Modernist Islamic Political Thought and the Egyptian and Tunisian Revolutions

Oct 28

The special issue of the journal Middle East Law and Governance dedicated to the Arab Spring has just come out.  I contributed a short piece arguing that the best ideological framework from which the Egyptian and Tunisian Revolutions can be understood is from the perspective of Islamic Modernism.  The essay makes that case through a brief discussion of the political thought of three important 19th and 20th century Muslim modernist thinkers: Rafi’ Rifa’a al-Tahtawi (Egypt); Khayr al-Din al-Tunisi (Ottoman/Tunisian); and Muhammad Rashid Rida (Syrian-Egyptian).  As always, comments are appreciated.

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Analysis of the Tunisian Election

Oct 24

For a terrific analysis of the results of the Tunisian election, read Malika Zeghal of Harvard and Khadija Mohsen-Finan of Université de Paris VIII.  I think the most interesting aspect of their analysis is that the two parties who made the strongest showing after the Nahda, the Takattul  and the Congress for the Republic, had each refused to engage in demonizing the Nahda.  The two authors conclude that, above all else, the Tunisian electorate voted for centrist parties that demonstrated independence from the dictatorship.  I hope that the success of the Tunisians will inspire the Egyptians to complete their transition successfully as well.

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August 5th Broadcast of The Agenda — Arab World Prospects

Aug 15

Earlier this summer, I appeared along with Muhammad Ali Khalidi, a professor of philosophy at York University, along with Maya Shatzmiller, a historian specializing in economic history of the Islamic Middle East, Janice Stein, a political scientist at the University of Toronto, and Clifford Orwin, a professor of political philosophy, to discuss the future of the Arab world in light of the region’s various revolutions.  Here is a link to the broadcast, which was aired on August 5, 2011.  Unlike other discussions of the Arab Spring, this focused more on long-term issues, such as questions of economic development and issues of political thought (Islam and democracy and the Arab world).

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Malika Zeghal on the Widening Secular-Islamist Rift in Tunisia

Jul 20

Malika Zeghal, a Tunisian-French political scientist at Harvard University, just posted an insightful piece on the growing secularist-Islamist rift in Tunisia.

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More Thoughts on Tunisia

Jun 22

It has now been a little more than a week since my return from Tunisia.  And, like the views set forth in this column, I too find the question of France, and Tunisia’s relationship with France, to be an ominous cloud on the horizon, obscuring what I hope is Tunisia’s inevitable march toward democracy.

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Revolutionary Tourism

Jun 15

What is “Revolutionary Tourism”?  Simply put, it is spending your summer vacation money in Egypt and Tunis as a toke of support of their revolutions.  I admit, traveling to a developing country for a vacation is hardly the stuff that makes revolutions, but this summer, if you can, consider traveling to Tunisia or Egypt, or both.  Both countries’ economies, for good or ill, are at the present, highly dependent on foreign tourism.  Foreign tourists, however, have largely shunned both countries out of irrational fears involved with their respective transitions.  Having just returned from two weeks in Tunisia and Egypt, I can say there is nothing to worry about!  If you are usually reluctant to go to places like Egypt and Tunisia precisely because of their place in the global tourism economy, this is the ideal time for you to go and avoid throngs of annoying tourists.  And, the people there will really appreciate your visit.  So go, and enjoy yourself in these two great revolutionary countries, basking in the warm Mediterranean sun and the afterglow of their revolutions.

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