Home » Uncategorized » 4th WOCMES: Co-IRIS: Islamic Perspectives on Theory and Praxis in International Relations

4th WOCMES: Co-IRIS: Islamic Perspectives on Theory and Praxis in International Relations

One panel proposal entitled “Co-IRIS: Islamic Perspectives on Theory and Praxis in International Relations” for the 4th World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (August 18-22, 2014, METU, Ankara, Turkey)

Co-IRIS: Islamic Perspectives on Theory and Praxis in International Relations

Nassef Manabilang Adiong1Nassef Manabilang Adiong2, Raffaele Mauriello1, Raffaele Mauriello3, Deina Abdelkader1, Deina Abdelkader4, Abdalhadi M. Alijla5, Waleed Ali6, Karim Khashaba7, Karim Khashaba8
1Co-IRIS (International Relations and Islamic Studies Research Cohort)
2International Relations, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey
3History and Philology of Islamic Civilization, University of Rome, Sapienza, Italy
4Comparative Politics, University of Massachusetts, USA
5Public Policy and Governance, State University of Milan, Italy
6Social Sciences and Humanities, Bradfrod University, UK
7Political Science, Cairo University, Egypt
8Political Science, Duisburg-Essen University, Germany

This is a proposed panel of Co-IRIS (International Relations and Islamic Studies Research Cohort). Co-IRIS is an organization interested in the advancement of comparative research between International Relations (IR) and Islamic Studies (IS). It is created by a group of researchers interested in developing and sustaining a body of knowledge that addresses the theories and practices of the Muslim civilization and of Muslim societies with regards to international affairs and to the discipline of International Relations.

Co-IRIS is premised on the idea that knowledge is fluid: peoples adopt and utilize thoughts and ideas regardless of faith, gender, nation, etc. Islam is enormously important today in both international and national domestic politics, but contemporary political Islam cannot be understood without an awareness of its roots and relations to paradigms of IR. Yet, little attention has been paid to the way its ideas originated and how they developed. 

This panel offers comparative studies of IR and Islamic notions on sovereignty, democracy, secularism, and a case study on the Shi‘itologic genealogy of Iranian’s international affairs. Panelists take the same approach as scholars usually do for International Relations and Islamic Studies, examining the mentality, cultural milieu, and political background of thinkers and statesmen by covering relationships of selected concepts and notions in comparing theoretical and practical aspects between IR and IS. 

The first paper is entitled “Islam and International Relations: A Comparative Study on Sovereignty.”

Most of academic studies of Islam and Islamic theology have not examined the concept of sovereignty in Islam from a global point of view. Giving the fact that academic study on sovereignty is undergoing a mini-renaissance where scholars are returning to the basic concepts of it around late 1980 and early 1990s. This paper focuses on comparing the concepts of sovereignty in Islam, putting it in an international framework within the reference to the recent uprisings in the Middle East. The paper discusses the fundamental nature of sovereignty in Islam and the different International Relations theories. It will review the classical perspective on sovereignty and comparing them to Islam’s view of sovereignty. Moreover, this paper will discuss the new works on the problematic nature of state’s sovereignty in Islam. 

The principal theme throughout the paper is that sovereignty in Islam is marked by far from being religious-based. There is a difference between how Islam paved the way to a civil state and how Islamic shticks perceive and interpret Quran and Hadith for political reasons. This paper pays special attention to the recent attempts to reconcile divine and popular sovereignty. It also examines the strong attempts to institutionalize the divine sovereignty by modern Muslim countries. 

The popular uprisings that came to be called “The Arab Spring” have brought the question of sovereignty of the people and legitimacy of the ruler to the surface. It also forces the political Islam parties to account for their visions on sovereignty and authority in the public sphere. This paper argues that concept of God’s sovereignty and nations have become a religious issue that the public would like to put it aside. The question this paper concludes with is which concept of sovereignty Muslims society would accept to bridge what their traditions, Islam and modern societies needed to advance socially and economically. It concludes that Islam and the concept of nation have no great influence on national contexts.

The second paper is entitled “Democracy and the ‘Stillborn God’.”

This paper hypothesizes that the current stress on the separation of church and state in Western liberal democracy was not a constant component of Western political thought. This paper will examine Rousseau’s and de Tocqueville’s writings and how they viewed the role of religion in public life, since in many ways they have theoretically laid the foundations of Western liberal democracy. Thus the paper will analyze whether post-enlightenment Western European liberal thought excludes religion from the public arena. This analysis will have implications regarding the theoretical assumption that secularization is imperative to democratization in the Muslim world.

