ASTK15357U  COURSE: The 'politics' of Political Islam

Volume 2015/2016

Bachelor level 10 ECTS

Master level 7.5 ECTS

Elective course - SRM

Bachelor students can only sign up for this course if they are enrolled at political science


Course Outline:
This course focuses on a specific ‘brand’ of politicized religiosity, namely, ‘Political Islam’. With Islamists’ following a contentious path towards becoming the ‘new’ political elite in the Muslim world, questions such as ‘Who are Islamists?’ and ‘What do they want?’ are rampant. Therefore, going beyond the particulars of religious discourse, this course draws on a critical understanding of the notion of ideology as ‘lived experiences’ to elaborate the identity and history of Islamists that have shaped their tactics of contention. Finally, as Political Islam is a broad and multifaceted topic, at the end of the course, along with a comprehensive knowledge of Islamism, I hope the students will also be proficient
in the appropriate conceptual and theoretical tools needed to aptly understand Islamist activism from a cross-regional and cross-disciplinary perspective.
Course Headings:

  1. Introduction
  2. Religion, Secularism and International Relations
  3. Studying Ideology: A Theoretical Perspective on Studying Political Islam
  4. Political Islam: A Historical Perspective (2 seminars)
  5. New Islamic Movements: Struggle between Violence and Social Service (Example: Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the Houthi Army)
  6. Political Islam and Women
  7. The Arab Spring and the Rise of Islamism
  8. Islamic Governance (Case Studies: Turkey, Egypt, Palestine, Iran and Tunisia)
  9. Opposition to Islamism (Case Studies: Turkey, Egypt and Iran)
  10. Islamism at Home: Muslim Political Activism in Europe
  11. Paper Consultation: One day (9am – 6pm) will be allocated for students to discuss their final assignments with the instructor.
  12. Studying Islamism at Ground Level: Fieldwork Methodology
  13. Conclusion
Learning Outcome

Competency profile/Course objectives:
Upon completion of the course, students should

  • Be able to rise above politicized academic and public discourses on Islamists and demonstrate a familiarity with a history of their identity
  • Be able to demonstrate how and why ‘Islamists’ engaging a particular ‘type’ of contention finds legitimacy and credibility in society.
  • Be able to challenge ‘mainstream’ approaches to studying Islamism and engage in an interdisciplinary approach that draws on non-traditional understandings of religious activism, ideology and rebellion.
  • Be able to demonstrate empirical knowledge of major strands of Islamist activism

