November 07, 2006

Islamic Nationalism

Apologies to readers for not getting to this quicker but this is an important lecture from the leading scholar of political Islam, Olivier Roy. Roy points to the fact that the Islamist movements of the last fifty years are changing their complexion yet again, turning once more to become nationalists and unify nationalism and religion. Roy opposes two paradigms of evolution towards Islamic radicalism- the first being that of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in democratic Turkey and the second being that of the Taliban. He advocates making deals with the Erdogans of the world, or at least allowing them to assume power before the Talibans of the world seize power. He also argues that Islamist movements are trying to annex to themselves the ideal of an uncorrupt man campaigning in the national interest- incorruptable because he is religious.

Roy's image is interesting because it is precisely the image used in many religious societies evolving towards the concept of nationality. We can see say in 17th Century England that rather than loyalty to rulers, loyalty to a public interest and consequently a concern with the ethics and corruption of rulers became more and more important. As I have noted before, perhaps one of the things that is happening in the Middle East is that thanks to the proliferation of new media like Al-Jazeera the ideals of democracy aren't becoming more important but the idea of incorruptibility is. What the consequences of this are may in the long term be to push the Islamic world towards democracy: whether the electorates of those countries will discover that corruption may be an institutional not an individual flaw. While it seems an individual flaw, Islamism will seem increasingly attractive to a number of people who beleive that a clean religious conscience equals an incorruptible moral one.

This stress on corruption might be another varient of the heresy against democracy diagnosed in my last post- in both cases the problem is an avowed monism- an idea that there is one answer to political problems and that the problem of politics is either in finding it or implementing it correctly. The problem is that neither corruption nor inexpertise explains why politics often fails to satisfy the public: it often fails to satisfy them because they disagree with it and because its impossible to satisfy everyone.


Anonymous said...

Excellent point.

Gracchi said...


Anonymous said...

Islam it self is a world observing public rights and there is no need for importing western demoCracy. By mixing western democracy people would be curraped.