World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Aspects of Religion and State in Islam and Judaism (154) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE 20, 5.00-7.00pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: International Council for Middle East Studies, Inc. (USA)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Norton Mezvinsky

· NOT_DEFINED sponsor: International Association of Middle Eastern Studies, IAMES

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: This panel discussion will reflect some of the religion and state emphases of the International Council for Middle East Studies (ICMES). Ibrahim Abu- Rabi's paper considers Islamism as a multifaceted phenomenon in the contemporary Arab world intent on challenging the post World War Two political order. Abu-Rabi argues that Islamism is anti-imperialist in nature and utilizes terminology and concepts of the radical left. Issam Saliba's paper discusses the legal foundation or constitutional theory articulated by certain scholars in support of the Islamic state, reviews some historical evidence and pinpoints minority views that do not subscribe to the integral connection between political governance and divine dictates. Norton Mezvinsky's paper presents an overview and analysis of differing positions within traditional Judaism regarding the belief of God's biblical promise to the Jews of land. Mezvinsky relates these differing emphases to the current state of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Chair: Norton Mezvinsky (International Council of Middle Eastern Studies, USA)

Paper presenter: Issam Saliba ( International Council for Middle East Studies), “Constitutional theory of the Islamic state”
It has often been said that Islam is a religion and a state (al-Islam din wa dawlat). For more than one thousand years, different groups and dynasties governed the Middle East region and beyond in the name of Islam.
This paper will discuss the legal foundation or "constitutional theory" articulated by the scholars of the schools of fiqh in support of the establishment of the Islamic state, review the historical evidence on the extent to which the Islamic state fulfilled scholastic expectations, and analyze the minority views that do not subscribe to the notion of the integral connectivity between political governance and divine dictates.

Paper presenter: Norton Mezvinsky (International Council of Middle Eastern Studies, USA), “Judaism and the Jewish State”
Traditional Judaism has emphasized, and continues to emphasize, God's promise in the Bible giving the Jews (early Hebrews) the land of Canaan (historic Palestine). This promise first appears in Genesis, chapter 12. The full meaning of this promise, however, has been, and still is, disputed by traditional Judaic theologians and philosophers. Even some of the most extreme Jewish fundamentalists have disagreed, and still do disagree, about the manifestation of this promise. Whether or not the current state of Israel is a manifestation of that promise and, if so, to what extent are central issues in the disputation.
This paper will first present an overview of the differing positions within the above-stated context. The paper will then pinpoint and discuss the obstacles to peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, created and maintained by those Jewish fundamentalists who believe that the current state of Israel fits within the context of the biblical promise of land, mentioned above, and on that basis should be protected, defended and maintained within its present-or even expanded-borders.

Paper presenter: Ibrahim AbuRabi (International Council for Middle East Studies), “Islamism in the Contemporary Arab World: Progressive or Reactionary Movement”
Islamism is a bewilderingly multifaceted phenomenon in the contemporary Arab world intent on challenging the post-World War Two political order in the region. The Islamic movement in the contemporary Arab world is the product of local, national, and international factors and causes. We need to understand what is behind its emergence in the modern Arab world, why it has persisted through the past three decades, and whether or not Islamism, in its complex variations, has replaced the Soviet Union of old by becoming the most significant enemy of the New World Order. We also need to understand the social and economic composition of Islamism. Is it a movement of the poor or the alienated middle classes in contemporary Arab societies? In other words, what are the social and economic reasons that make Islamism such a challenge to the status quo in most Arab states? How is it that Islamism is at loggerheads with most Arab regimes? Is it because most of these regimes are simply secular or un-Islamic, or is it because they have failed to articulate the Islamist vision of social justice and effect a more or less equal distribution of wealth?
This paper argues that the contemporary Islamist movement is anti-imperialist in nature and that it uses the terminology and concepts of the radical left in analyzing the current situation.

Paper presenter: Mohammad El-Sayed Selim (University of Kuwait), "The Arab Debates on Turkish Transformations under Erdogan"
Since the advent of the Justice and Development Party to power in Turkey in 2002, Turkey has re-directed its foreign policy in the direction of emerging as the order-setter in its region and ending regional conflicts in which it was directly involved and helping to resolve other regional conflicts. Turkey has also played a more active role in the Arab-Israeli conflict by mediating between Syria and Israel. Erdogan?s strong pro-Palestine stand in the Davos Forum in 2009 triggered major reactions in the Arab world at all levels. At the level of intellectuals, the Erdogan stand led Arab intellectuals to debate the wisdom of engaging with Turkey in a strategic partnership. Whereas some intellectuals argued that Turkey is a major strategic choice for the Arabs, others argued that Turkey was using the its pro-Arab policy to pressure the European Union to accept it. This paper will review Arab debates on Turkish regional transformations and their impact on the Arabs, and present a perspective on the potential role of Turkey as a strategic partner to the Arabs. It will begin by reviewing the debates and their social-political background and delineate the main elements of a ‘strategic partner’ and attempt to assess the extent of which Turkey fulfils theirs elements in the light of other strategic choices available to the Arabs, and conclude by reviewing the constraints on Turkey and the Arabs in building a regional strategic partnership.