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Riforma Iżlamika

Adnan Khan

The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi boasted after the events of 9/11:
“…we must be aware of the superiority of our civilisation, a system that has guaranteed

well being, respect for human rights andin contrast with Islamic countriesrespect

for religious and political rights, a system that has its values understanding of diversity

and tolerance…The West will conquer peoples, like it conquered communism, even if it

means a confrontation with another civilisation, the Islamic one, stuck where it was

1,400 years ago…”1

And in a 2007 report the RAND institute declared:
“The struggle underway throughout much of the Muslim world is essentially a war of

ideas. Its outcome will determine the future direction of the Muslim world.”

Building moderate Muslim Networks, RAND Institute

The concept of ‘islah’ (reform) is a concept unknown to Muslims. It never existed throughout the

history of the Islamic civilisation; it was never debated or even considered. A cursory glance at classical

Islamic literature shows us that when the classical scholars laid the foundations of usul, and codified

their Islamic rulings (fiqh) they were only looking to the comprehension of the Islamic rules in order to

apply them. A similar situation occurred when the rules were laid down for the hadith, tafseer and the

Arabic language. Scholars, thinkers and intellectuals throughout Islamic history spent much time

understanding Allah’s revelation – the Qur’an and applying the ayaat upon the realities and coined

principals and disciplines in order to facilitate understanding. Hence the Qur’an remained the basis of

study and all the disciplines that evolved were always based upon the Qur’an. Those who became

smitten by Greek philosophy such as the Muslim philosophers and some from amongst the Mut’azilah

were considered to have left the fold of Islam as the Qur’an ceased to be their basis of study. Thus for

any Muslim attempting to deduce rules or understand what stance should be taken upon a particular

issue the Qur’an is the basis of this study.

The first attempt at reforming Islam took place at the turn of the 19th century. By the turn of the

century the Ummah had been in a lengthy period of decline where the global balance of power shifted

from the Khilafah to Britain. Mounting problems engulfed the Khilafah whilst Western Europe was in

the midst of the industrial revolution. The Ummah came to lose her pristine understanding of Islam, and

in an attempt to reverse the decline engulfing the Uthmani’s (Ottomans) some Muslims were sent to the

Punent, and as a result became smitten by what they saw. Rifa’a Rafi’ al-Tahtawi of Egypt (1801-1873),

on his return from Paris, wrote a biographical book called Takhlis al-ibriz ila talkhis Bariz (The

Extraction of Gold, or an Overview of Paris, 1834), praising their cleanliness, love of work, and above

all social morality. He declared that we must mimic what is being done in Paris, advocating changes to

the Islamic society from liberalising women to the systems of ruling. This thought, and others like it,

marked the beginning of the reinventing trend in Islam.

Islam in the West

Jocelyne Cesari

The immigration of Muslims to Europe, North America, and Australia and the complex socioreligious dynamics that have subsequently developed have made Islam in the West a compelling new ªeld of research. The Salman Rushdie affair, hijab controversies, the attacks on the World Trade Center, and the furor over the Danish cartoons are all examples of international crises that have brought to light the connections between Muslims in the West and the global Muslim world. These new situations entail theoretical and methodological challenges for the study of contemporary Islam, and it has become crucial that we avoid essentializing either Islam or Muslims and resist the rhetorical structures of discourses that are preoccupied with security and terrorism.
In this article, I argue that Islam as a religious tradition is a terra incognita. A preliminary reason for this situation is that there is no consensus on religion as an object of research. Religion, as an academic discipline, has become torn between historical, sociological, and hermeneutical methodologies. With Islam, the situation is even more intricate. In the West, the study of Islam began as a branch of Orientalist studies and therefore followed a separate and distinctive path from the study of religions. Even though the critique of Orientalism has been central to the emergence of the study of Islam in the ªeld of social sciences, tensions remain strong between Islamicists and both anthropologists and sociologists. The topic of Islam and Muslims in the West is embedded in this struggle. One implication of this methodological tension is that students of Islam who began their academic career studying Islam in France, Germany, or America ªnd it challenging to establish credibility as scholars of Islam, particularly in the North American academic
context.

