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For every pithy conceptualization of complex events, there are additional lenses through which to examine them. One of the several virtues of this book is precisely that it brings different perspectives to bear on the complexity, diversity, and uncertainty of recent and current events in the Arab world. The thirteen authors concentrate on the critical social forces shaping the region--demography, religion, gender, telecommunication connectivity, and economic structures--and they are painstakingly analyzed and evaluated.--from the foreword by Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings InstitutionThe Arab Spring will be remembered as a period of great change for the Arab states of North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean. Facing fundamental transitions in governance, these countries are also undergoing profound social, cultural, and religious changes. The European Union and the United States, caught unprepared by the uprisings, now must address the inescapable challenges of those changes. How will the West respond to these new realities, particularly in light of international economic uncertainty, EU ambivalence toward a "cohesive foreign policy," and declining U.S. influence abroad? Arab Society in Revolt explains and interprets the societal transformations occurring in the Arab Muslim world, their ramifications for the West, and possible policy options for dealing with this new world. Arab Society in Revolt examines areas of change particularly relevant in the southern Mediterranean: demography and migration, Islamic revival and democracy, rapidly changing roles of women in Arab society, the Internet in Arab societies, commercial and social entrepreneurship as change factors, and the economics of Arab transitions. The book then looks at those cultural and religious as well as political and economic factors that have influenced the Western response, or lack of it, to the Arab Spring as well as the policy options that remain open.
Commentary on the Culture and its value.
The denunciation of fundamentalism in France, embodied in the law against the veil and the deportation of imams, has shifted into a systematic attack on all Muslims and Islam. This hostility is rooted in the belief that Islam cannot be integrated into French--and, consequently, secular and liberal--society. However, as Olivier Roy makes clear in this book, Muslim intellectuals have made it possible for Muslims to live concretely in a secularized world while maintaining the identity of a "true believer. " They have formulated a language that recognizes two spaces: that of religion and that of secular society. Western society is unable to recognize this process, Roy argues, because of a cultural bias that assumes religious practice is embedded within a specific, traditional culture that must be either erased entirely or forced to coexist in a neutral, multicultural space. Instead, Roy shows that new forms of religiosity, such as Islamic fundamentalism and Christian evangelicalism, have come to thrive in post-traditional, secular contexts precisely because they remain detached from any cultural background. In recognizing this, Roy recasts the debate concerning Islam and democracy. Analyzing the French case in particular, in which the tension between Islam and the conception of Western secularism is exacerbated, Roy makes important distinctions between Arab and non-Arab Muslims, hegemony and tolerance, and the role of the umma and the sharia in Muslim religious life. He pits Muslim religious revivalism against similar movements in the West, such as evangelical Protestantism and Jehovah's Witnesses, and refutes the myth of a single "Muslim community" by detailing different groups and their inability to overcome their differences. Roy's rare portrait of the realities of immigrant Muslim life offers a necessary alternative to the popular specter of an "Islamic threat. " Supporting his arguments with his extensive research on Islamic history, sociology, and politics, Roy brilliantly demonstrates the limits of our understanding of contemporary Islamic religious practice in the West and the role of Islam as a screen onto which Western societies project their own identity crisis.
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