Will Middle Eastern governments be Islamacized?

Tarek Osman offers four reasons why maybe not:

But this Islamization will not succeed. First, despite the piousness of the vast majority of Muslim Arabs, themselves the commanding majorities of the region, the Islamization efforts inherently challenge the national identities of each country. Despite clever rhetoric, Islamization means the domination of one component of Egyptianism, Tunisianity, Syrianism, etc, over other components that had shaped these entrenched identities. This is especially true in the old countries of the Arab world, the ones whose borders, social compositions, and crucially identities had been carved over long, rich centuries. And the more the Islamist movements continue to thrust their worldviews and social values, the more they will disturb these national identities, and the more agitated—and antagonized—the middle classes of these societies will become.

Second, these efforts at Islamization take place when almost all of these societies are undergoing difficult—and for many social classes, painful—economic transitions. And there is no way out. The ruling Islamist executives are compelled to confront the severe structural challenges inherent in the economies they inherited. Some are able to buy time and postpone crucial reforms through foreign grants (which come at a political price). But sooner or later, they will have to make the tough socio-economic decisions that these structural reforms require. Islamists in office will be blamed for the pains that will ensue. Rapidly, some of the constituencies that had voted them into power will seek other alternatives.

Third, demographics will work against these efforts at Islamization. Close to 200 million of the Arab world’s 340 million people are under 30-years old. As a result of the many failures it has inherited, this generation faces a myriad of socio-economic challenges on a daily basis. A culture of protest and rejection has already been established amongst its ranks, and young people will not accept indoctrination—even if it was presented in the name of religion. Almost by default, the swelling numbers of young Arabs, especially in the culturally vibrant centers of the Arab world (Cairo, Tunis, Beirut, Damascus, Casablanca, Kuwait, Manama), will create plurality—in social views, political positions, economic approaches, and in social identities and frames of reference.

Finally, this Islamization project, in its various parts, will suffer at the hand of its strategists and managers. The leaderships of the largest Islamist groups in the Arab world have immense experiences in developing and managing services and charity infrastructures, operating underground political networks, fund-raising, and electoral campaigning, especially in rural and interior regions. But they suffer an acute lack of experience in tackling serious political-economy challenges or administering grand socio-political narratives. Lack of experience will result in incompetence.

That is via @GideonRachman.


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