A Post-election Re-reading of Islamist Political Thought

Roxanne L. Euben

Barack Obama’s post-election rhetoric regarding the “Muslim world” has signaled a critical paradigm shift from his predecessor. The new president’s characterization of the United States in his inaugural address as a “nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and nonbelievers”; his formulation, invoked in several different contexts, that America will offer a hand of friendship to a Muslim world willing to “unclench [its] fist”; the emphasis on his own mixed lineage and experience living in Muslim countries; his pledge to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camp; his interview with Al Arabiya; and the promise to address the Muslim world from a Muslim capital during his first 100 days in office, all suggest a deliberate attempt to shift away from the hardening rhetoric of a new Cold War between the West and Islam and reframe American foreign policy toward Muslim societies.1 Obama’s rhetoric has enormous symbolic importance even if it has yet to issue in dramatic departures from previous U.S. foreign policies regarding, for example, Hamas or Iran’s nuclear program. At this particular juncture, its significance lies less in the specific policies it may presage or the greater sensitivity to Muslim sensibilities it reveals than in its underlying logic: implicit in these rhetorical gestures is the understanding that, as Obama put it in his interview with Al Arabiya, “the language we use matters,” that words and categories do not simply reflect but also create the world in which we live.

Islam and the West

Preface

John J. DeGioia

The remarkable feeling of proximity between people and nations is the unmistakable reality of our globalized world. Encounters with other peoples’ ways oflife, current affairs, politics, welfare and faithsare more frequent than ever. We are not onlyable to see other cultures more clearly, butalso to see our differences more sharply. The information intensity of modern life has madethis diversity of nations part of our every dayconsciousness and has led to the centrality ofculture in discerning our individual and collectiveviews of the world.Our challenges have also become global.The destinies of nations have become deeply interconnected. No matter where in the world we live, we are touched by the successes and failures of today’s global order. Yet our responses to global problems remain vastly different, not only as a result of rivalry and competing interests,but largely because our cultural difference is the lens through which we see these global challenges.Cultural diversity is not necessarily a source of clashes and conflict. In fact, the proximity and cross-cultural encounters very often bring about creative change – a change that is made possible by well-organized social collaboration.Collaboration across borders is growing primarily in the area of business and economic activity. Collaborative networks for innovation,production and distribution are emerging as the single most powerful shaper of the global economy.

Demokrazija, Terrorism and American Policy in the Arab World

F. Gregory Gause

The United States has embarked upon what President Bush and Secretary of State Rice has called a “generational challenge” to encourage political reform and democracy in the Arab world. The Bush Administration and other defenders of the democracy campaign contend that the push for Arab democracy is not only about spreading American values, but also about insuring American security. They hypothesize that as democracy grows in the Arab world, anti-American terrorism from the Arab world will decline. Therefore, the promotion of democracy inthe Arab world is not only consistent with American security goals in the area, but necessary to achieve those goals.
Two questions present themselves in considering this element of the “Bush Doctrine” in the Arab world: 1) Is there a relationship between terrorism and democracy such that the more democratic a country becomes, the less likely it is to produce terrorists and terrorist groups? In other words, is the security rationale for democracy promotion in the Arab world based on a sound premise?; and 2) What kind of governments would likely be generated by democratic elections in Arab countries? Would they be willing to cooperate with the United States on important policy objectives in the Middle East, not only in maintaining democracy but also on
Arab-Israeli, Gulf security and oil issues?
This paper will consider these two questions. It finds that there is little empirical evidence linking democracy with an absence of or reduction in terrorism. It questions whether democracy would reduce the motives and opportunities of groups like al-Qa’ida, which oppose democracy on both religious and practical grounds. It examines recent trends in Arab public opinion and elections, concluding that while Arab publics are very supportive of democracy, democratic elections in Arab states are likely to produce Islamist governments which would be much less likely to cooperate with the United States than their authoritarian predecessors.

Claiming the Center: Political Islam in Transition

John L. Esposito

In the 1990s political Islam, what some callIslamic fundamentalism,” remains a major presence in government and in oppositional politics from North Africa to Southeast Asia. Political Islam in power and in politics has raised many issues and questions: “Is Islam antithetical to modernization?,” “Are Islam and democracy incompatible?,” “What are the implications of an Islamic government for pluralism, minority and women’s rights,” “How representative are Islamists,” “Are there Islamic moderates?,” “Should the West fear a transnational Islamic threat or clash of civilizations?” Contemporary Islamic Revivalism The landscape of the Muslim world today reveals the emergence of new Islamic republics (Iran, Sudan, Afganistan), the proliferation of Islamic movements that function as major political and social actors within existing systems, and the confrontational politics of radical violent extremists._ In contrast to the 1980s when political Islam was simply equated with revolutionary Iran or clandestine groups with names like Islamic jihad or the Army of God, the Muslim world in the 1990s is one in which Islamists have participated in the electoral process and are visible as prime ministers, cabinet officers, speakers of national assemblies, parliamentarians, and mayors in countries as diverse as Egypt, Sudan, It-Turkija, Iran, Il-Libanu, Kuwait, Yemen, Il-Ġordan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Il-Malasja, L-Indoneżja, and Israel/Palestine. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, political Islam continues to be a major force for order and disorder in global politics, one that participates in the political process but also in acts of terrorism, a challenge to the Muslim world and to the West. Understanding the nature of political Islam today, and in particular the issues and questions that have emerged from the experience of the recent past, remains critical for governments, policymakers, and students of international politics alike.

