The Islamist State and Sudanese Women

by Ellen Gruenbaum
published in MER179

The Islamist government in Sudan recently celebrated the third anniversary of the military coup that brought it to power by building a huge public park south of the Khartoum airport, featuring hundreds of hurriedly transplanted trees, bushes and flowers. The impressive determination and efficiency the project commanded seemed calculated to prove to Khartoum’s masses that this is a can-do government.

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For Another Kind of Morocco

An Interview with Abraham Serfaty

by Miriam Rosen
published in MER179

On September 13, 1991, after nearly 17 years in the prisons of His Majesty Hassan II, Moroccan activist Abraham Serfaty was released and expelled to France. This was not, to be sure, out of human rights considerations, or a measure of royal clemency: According to the Ministry of the Interior, an “in-depth” -- if belated -- examination of Serfaty’s legal status had revealed that he was not entitled to Moroccan citizenship. His father had lived in Brazil for 17 years before returning to Morocco in 1923, three years before Serfaty himself was born. He was thus expelled as a “veritable impostor.”

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Left In Limbo

Leninist Heritage and Islamist Challenge

by Salim Tamari
published in MER179

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Taking Up Space in Tlemcen: The Islamist Occuation of Urban Algeria

An Interview with Rabia Bekkar

by Hannah Davis
published in MER179

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Islam, the State and Democracy

Contrasting Conceptions of Society in Egypt

by Sami Zubaida
published in MER179

From the Editors

published in MER179

With this issue we return to the question of the prospects for democratic forces in the Middle East, and the role of religiously based political movements there. These essays and interviews share a resolutely secularist perspective, a conviction that the construction of a just and viable social order requires a political practice that values tolerance and diversity. This perspective respects the genuine religiosity of many Middle Eastern societies, but the authors firmly critique the authoritarian component of the leading Islamist trends in Egypt, Algeria, Sudan and Palestine, and the varying degrees of complicity of the states (and Palestinian political organizations) in furthering the growth of these movements, by their combination of encouragement, neglect and repression.

Secularism, Integralism and Political Islam

The Egyptian Debate

by Alexander Flores
published in MER183

“The sheikh of al-Azhar should thank God profusely that the shari‘a is not in force in Egypt, for it it were he would certainly be in for a good flogging in punishment for smearing virtuous people,” wrote Farag Fawda in March 1988 -- thus contributing to a debate that had been raging since the beginning of that year.

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The Islamist Movements in the Occupied Territories

by Lisa Hajjar
published in MER183

Iyad Barghouti, professor of sociology at al-Najah University in Nablus, is the author of The Palestinian Islamic Movement and the New World Order (1992) and Islamization and Politics in the Palestinian Territories (1990). He spoke with Lisa Hajjar on May 5, 1993.

How would you describe the appeal of Hamas and other Islamist groups?

Hamas now is the main competitor of the PLO. This is not because the Palestinian people are more willing to turn to religion per se, but because the current situation in the Occupied Territories has led more and more people to see Hamas as a “nationalist” alternative.

Are the situations different in the West Bank and Gaza?

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Islamist Notions of Democracy

by Gudrun Kramer
published in MER183

Most observers, in attempting to explain why the movement toward pluralism, liberalism and democracy has been relatively weak in the Arab world, have concluded that it must have something to do with culture, and more particularly with Islam. Growing interest and research in the subject have not shaken the widespread notion that there is one single political doctrine of Islam, more or less identical with the historical caliphate and incompatible with pluralist democracy as it first developed in the West. Islam, it is said, has not in the past been democratic and is unable to become so in the future.