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POLI 227 Chapter Notes -Arab Spring, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, September 11 Attacks

Political Science
Course Code
POLI 227
Rex Brynen

of 4
Challenge of Third World Development (Handelman)
Chapter 3- Religion
Modernization theorists predicted religion would disappear in politics when countries
modernized, but this has not been true (i.e. Catholicsm in Latin America, Islam in Middle
East/Africa, Buddhism in Asia, Hinduism in India)
Shi’ites vs Sunni
- Shi’ites have a hierarchical structure, revere Imams (direct descendants of
Muhammad and Ali)
- Sunnis usually hold greater political power, even when there are less of them
State religions legitimize state authority, which is a necessary step to state-building. Some even
argue that particular religions fostered development in some areas (i.e. Protestant/Confucian
work ethic)
Factors which help define a religion’s political involvement:
1) Theological views re: relationship between temporal and spiritual matters (this-worldly
views would increase political participation)
2) Degree to which clergy is hierarchically organized and centrally controlled
Donald Smith- 2 types of religio-political systems:
1) Organic
- Weak or nonexistent religious hierarchy (less organized), so less able to influence
politics (i.e. Buddhism)
2) Religio-political
- Well organized ecclesiastical structure (i.e. Catholicsm/Islam)
Islam- John Esposito- 3 types of Islamic regimes:
1) Secular state
- i.e. Turkey: religious freedom and no special status given to Islam
2) Islamic state
- i.e. Iran: governing philosophy is based on the Quran and Sharia law
3) Muslim state
- I.e. Morocco: Islam as official religion and the head of state is Muslim, but the
religion’s impact on politics is limited
- Pope at top of hierarchy, religious authority is unchallenged, papal declarations can
carry considerable political importance (i.e. Pope Leo XII’s encyclical- capitalism’s
exploitation of the working class)
- Sometimes clashes between the church and state, although the church has
influence on the political sphere while in most places being removed as the state
Hinduism and Buddhism
- Hindu social values (i.e. caste system) have affected Indian/Nepalese politics in
significant ways, but religion is very diverse with no centralized hierarchical
structure so it has no formal political voice
- Buddhism is based on Hinduism but differs in that they do not believe in the caste
system and it has an organized ecclesiastical organization (sangha)- however, is less
centralized than Islam and thus less able to influence politics
- Buddhism is also less theologically inclined to political involvement due to its
otherworldly philosophy (places less emphasis on temporal matters like politics)
Religious Fundamentalism and Islam
- Argued that we shouldn’t even use the word “fundamentalism” because it falsely
implies a unified threat to the West and lumps together groups and regimes with
little in common
- Should use the word “revivalism” instead because the word “fundamentalism” has
Christian roots and carries significance which makes it offensive to many Muslims
- Many Western writers distorte and exaggerate the nature of the Islamic threat and
are unaware of the long tradition of liberal theology within Islam, which emphasizes
religious tolerance, women’s progress and democratic values
- “The mere fact of peoples being Islamic has been confused with that of their
adhering to beliefs and policies that are “Islamist”
- Should speak instead of a “radical Islamic threat”, not just an “Islamic threat”
- Fundamentalism: wish to preserve traditional religion against reform efforts and to
revive the role of religion in public and private life
- Fundamentalism appeals to people downtrodden and fed up with injustice and
inequality in their country, people who are strongly nationalist and chauvinist and
are worried about external threats to their culture, or young people who are looking
for adventure
Mahmoud Ahmedinejad- militant conservative- rolled back many liberal policies after revolution
Al Qaeda and Militant Islam
- 1979 it begins to take root- al Qaeda formally founded in 1988
- Sunni in religion
- Soviet Union occupation- resisted it with help from Bin Laden’s charisma, resources,
and weapons from the US/Saudi Arabia
Afghan Service Bureau (MAK)
- Recruited, indoctrinated and trained Arabs and Muslim youth for Afghani jihad
- Original goal of al Qaeda was to topple “near enemy” of Arab national governments
in countries who were too Western or irreligious (i.e. Egypt) and to destroy “far
enemy” of US and its Western allies
Al Qaeda did not like US because it is pro-Israel, has a history of propping up corrupt regimes in
Muslim nations like Egypt, and feared their influence in terms of secularism and decadence
Straw that broke the camel’s back was when the King revoked his promise to take Bin Laden’s
troops to protect Saudi from Iraq insurgency (then in Kuwait) and took US troops instead and
then US troops remained in Saudi- infidels on sacred soil
Not a centrally controlled tightly-knit organization- al Qaeda functioned like a venture capital
firm, providing funding, contacts and expert advice to different militant groups
Has been further decentralized by bin Laden’s death which makes it even more elusive and
Attitudes towards al Qaeda in Muslim world
- 8/9 Muslim countries in 2002 condemned 9/11 attacks, 2/3 of Pakistanis and ½ of all
Jordanians and Moraccans viewed bin Laden favourable
- Most ulema condemn terrorist tactics while sometimes supporting defensive jihad-
believe al Qaeda’s tactics had little to do with religion and everything to do with
gaining political power and influence because the Qu’ran condemns suicide and
killing civilians
Arab Spring may influence al Qaeda- collapse of several authoritarian regimes has created a
power vacuum which may present new opportunities for al Qaeda to gain power
However, the Arab Spring movement overthrew dictators without violence where Islamist
movements had failed for decades
Islamist Terrorists in Western Europe
- Some Islamic fundamentalists come from more moderate regimes like Egypt where
they were kicked out of
- Radical clerics established mosques
- Some arrived without being fundamental ist but were alienated by Western culture
and felt culturally isolated so were polarized
- External events such as 1980s Afghan resistance to Russian occupation and West’s
slowness to protect Bosnia’s Muslim population against violence by Serbs and
Croats radicalized some
- Many Islamists found that Europe’s civil liberties made it easier to organize and
expand their movements