It’s the Policy, Stupid

John L. Esposito

US foreign policy and political Islam today are deeply intertwined. Every US president since Jimmy Carter has had to deal with political Islam; none has been so challenged as George W. Bush. Policymakers, particularly since 9/11, have demonstrated an inability and/or unwillingness to distinguish between radical and moderate Islamists. They have largely treated political Islam as a global threat similar to the way that Communism was perceived. Madankollu, even in the case of Communism, foreign policymakers eventually moved from an ill-informed, broad-brush, and paranoid approach personified by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s to more nuanced, pragmatic, and reasonable policies that led to the establishment of relations with China in the 1970s, even as tensions remained between the United States and the Soviet Union.

As Islamist parties continue to rise in prominence across the globe, it is necessary that policymakers learn to make distinctions and adopt differentiated policy approaches. This requires a deeper understanding of what motivates and informs Islamist parties and the support they receive, including the ways in which some US policies feed the more radical and extreme Islamist movements while weakening the appeal of the moderate organizations to Muslim populations. It also requires the political will to adopt approaches of engagement and dialogue. This is especially important where the roots of political Islam go deeper than simple anti-Americanism and where political Islam is manifested in non-violent and democratic ways. The stunning electoral victories of HAMAS in Palestine and the Shi’a in Iraq, the Muslim Brotherhood’s emergence as the leading parliamentary opposition in Egypt, and Israel’s war against HAMAS and Hizbollah go to the heart of issues of democracy, terroriżmu, and peace in the Middle East.

Global terrorism has also become the excuse for many Muslim autocratic rulers and Western policymakers to backslide or retreat from democratization. They warn that the promotion of a democratic process runs the risk of furthering Islamist inroads into centers of power and is counterproductive to Western interests, encouraging a more virulent anti-Westernism and increased instability. Thus, for example, despite HAMAS’ victory in free and democratic elections, the United States and Europe failed to give the party full recognition and support.

In relations between the West and the Muslim world, phrases like a clash of civilizations or a clash of cultures recur as does the charge that Islam is incompatible with democracy or that it is a particularly militant religion. But is the primary issue religion and culture or is it politics? Is the primary cause of radicalism and anti-Westernism, especially anti-Americanism, extremist theology or simply the policies of many Muslim and Western governments?


Resolving America’s Islamist Dilemma

Shadi Hamid

L-Istati Uniti. efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East have long been paralyzed by the “Islamist dilemma”: in theory, we want democracy, but, in practice, fear that Islamist parties will be the prime beneficiaries of any political opening. The most tragic manifestation of this was the Algerian debacle of 1991 and 1992, when the United States stood silently while the staunchly secular military canceled elections after an Islamist party won a parliamentary majority. More recently, the Bush administration backed away from its “freedom agenda” after Islamists did surprisingly well in elections throughout region, including in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian territories.
But even our fear of Islamist parties—and the resulting refusal to engage with them—has itself been inconsistent, holding true for some countries but not others. The more that a country is seen as vital to American national security interests, the less willing the United States has been to accept Islamist groups having a prominent political role there. Madankollu, in countries seen as less strategically relevant, and where less is at stake, the United States has occasionally taken a more nuanced approach. But it is precisely where more is at stake that recognizing a role for nonviolent Islamists is most important, and, here, American policy continues to fall short.
Throughout the region, the United States has actively supported autocratic regimes and given the green light for campaigns of repression against groups such as the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest and most influential political movement in the region. In March 2008, during what many observers consider to be the worst period of anti-Brotherhood repression since the 1960s, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice waived a $100 million congressionally mandated reduction of military aid to Egypt.

