Islam and Political Legitimacy

Islam and Political Legitimacy

Islam and Political Legitimacy

Islam and Political Legitimacy

Synopsis

This book deals with the issue of political mobilization and legitimacy in a number of Muslim states, and explores sources of tension and turmoil in these cases. More specifically, the book examines the evolving and complex relationship between political power and Islam through a comparative study of carefully selected Muslim states.

Excerpt

Islam and politics

Shahram Akbarzadeh and Abdullah Saeed

The September 11 attacks by al-Qaeda struck at the heart of the United States and brought Islamic radicalism to the international spotlight. the subsequent moblisation of public opinion and security forces in the United States and its allies in the ‘war on terror’ have ensured Islamic radicalism prominence on the security and foreign policy agenda. the apparent shift in the strategic thinking of the United States suggests that meeting the threat posed by Islamic militancy is no longer a secondary consideration but a top priority. However, for many Muslim states this is not a qualitatively new challenge. They have faced an ever-growing Islamic opposition in the past decades. Islamic militancy has led to regime change in Iran (1979), the assassination of the Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat (1981), a wave of political violence and assassinations in Algeria, Taliban successes in Afghanistan (1996), the on-going Kashmiri Islamic mobilisation and guerilla war that has impacted on the domestic politics of Pakistan and challenged India, on-going separatist pressures in Aceh and inter-communal violence in Indonesia (2000-1).

Muslim states, therefore, are not surprised by the political potency of the militant Islamic threat, although the sheer magnitude of the September 11 attacks was shockingly unprecedented. They have borne the brunt of this growing tide of radicalism and agitation and have been the primary targets of the Islamic revolutionary zeal. This challenge and the altered political conditions have forced state leaders to re-evaluate their image and symbols of power. in recognition of its emotive and familiar message, Islam has been systematically incorporated in the (explicit or implicit) frame of reference of the state to offset the increasingly plausible challenge to the legitimacy of the political leadership. This dynamic of challenge and response has made politics in many Muslim societies a volatile, sometimes violent, affair, the boundaries of which are not predetermined or confined to institutions. Symbols and informal aspects of politics serve an important role in advancing or detracting from the legitimacy of the political elite, a feature that has not escaped the attention of the latter. Except in the case of Iran and Saudi Arabia, where . . .

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