Preliminary Reading List and Topics

  • Asad, Talal. Formations of the Secular (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003): 1-17
  • Keddie, Nikki R. “Secularism & Its Discontents” Daedalus 132.3 (Summer, 2003): 14-30
  • Haynes, Jeffrey. “Religion and International Relations after ‘9/11’ Democratization 12.3 (June, 2005): 398-413
  • Berger, Peter L. “The Desecularization of the World: A Global Overview” in: ed. Peter L. Berger. The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999): 1-18
  • Haugbolle, Sune. “Reflections on Ideology After the Arab Spring” Jadaliyya (March 21, 2012)
  • Khalidi, Muhammad Ali and Terry Regier. “The Arab Street: Tracking a Political Metaphor” Middle East Journal 63.1 (Winter 2009): 11-29
  • Browers, Michaelle L. Political Ideology in the Arab World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009): 1-76 (“Introduction”, “Retreat from Secularism” and “A More Inclusive Islamism?”)
  • Sarkar, Sumit “The Conditions and Nature of Subaltern Militancy: Bengal from Swadeshi to Non-Cooperation, c. 1905-22” in Ranajit Guha (ed), Subaltern Studies III: Writings on South Asian History and Society (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1984)
  • Guha, Ranajit “The Prose of Counter-Insurgency”, in Ranajit Guha (ed), Subaltern Studies II: Writings on South Asian History and Society (Delhi: Oxford University, Press, 1983)
  • Benjamin, Walter. “Theses on the Philosophy of History” in Benjamin Illuminations: Essays and Reflection, in Hanna Arendt (ed.) Introduction; trans Harry Zohn ( New York: Schocken Books, 1978)
  • Rudolph Peters. Islam and Colonialism: The Doctrine of Jihad in Modern History (New York: Mounton, 1979)
  • Shariati, Ali. On the Sociology of Islam (Berkley: Mizan Press, 1979)
  • Lawrence, A,. “Driven to Arms? The Escalation to Violence in National Conflicts” In: E. Chenoweth, A. Lawrence and S. Kalyvas eds. Rethinking Violence: State and Non-State Actors in Conflict. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010): 143-172.
  • Brubaker, R. and Laitin, D. D. “Ethnic and Nationalist Violence” Annual Reviews of Sociology, 24.1 (1999): 423-452
  • Fawaz, M. “Agency and Ideology in Community Services: Islamic NGOs in a Southern Suburb of Beirut” In: S.B. Nefissa, N. A. al-Fattah, S. Hanafi and C. Milanim eds. NGOs and Governance in the Arab World. (Cairo: American University Press, 2005): 229-255.
  • Flanigan, S. T. and Abdel-Samad, M. “Hezbollah’s Social Jihad: Nonprofits as Resistance Organizations” Middle East Policy, 16.2 (2009): 122-137.
  • Flanigan, S. T. “Charity as Resistance: Connections between Charity, Contentious Politics and Terror.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 29.7 (2006): 641-655.
  • Roy, S. Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza: Engaging the Islamist Social Sector. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011): 51-95
  • Shaarawi, Huda. Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist (New York: Feminist Press, 1986)
  • Najmabadi, Afsaneh Najmabadi. “(Un)Veiling Feminism” Social Text 64 18.3 (Fall 2000): 29-46
  • Bayat, Asef. How Ordinary People Change the Middle East (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009): 96-114 (“Feminism of Everyday Life”)
  • Demir, Omer, Mustafa Acar and Metin Toprak. “Anatolian Tigers or Islamic Capital: Prospects and Challenges” Middle Eastern Studies 40.6 (November, 2004)
  • Bayat, Asef. How Ordinary People Change the Middle East (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2009): 241-251 (“No Silence, No Violence”)
  • Al-Anani, Khalil. “Islamist Parties Post-Arab Spring” Mediterranean Politics 17.3 (2012): 466-472
  • Al-Anani, Khalil and Maszlee Malik. ”Pious Way to Politics: The Rise of Political Salafism in Post-Mubarak Egypt” Digest of Middle East Studies 22.1 (2013): 57-73
  • Nilan, Pamela. “Dangerous Fieldwork Re-examined: the question of researcher subject position” Qualitative Research 2.3 (2002): 363-286
  • Hage, Ghassan. “Hating Israel in the Field” Anthropological Theory 9.1 (2009): 59-79
  • Nordstrom, Carolyn and Antomius Robben. Fieldwork Under Fire (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995): 1-40
  • Sayigh, Yezid. “Inducing a Failed State in Palestine” Survival 49.3 (Autumn 2007)
  • Milton-Edwards, Beverly. “The Ascendance of Political Islam: Hamas and consolidation in the Gaza Strip” Third World Quarterly 29.8 (2008)
Students are expected to have a basic theoretical and empirical knowledge of international politics. While knowledge of Middle East politics is not required, participants can read Owen, Roger. State, Power and Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East (New York: Routledge, 2004) in order to acquire a better understanding of regional politics. Despite being a course in the Department of Political Science students with other disciplinary backgrounds are strongly encouraged to enrol in the course.
This course will be a combination of traditional lectures, case studies, extensive class discussions, group work and possibly one external speaker. Another important aspect of the course will be one-on-one consultations between participants and the instructor to discuss final assignment ideas.
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment

Criteria for achieving the goals:

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 168
  • Exam
  • 79
  • Total
  • 275