International Consultation of Muslim Intellectuals on Islam & Politika

Ċentru Stimson & Istitut tal-Istudji tal-Politika

This two-day discussion brought together experts and scholars from Bangladesh, L-Eġittu, India,L-Indoneżja, Kenya, Il-Malasja, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sudan and Sri Lanka representing academia,non-governmental organizations and think tanks. Among the participants were a number of former government officials and one sitting legislator. The participants were also chosen to comprise abroad spectrum of ideologies, including the religious and the secular, cultural, political andeconomic conservatives, liberals and radicals.The following themes characterized the discussion:1. Western and US (Mis)Understanding There is a fundamental failure by the West to understand the rich variety of intellectual currents andcross-currents in the Muslim world and in Islamic thought. What is underway in the Muslim worldis not a simple opposition to the West based on grievance (though grievances there also are), but are newal of thought and culture and an aspiration to seek development and to modernize withoutlosing their identity. This takes diverse forms, and cannot be understood in simple terms. There is particular resentment towards Western attempts to define the parameters of legitimate Islamicdiscourse. There is a sense that Islam suffers from gross over generalization, from its champions asmuch as from its detractors. It is strongly urged that in order to understand the nature of the Muslim renaissance, the West should study all intellectual elements within Muslim societies, and not only professedly Islamic discourse.US policy in the aftermath of 9/11 has had several effects. It has led to a hardening andradicalization on both sides of the Western-Muslim encounter. It has led to mutual broad brush(mis)characterization of the other and its intentions. It has contributed to a sense of pan-Islamicsolidarity unprecedented since the end of the Khilafat after World War I. It has also produced adegeneration of US policy, and a diminution of US power, influence and credibility. Finally, theUS’ dualistic opposition of terror and its national interests has made the former an appealing instrument for those intent on resistance to the West.

L-Eġittu: Background and U.S. Relations

Jeremy M. Jaqtgħu

In the last year, Egyptian foreign policy, particularly its relationship with the United States, hasbenefitted substantially from both a change in U.S. policy and from events on the ground. TheObama Administration, as evident in the President’s June 2009 speech in Cairo, has elevatedEgypt’s importance to U.S. foreign policy in the region, as U.S. policymakers work to revive theArab-Israeli peace process. In choosing Cairo as a venue for the President’s signature address tothe Muslim world, Egyptians feel that the United States has shown their country respectcommensurate with its perceived stature in the Arab world.At the same time, continuing tensions with Iran and Hamas have bolstered Egypt’s position as amoderating force in the region and demonstrated the country’s diplomatic utility to U.S. foreignpolicy. Based on its own interests, Egypt has opposed Iranian meddling in the Levant and in Gazaand has recently expanded military cooperation with Israel in order to demonstrate resolve againstfurther Iranian provocations, such as arming Hamas or allowing Hezbollah to operate on Egyptiansoil. Furthermore, Israel’s Operation Cast Lead (Diċembru 2008 to January 2009) highlighted theneed to moderate Hamas’s behavior, attain Palestinian unity, and reach a long-term Israel-Hamascease-fire/prisoner exchange, goals which Egypt has been working toward, albeit with limitedsuccess so far.Indications of an improved bilateral relationship have been clearly evident. Over the last sixmonths, there has been a flurry of diplomatic exchanges, culminating in President Obama’s June2009 visit to Egypt and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s trip to Washington in August 2009,his first visit to the United States in over five years. Following President Obama’s June visit, thetwo governments held their annual strategic dialogue. Several months earlier, the United Statespledged to expand trade and investment in Egypt.Despite the appearance of a more positive atmosphere, inherent tensions and contradictions inU.S.-Egyptian relations remain. For U.S. policymakers and Members of Congress, the question ofhow to simultaneously maintain the U.S.-Egyptian strategic relationship born out of the CampDavid Accords and the 1979 peace treaty while promoting human rights and democracy in Egyptis a major challenge with no clear path. As Egyptian opposition figures have grown more vocal inrecent years over issues such as leadership succession, corruption, and economic inequality, andthe regime has subsequently grown more repressive in its response to increased calls for reform,activists have demanded that the United States pressure Egypt to create more breathing space fordissent. The Egyptian government has resisted any U.S. attempts to interfere in its domesticpolitics and has responded harshly to overt U.S. calls for political reform. At the same time, as theIsraeli-Palestinian situation has further deteriorated, Egypt’s role as a mediator has provedinvaluable to U.S. foreign policy in the region. Egypt has secured cease-fire agreements andmediated negotiations with Hamas over prisoner releases, cease-fire arrangements, and otherissues. Since Hamas is a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and calls forIsrael’s destruction, neither Israel nor the United States government directly negotiates with itsofficials, using Egypt instead as a go-between. With the Obama Administration committed topursuing Middle East peace, there is concern that U.S. officials may give a higher priority toEgypt’s regional role at the expense of human rights and democratic reforms.

