current crisis is further prioritizing security considerations, for the West as well as for the Arab regimes, above all other concerns. This can only reinforce despotism and disregard for human rights in the region, especially in the Arab world. The cri- sis also exacerbates popular frustrations, but directs them into a form of anti-Western feeling marked by religious and communal sentiments and symbols, and deflecting opposition from political and economic targets. This may reinforce radical Islamic trends, though it is difficult to see how these may be effectively organized or directed. Or will the aftershocks destabilize the regimes sufficiently to open up possibilities of change? Iran is much less affected by the crisis: the rabid anti-Shi‘ism of the Taliban and bin Laden and their antagonism to Iran allows the regime merely to use the occasion for ideological posturing. Turkey, too, is relatively insulated. The issue is adapted to the contending ideological positions of the religious and the secular sides. The secular right tells the West: now you know terrorism, so stop lecturing us on human rights. The mainstream Islamists take a more measured view, distancing themselves from bin Laden. Overall, it would be foolish to try to predict the long-term consequences of the present crisis: we can only note the trends.


[1] Partha Chatterjee, “On Civil and Political Society in Post-Colonial Democracies,” in Sudipta Kaviraj and Sunil Khilnani, eds. Civil Society: History and Possibilities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001). Chatterjee uses these distinctions for quite different arguments and conclusions from those advanced here.
[2] See, for example, Asef Bayat, Street Politics: Poor People’s Movements in Iran (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997).
[3] Diane Singerman, Avenues of Participation: Family, Politics and Networks in Urban Quarters of Cairo (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995).
[4] See Amatzia Baram, “Neo-Tribalism in Iraq: Saddam Hussein’s Tribal Policies, 1991-96,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 29 (1997) and Faleh A. Jabar, “Shaykhs and Ideologues: Detribalization and Retribalization in Iraq,” Middle East Report 215 (Summer 2000).
[5] For an elaboration, see Sami Zubaida, “Trajectories of Political Islam: Egypt, Iran and Turkey,” The Political Quarterly 71/Supplement 1 (August 2000).
[6] Samia Mehrez, “Take Them Out of the Ball Game: Egypt’s Cultural Players in Crisis,” Middle East Report 219 (Summer 2001).
[7] Ziba Mir-Hosseini, “Iranian Cinema: Art, Society and the State,” Middle East Report 219 (Summer 2001).
[8] Rob Jenkins and Anne Marie Goetz, “Accounts and Accountability: Theoretical Implications of the Right-to-Information Movement in India,” Third World Quarterly 20/3 (1999).

How to cite this article:

Sami Zubaida "Islam and the Politics of Community and Citizenship," Middle East Report 221 (Winter 2001).

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