In the recent Al Jazeera op-ed, “On constitutions, Sharia and Muslim political thought,” Dr. Hatem Bazian considers the legacies and possiblities of creating an inclusive polity in Muslim-majority nation states in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Here’s an excerpt:
In the Arab Spring’s aftermath, and the catastrophic divisions and violence in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia – not to forget ongoing debates in almost every Muslim majority country concerning citizenship, rights, responsibilities of citizens and the constitutional contestations in the modern nation state – Muslim political parties across the region are facing textual, interpretational and conceptual challenges.
While public debates on TV and in the press across the region have simplistically focused on what aspects of Islamic law to be included, and whether the overarching objectives of Islamic Law should be the guiding principle, or to incorporate as many particulars as politically possible, if one has the power; the real challenge centres on the conceptualisation of a nation-state and how to constitute an inclusive polity.
The larger debate in Muslim majority states with diverse religious and ethnic communities centres on defining the nature of citizenship. Who is a citizen, what rights do they have and what are the responsibilities of each in the modern nation-state? More critical at this juncture is whether a modern Islamic nation-state could be constituted with different classes of citizenship that are accorded unequal rights based on religious difference?
Read the full article on Al-Jazeera. Dr Hatem Bazian is co-editor and founder of the Islamophobia Studies Journal and director of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project at the Center for Race & Gender, and a senior lecturer in the Departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at Berkeley.