TRAVELS AMONG EUROPE’S MUSLIM NEIGHBOURS

JOOST LAGENDIJK

JAN MARINUS WIERSMA

“A ring of friends surrounding the Union [], from Morocco to Russia”.This is how, in late 2002, the then President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, described the key challenge facing Europe following the planned enlargement of 2004. The accession process had built up momentum, and the former communist countries of Central Europe had been stabilised and were transforming themselves into democracies. EU membership was not directly on the agenda for countries beyond the enlargement horizon, however. How could Europe prevent new dividing lines forming at its borders? How could the European Union guarantee stability, security and peace along its perimeter? Those questions were perhaps most pertinent to the EU’s southern neighbours. Since 11 Settembru 2001, in particular, our relations with the Islamic world have been imbued with a sense of urgency. Political developments in our Islamic neighbour countries bordering the Mediterranean could have a tremendous impact on European security. Although the area is nearby, the political distance is great. Amid threatening language about a ‘clash of civilisations’, the EU quickly drew the conclusion that conciliation and cooperation, rather than confrontation, constituted the best strategy for dealing with its southern neighbours.

BETWEEN THE GLOBAL AND THE LOCAL

ANTHONY BUBALO

GREG FEALY

Against the background of the ‘war on terror’,many people have come to view Islamism as amonolithic ideological movement spreading from thecenter of the Muslim world, the Middle East, toMuslim countries around the globe. To borrow aphrase from Abdullah Azzam, the legendary jihadistwho fought to expel the Soviet Union fromAfghanistan in the 1980s, many today see all Islamistsas fellow travellers in a global fundamentalist caravan.This paper evaluates the truth of that perception. Itdoes so by examining the spread of two broad categoriesof Islamic thinking and activism — the morepolitically focused Islamism and more religiouslyfocused ‘neo-fundamentalism’ — from the MiddleEast to Indonesia, a country often cited as an exampleof a formerly peaceful Muslim community radicalizedby external influences.Islamism is a term familiar to many.Most commonly itis used to categorize ideas and forms of activism thatconceive of Islam as a political ideology. Today, a widerange of groups are classified as Islamist, from theEgyptian Muslim Brotherhood to al-qa‘ida.While sucha categorization remains appropriate in many cases,Islamism seems less useful as a label for those groupsthat do not see Islam as a political ideology and largelyeschew political activism — even if their activism sometimeshas political implications. Included in this categoryare groups concerned primarily with Islamic mission-IV Be t w e e n t h e G l o b a l a n d t h e L o c a l : Iżlamiżmu, the Mi d d l e E a s t , a n d Indonesiaary activity, but it would also include a group such asal-qa‘ida whose acts of terrorism are arguably drivenless by concrete political objectives than religious inspiration,albeit of a misguided form. This paper thereforeuses the term ‘neo-fundamentalist’, developed by theFrench scholar Olivier Roy, to describe these groups andwill study the transmission of both Islamist and neofundamentalistideas to Indonesia.

Reform in the Muslim World: The Role of Islamists and Outside Powers

Shibley Telhami


The Bush Administration’s focus on spreading democracyin the Middle East has been much discussed over the past several years, not only in the United Statesand Arab and Muslim countries but also around theworld. In truth, neither the regional discourse about theneed for political and economic reform nor the Americantalk of spreading democracy is new. Over the pasttwo decades, particularly beginning with the end of theCold War, intellectuals and governments in the MiddleEast have spoken about reform. The American policyprior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 also aimedto spread democracy in the Arab world. But in that case,the first Gulf War and the need to forge alliances withautocratic regimes were one reason talk of democracydeclined. The other reason was the discovery that politicalreform provided openings to Islamist political groupsthat seemed very much at odd with American objectives.The fear that Islamist groups supported democracy onlybased on the principle of “one man, one vote, one time,”as former Assistant Secretary of State Edward Djerejianonce put it, led the United States to backtrack. Evenearly in the Clinton Administration, Secretary of StateWarren Christopher initially focused on democracy inhis Middle East policy but quickly sidelined the issueas the administration moved to broker Palestinian-Israelinegotiation in the shadow of militant Islamist groups,especially Hamas.

