The Draft Egyptian Constitution: The Communitarian Dimension, Part I

Nov 07

The Egyptian Constitutional Assembly has finally completed a draft constitution for post-revolutionary Egypt, issuing it to the Egyptian public for their consideration almost a month ago.  (An English translation of the draft may be found here.)  As is the case with everything in post-revolutionary Egypt, the draft has proven to be extremely controversial, and has elicited widespread criticism, particularly from human rights organizations for its failure to meet international norms with respects to rights of women, children and freedom of religion.  Ellis Goldberg, meanwhile, has published a lengthy and very thoughtful analysis of the draft text in two parts on his blog, Nisr al-Nasr (Part I and Part II).

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My talk at Hartford Seminary

Apr 30

Last night, I gave a talk at the Hartford Seminary titled “Liberalism and Islam: Pitfalls and Potentials.”  The talk centered around two themes: how normative liberalism reacts to intolerant groups in its midst, and what are the religious obligations of liberal Muslim citizens in a liberal democracy generally, and the war on terror in particular.

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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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Political Islam and Democratic Transition

Apr 15

It would be an understatement to say that westerners remain concerned about the role of Islam in democratizing Arab states.  Some, however, have suggested that secular democracy need not mean a complete exclusion of religion from the public sphere, but instead permit its participation against a background of institutions that serve to moderate the risk of a “tyranny of the majority.”   I agree that this is the most that can be reasonably obtained under present conditions in a country like Egypt.

In my opinion, modernist Islamic thought — the ideological basis of moderate Islamism –has been concerned primarily with equality before the law, establishing accountability of the government to the people, and eliminating arbitrary decision-making so as to better pursue the public good. They are attracted to democracy because they see democratic institutions as the best means to establish these ends.  Unfortunately, Islamic modernism (nor secular modernism in the post-Ottoman world, for that matter) has not been gravely concerned with pluralism as such.

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Qaradawi Criticizes the Salafis

Apr 04

Al-Masry al-Youm (English) is reporting that Qaradawi has come out with strong criticisms of the Egyptian salafis.  Particularly important, I believe, is his criticism of their literalism in understanding Islamic texts and their opportunism in trying to exploit a revolution that they refused to participate in, and indeed, condemned as a kind of rebellion.  It is a bit ironic, now that the revolution has succeeded, that they see no obligation to obey the law, nor do they deem violent confrontation of those whom they condemn as engaging in immorality (taghyir al-munkar bi-l-yad) as rebellion, even though Islamic law condemns vigilantism as iftiyat.  Apparently, the salafis only seem to believe there is an obligation to obey the law of tyrants!

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