Religion, Democracy, and the dawla madaniyya of the Arab Spring

Raja Bahlul
Doha Institute for Graduate Studies
The object of this article is to review and evaluate a debate that has been taking place among Muslim and Arab writers for some time now about the concept of ‘dawla madaniyya’ (‘civil state/ government’), and the place of religion in democratic politics. More precisely, it will be suggested that the current popularity of the term ‘dawla madaniyya’ signifies only a partial meeting of minds between Islamists and their liberal and secular opponents. By and large, the concept seems to have an instrumental value as part of an on-going discursive struggle between various political orientations about the place of Islam in the social–political order. On the basis of our discussion of the terms of the debate, a new approach to conceptualizing the disagreement will be suggested. The goal of this is not to resolve the disagreement, but rather to sharpen it in a way that shows what is required to achieve significant progress. The final resolution of the disagreement must await a more radical convergence of ideas than currently exists a convergence that touches not only on standards of reasonableness but also on substantive beliefs and values.
Keywords Religion  Democracy  Civil Government  Arab Spring
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