February 22, 2011

The Green Movement and the role of Islam in revolution


An anxiety prevalent in the analysis of the current democracy movements taking hold of the Middle East is the question regarding Islam’s role in the nascent governments. Will it be dominant? Will it take a backseat? Will the religious elements, like those during the Iranian Revolution of 1979, hijack what appear to be pluralistic, popular movements and substitute new religious autocracies for secular democracy at the last minute?

While we don’t know yet where all this is going (though a few entertaining theories are being asserted–“entertaining” being the operative word), it’s pretty clear that religion will play a role in whatever forms of democracy likely to emerge in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere. But the question for many in the West remains, what exactly will that role be?

As Ahmad Sadri–Professor Sociology and Anthropology at Lake Forest College and contributor to The People Reloadedexplains, the question itself betrays a certain monolithic stereotype we have of the role that religion plays now. Sadri notes in the following video that the better place to start when considering the question is to ask how it actually functions in these societies. He explains that, even in Iran, there is a multitude of voices among clerics and that even though Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the Supreme Leader he does not speak for everyone. So it is worth recognizing this fact before expressing fears that some cartoonish version of Islam is about to take over this new wave of democratic expression. Enjoy.