The Middle East in Transition
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The Middle East in Transition

The Centrality of Citizenship

Edited by Nils A. Butenschøn and Roel Meijer

The violent transitions that have dominated developments since the Arab Uprisings demonstrate deep-seated divisions in the conceptions of state authority and citizen rights and responsibilities. Analysing the Middle East through the lens of the ‘citizenship approach’, this book argues that the current diversity of crisis in the region can be ascribed primarily to the crisis in the relations between state and citizen. The volume includes theoretical discussions and case studies, and covers both Arab and non-Arab countries.
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Chapter 8: The political, politics, and political citizenship in modern Islam

Roel Meijer


The chapter deals with the opinions Islamic thinkers have developed on the relationship between politics, the political, and citizenship since the end of the Ottoman Empire. The assumption is that political citizenship can only be founded on the recognition of politics as an independent field and the political as a ‘void’. The chapter shows that in most Islamic political thinking politics has been completely absorbed by religion. It is only during the last thirty years with revival of Islamic modernism that politics has been recognised as a field that must be open in order not to end in a totalitarian state. Partly this is the result of the rise of Islamic political parties, partly the result of the development of notions such as the ‘purposes of the sharia’ (maqasid al-shari‘a). With the recognition of the political as the ‘radically undetermined’ also recognition of the citizen and equal citizenship came about.

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