POLITICAL ISLAM and the West

JOHN L.ESPOSITO


At the dawn of the 21st centurypolitical Islam, ormore commonly Islamicfundamentalism, remainsa major presence in governments andoppositional politics from North Africato Southeast Asia. New Islamic republicshave emerged in Afghanistan,Iran, and Sudan. Islamists have beenelected to parliaments, served in cabinets,and been presidents, prime ministers,and deputy prime ministers innations as diverse as Algeria, L-Eġittu, L-Indoneżja,Il-Ġordan, Kuwait, Il-Libanu,Il-Malasja, Pakistan, and Yemen. At thesame time opposition movements andradical extremist groups have sought todestabilize regimes in Muslim countriesand the West. Americans have witnessedattacks on their embassies fromKenya to Pakistan. Terrorism abroadhas been accompanied by strikes ondomestic targets such as the WorldTrade Center in New York. In recentyears, Saudi millionaire Osama binLaden has become emblematic of effortsto spread international violence

Building bridges not walls

Alex Glennie

Since the terror attacks of 11 Settembru 2001 there has been an explosion of interest inpolitical Islamism in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Until fairly recently,analysts have understandably focused on those actors that operate at the violent end of theIslamist spectrum, including Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, some of the sectarian parties in Iraq andpolitical groups with armed wings like Hamas in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)and Hezbollah in Lebanon.However, this has obscured the fact that across the MENA region contemporary politics arebeing driven and shaped by a much more diverse collection of ‘mainstream’ Islamistmovements. We define these asgroups that engage or seek to engage in the legal political processes oftheir countries and that have publicly eschewed the use of violence tohelp realise their objectives at the national level, even where they arediscriminated against or repressed.This definition would encompass groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Party ofJustice and Development (PJD) in Morocco and the Islamic Action Front (IAF) in Jordan.These non-violent Islamist movements or parties often represent the best organised andmost popular element of the opposition to the existing regimes in each country, and as suchthere has been increasing interest on the part of western policymakers in the role that theymight play in democracy promotion in the region. Yet discussions on this issue appear tohave stalled on the question of whether it would be appropriate to engage with these groupson a more systematic and formal basis, rather than on the practicalities of actually doing so.This attitude is partly linked to a justifiable unwillingness to legitimise groups that mighthold anti-democratic views on women’s rights, political pluralism and a range of other issues.It also reflects pragmatic considerations about the strategic interests of western powers inthe MENA region that are perceived to be threatened by the rising popularity and influenceof Islamists. For their part, Islamist parties and movements have shown a clear reluctance toforge closer ties with those western powers whose policies in the region they stronglyoppose, not least for fear of how the repressive regimes they operate within might react.This project’s focus on non-violent political Islamist movements should not be misinterpretedas implicit support for their political agendas. Committing to a strategy of more deliberateengagement with mainstream Islamist parties would involve significant risks and tradeoffs forNorth American and European policymakers. Madankollu, we do take the position that thetendency of both sides to view engagement as a zero sum ‘all or nothing’ game has beenunhelpful, and needs to change if a more constructive dialogue around reform in the MiddleEast and North Africa is to emerge.

ISLAM, DEMOCRACY & THE USA

fondazzjoni Cordoba


In spite of it being both a perennial anda complex debate, Arches Quarterly reexamines from theological and practicalgrounds, the important debate about the relationship and compatibility between Islam and Democracy, as echoed in Barack Obama’s agenda of hope and change. Whilst many celebrate Obama’s ascendancy to the Oval Office as a national catharsis for the US, othersremain less optimistic of a shift in ideologyand approach in the international arena.While much of the tension and distrust between the Muslim world and the USA canbe attributed to the approach of promotingdemocracy, typically favoring dictatorshipsand puppet regimes that pay lip-service todemocratic values and human rights, the aftershockof 9/11 has truly cemented the misgivingsfurther through America’s position onpolitical Islam. It has created a wall of negativityas found by worldpublicopinion.org,according to which 67% of Egyptians believethat globally America is playing a “mainlynegative” role.America’s response has thus been apt. Byelecting Obama, many around the world arepinning their hopes for developing a less belligerent,but fairer foreign policy towards theMuslim world. Th e test for Obama, as we discuss,is how America and her allies promote democracy. Will it be facilitating or imposing?Barra minn hekk, can it importantly be an honestbroker in prolonged zones of conflicts?