World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th – 24th 2010

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FAULT LINES OF ISLAMISM - 2/2: Fault Lines of Islamism; Negotiating Political and Ideological Challenges (325) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: THU 22, 11.30 am-1.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: University of Oslo ( Norway)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Dr. Bjørn Olav Utvik

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Taking as its starting point an understanding of Islamism as a modern social movement for reform, the panel seeks to explore ideological and political tension fields within Islamism, in particular as these relate to the challenges posed by modernization and globalization. How thorough is the Islamists'' adoption of democracy as a governing principle? What conditions the choice of violence vs. peaceful work as the strategy to achieve the desired change? How do the Islamists picture the role of non-Muslims in a state governed by Islamic principles? How do the Islamists view the role of women in society and politics? The panel participants make part of a research project based at the University of Oslo aimed at contributing to greater clarity in the understanding of how central Islamist movements in the Middle East relate to social and political processes of modernization. It is a problem that the polarization in the political debate on Islamism spills over into the scientific field: on the one hand there is a tendency on part of scientists who claim to view Islamism, at least partly, as a modernizing and constructive force, to avoid bringing up difficult questions like the Islamists'' gender ideology, or at best smooth over them. On the other hand those who focus on the problematic aspects, tend to present a static picture of Islamism as a reactionary force. There is, then, a great need for research that combines the will and the ability to see Islamism in light of its context with a non-apologetic approach to real lines of conflict. What gives Islamist movements their specific identity compared to modern social movements in general is the intertwining of two strong impulses: On the one hand, Islamism is a cultural revolt in defence of religious and cultural identity against what is viewed as the threat from a Western-dominated globalisation. On the other hand, Islamism is an expression of a desire to submit rapid social changes to the control of a revitalised morality, based on Islamic religious tradition. The tensions in relation to modernity arise therefore where developmental traits in society clearly oppose what is conceived to be central elements of Islamic morality, and/or are perceived of as taking over Western ideals at the cost of known and authentic habits and customs. In the same vein concessions vis-a-vis non-Muslim or secular forces inside or outside one’s won society may on the one hand be viewed as beneficial in the pursuit of peace and development yet may collide with the need to be seen as staunch defenders of the Muslim cause. The negotiation of these tensions is the subject investigated by the panel.

Chair: :Tilde Rosmer (University of Oslo)
Discussant: :Emad Shahin (University of Notre Dame, USA)

Paper presenter: Bjørn Olav Utvik (University of Oslo)“ What Role for the Muslim Sisters? Islamist Movements between Authenticity and Gender Equality”
In the discourse of the Islamists there is an awkward coexistence between a declared recognition of women as equal political actors and an explicit affirmation of a traditional Muslim view of the man as the head of the family. The paper will argue that on the gender issue the Islamists remain caught in a dilemma between on the one hand their wish to represent modernity, rationality and progress, and on the other hand a powerful mixture of identity politics and patriarchal tradition and self-interest. Yet the emergence of more distinct women's voices within the movements holds the potential for future change.

Paper presenter: Mona Abdel-Fadil (University of Oslo) “Islam Online Guides Spouses towards Better Communication: Do Arabic and English Literate Audiences Receive the Same Message?”
In this paper I focus on how Islam (IOL) frames and conveys messages about how to better communication between spouses. In particular, I study non-interactive threads or output articles posted on IOL for reader consumption. I analyze and compare tendencies on IOL Arabic and IOL English. Against this background, I develop and discuss my analytical concept of an IOL brand of counseling?. I argue that the IOL brand fuses seemingly dissimilar counseling perspectives. In addition, I point to a few, perhaps surprising differences, in how IOL Arabic and IOL English, guide their readers? towards better marital communication.

Paper presenter: Jenny Holmsen (University of Oslo) “Gender Relations: The Litmus Test of the Modernizing Force of Islamism. A Case Study of the Algerian HMS (Harakat mujtama as-silm)”
As a contribution to the general debate on Islamism and modernity, this paper seeks to investigate whether the Algerian Islamist party HMS - frequently referred to as the Woman party due to its large female activist base - should be understood as a modernizing factor on gender relations. The main findings indicate a development characterized by two parallel, apparently contradictory, tendencies: It seems that the MSP has indeed functioned as a modernizing factor through comprehensive efforts to encourage and facilitate women’s increased participation. On the other hand, at the ideological level, the movement seems to have stagnated in a rather regressive position. I argue that this apparent inconsistency should be seen in close connection with the political environment within which the MSP operates, and that these tensions are likely to become all the more acute in the near future, as women’s issues seem to be increasingly entering the Algerian political scene as an independent political issue.

Paper presenter: Vegard Wennesland (University of Oslo)“Political Organisation among the Palestinians in Lebanon: the Case of the Burj al-Barajneh Refugee Camp”
This paper will attempt to identify the main political and ideological dividing lines among Palestinians in Lebanon using the case of the refugee camp Burj al-Barajneh outside of Beirut. It will map the political organisation of the camp and analyse the dynamic governing the relationship between the main forces present.Much of recent research on Palestinians in Lebanon has been devoted to the rise of radical Islamist movements in the Palestinian camps. While this is indeed a development worthy of notice, in order to understand the major political factors at work this paper will focus on the role of the more established political movements like Fatah and Hamas and elaborate on the main faultlines setting them apart.