Date of Degree

10-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Selma Botman

Subject Categories

Political Science

Keywords

Arab Spring, Egypt, Middle East, Peace, Religion, War

Abstract

The situation in Egypt and elsewhere in parts of the Arab world is to some extent reminiscent of the situation that prevailed before 1914 in Europe, where a motley array of unharnessed popular micronationalisms (today, instrumentalized religious fervor) combined with big power politics and interests and led to the cataclysm of war. With regard to Egypt, there is also a huge generational gap, with 2/3 of Egypt's population below the age of 35 years. The so-called "solutions" of the past, whether religious or secular, will no longer work if the voice of the young people is not heard by their elders.

In a first chapter, I intend to look at the origins of the current restlessness, which, is fed from a collection of wellsprings, including a wide sense of humiliation in Egypt and the Arab world, and thwarted or unsuccessful emulation of Western societies in part due to ongoing resentment of its alleged "arrogance" seen as aimed at imposing its values on the Arab world.

In a second chapter, I would like to understand why "Islam is the solution". The majesty of the religion and its feelings can be overwhelming and give sense to lives otherwise unfulfilled and dreary. However, genuine "democratization" through religion seems to me a dangerous fallacy, playing out on a daily basis. Like in World War I-type situations, the older leaders are tempted to use for their own ends the "excessive enthusiasm" of the faithful, financed by the oil wealth of patrons from the Gulf States to push for unanimity and strength of the Umma , though misguided means. These developments have led to stalemate, with the forces of Islamism pitted against those of a (secular) security apparatus, both of them looking resolutely backwards.

In a third chapter, I would like to explore possibilities on the way forward. What is at stake is how to turn conservative societies like Egypt into models of the rule of law.

In the conclusion, I would like to make a few prognostications as to whether the above is grounded on a realistic appraisal of the situation on the ground.

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