The third paper is entitled “Islam and Democracy are they Compatible?

France president François Holland (2013), stated in his speech in Tunisia that ‘Islam and democracy are compatible’ and France will support the result of the democratic election (Holland, 2013). Both concepts seemed to be twinning framework not in conflict as it has been claimed for decades. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, vacuum power was left to be completed. The United States was and still the unique hegemonic power in the world. In order to keep it self interest the US has decided to create a fake enemy which in this case was Islam and Islamic world. The media focus on how Muslim and Islam are anti western, anti-modernity, anti-civilization and liberty that has created a mess and increased the world conflict. The word terrorism was combined with Islam, fundamentalism and rejectionist was the daily life description of orthodox Muslims. 

Thinkers, scholars and policy makers started to write about violence and Islam as tool to create a new academic framework to understand the Islamic movement. The gap of research about the full project of Islam and political Islam was left behind and neglected. The post 9/11 came to encourage this debate and the US used it to carry a global attack on what so call “the War on Terror”. The war on Afghanistan, Iraq and then the intervention in Libya were encouraged under the name of democratization of Middle-East. However, looking at the fundamental mean for both Islam and democracy, there are few differences. Both concepts are seeking the same thing which the human freedom from any servitude. Islam and democracy could be explained differently but at the end they are as twin concepts. 

In the current world, there are around 850 million Muslims are living and enjoying democracy including, Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia and to some extent Iran. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan mentioned that Muslims are able to rule countries under democracy. This paper will highlight the current debate around Islam and democracy and explore the common ground, focus and fundamental goals for both concepts. It will give examples around the world on how those tow concepts are interacting and functioning long side with each other. It will also show the increased violence and terrorist attack as a lack of democracy not the contrary. 

The fourth paper is entitled “The Islamic Experience and the Secularization Thesis.”

Ernest Gellner identified one striking exemption in the secularization thesis, particularly in relation to state and religion, and that is Islam. In the last century the hold of Islam over Muslim societies and to its people has not diminished but has rather increased. According to John L. Esposito, the conventional wisdom that assumed the centrality of secularism in a modern state and viewed religion as only a private affair has been challenged in much of the Muslim world. Moreover, the resurgence of Islam in Muslim politics and society has in fact signaled a “Retreat from the Secular Path.” The main crux of the paper is to present the relationship of Islam to secularism by presenting an overview of Islamic experience on statecraft (from Medina to Turkish state models), its initial secular state formation, and then moving to a more recent retreat from the secular path. 

The last paper is entitled “Mustad‘afun vs. Mustakbirun Reconsidered: A Shi‘itologic Genealogy of the International Relations Outlook of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

This paper argues for the necessity of advancing comparative research between International Relations (IR) and Islamic Studies (IS). In this framework, it argues for the necessity to integrate relevant aspects (both methodology and findings) of Shi‘itology, the branch of IS that specializes on Shi‘i Islam, into the knowledge of the politics of the Islamic world of academics and practitioners of international relations and International Relations Theory (IRT). On the basis of the evident increasing importance, and unexpected persistence, of the “Shi‘i factor” in determining both the geopolitics and foreign policy of the Near Eastern region, this paper more generally argues for the necessity of taking more seriously Shi‘ism and its historical, cultural, and doctrinal peculiarities.

With the aim of setting a first concrete step into this direction, the paper addresses the issue of territory and geography in Shi‘i Islam international relations outlook within the framework of the specific but unavoidable case of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). It shows how, although scholars of IR have assumed as an established fact the worldview of Islamic IR as historically based (only) on the dichotomy dar al-Islam (the realm or abode of Islam) versus dar al-harb (the realm or abode of war), from a historical perspective the role of the dar al-Islam versus dar al-harb dichotomy in Shi‘as’ worldview has de facto been extremely limited. The lack of knowledge of IR scholars in this respect has hindered their ability to properly appreciate and locate the modern duality of Islamic IRT represented by the mustad‘afun (oppressed) versus mustakbirun (oppressors) worldview and its development – in the re-elaboration of former president Muhammad Khatami – into the “Dialogue among Civilizations”.

Keywords: International Relations, Islam, Secularization, Democracy

%d bloggers like this: