Legitimacy in the Arab World

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<ul><li><p>8/4/2019 Legitimacy in the Arab World</p><p> 1/10</p></li><li><p>8/4/2019 Legitimacy in the Arab World</p><p> 2/10</p><p>The substance of government legitimacy, then, Coicaud argues, is norms and values, the very</p><p>core of which makes up the societys identity. An abuse of those inalienable norms will be</p><p>perceived as a grave psychological assault. As a way to institutionalise such values, and to ensure</p><p>reciprocity, the societys identity must be reflected in lawat least as a credible aim of</p><p>achievement.3 Furthermore, conformity to the law is more important than the exact application.</p><p>As the base of authority, the sovereign leader has to be subordinated to the lawhis actions</p><p>restricted. If not, and if laws are not reflecting identity, their rejection is plausible; worse, the</p><p>societys identity risks being discredited. 4Although it may seem obvious that authority and law</p><p>must reflect mass identity, it is clearly at odds with, for example, the Weberian approach, which</p><p>declares that legality and solid institutions, rather than norms, drive government legitimacy.5 For</p><p>Weber, however, the colonial assault and its full implications in the Arab World was unknown.6</p><p>Because of the confusion, violence, and resentment towards government that ensued from it,</p><p>Colonialism has demonstrated the necessity of a coherent normative foundation to achieve</p><p>government legitimacy.</p><p>The Analysis</p><p>To analyse the relevance of Coicauds definition to the Arab World, the broad characteristics of</p><p>the indigenous Arab identity must first be outlined. Generally, as far as a common language,</p><p>traditional culture (very broadly), and religion (Islam) are concerned, people in the Arab World</p><p>seem to share an identity. Most importantly, the Umma, religious community dating back to the</p><p>prophet, still constitutes a pervasive Muslim collective consciousness of fundamental</p><p>Gustav Mansson</p><p>Student no: 41124235</p><p>3Coicaud, Legitimacy and politics,pp. 15-18.</p><p>4Ibid.,pp. 19-25.</p><p>5 Max Weber,Economy and society : an outline of interpretive sociology (Berkeley: University ofCalifornia Press, 1978), p. 36; For a similar, more contemporary approach, see also: Samuel P.Huntington,Political order in changing societies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), pp.</p><p>8-12.</p><p>6 Max Weber died in 1920 at the height of European Colonialism.</p></li><li><p>8/4/2019 Legitimacy in the Arab World</p><p> 3/10</p><p>significance.7 The argument, however, is not that the population of the Arab World is</p><p>homogenousthe cultural differences in the region are huge, demonstrated, for example, by the</p><p>failure of the Arab-Unity project.8 Rather, given the predominance of Islam and its significant</p><p>influence on the lives of Muslims, Islams great importance as a unifying, normative factor in the</p><p>Arab World is stressed.</p><p>But during European Colonialism, secular values, institutions, and leaders were brutally forced</p><p>upon the Arab World, with little consideration taken to such an Islamic identity. The ensuing</p><p>crisis in government legitimacy was further exacerbated by the lack of reciprocity between the</p><p>new secular governments and the masses. Therefore, Paul Salem speaks of a psychological crisis</p><p>precipitated by the challenge of Western secularism; William E. Shephard forewarns of</p><p>secularisms weak roots in Islamic tradition; and Tariq Al-Bishri, an Egyptian intellectual, states</p><p>that European laws "drove a wedge between governments and their people.9 But is this true even</p><p>today, more than half a century later? That contemporary, still predominantly secular, Arab</p><p>governments are increasingly forced to seek legitimacy from Islam suggests that. So does the</p><p>challenge of radical Islamism, epitomised by the extraordinary rise of the Muslim Brotherhood</p><p>a popular, Islamic movement in Egypt, Syria and Jordan, working to achieve a social justice that</p><p>Gustav Mansson</p><p>Student no: 41124235</p><p>7 Michael C. Hudson,Arab politics : the search for legitimacy (New Haven: Yale UniversityPress, 1977), p. 37-39; Roger Owen, State, power and politics in the making of the modernMiddle East(London: Routledge, 2004), p.57; John L. Esposito, The Islamic threat : myth or</p><p>reality? (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 30, p.33. For another example of thestrong collective consciousness of contemporary Muslims, see: Lori Peek, Becoming Muslim:The Development of a Religious Identity, Sociology of Religion, Vol. 66, No. 3 (Autumn 2005),</p><p>pp. 215-242.</p><p>8 For example, see: Michael C. Hudson, Middle East dilemma : the politics and economics ofArab integration (New York: Columbia University Press, in association with the Center for theContemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University; 1999), pp. 1-32.</p><p>9 Paul Salem,Bitter legacy : ideology and politics in the Arab world(Syracuse, N.Y: SyracuseUniversity Press, 1994), p. 15. See also: Shahram Akbarzadeh and Abdullah Saeed, Islam and</p><p>politics, in Shahram Akbarzadehand Abdullah Saeed (eds) Islam and Political legitimacy(London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), p. 4. Tariq al-Bishri,Dirasat fi-l-Dimuqratiyya al-Misriyya(Studies in Egyptian Democracy) (Cairo: Dar al-Sharouq, 1987), pp. 174-175; William E.</p><p>Shepard, Islam and Ideology: Towards a Typology,International Journal of Middle EastStudies, Vol.27, No. 3 (Winter 2002/03), pp. 323-324. See also: Hudson,Arab Politics,pp.123-125.</p></li><li><p>8/4/2019 Legitimacy in the Arab World</p><p> 4/10</p><p>has been denied by the state.10 With a prevailing discrepancy between Arab governments and</p><p>popular identity based on Islam, the substance of government legitimacy in Coicauds definition</p><p>is undermined.</p><p>Furthermore, popular rise of Islamism has often been brutally quelled. Syria, ruled by the</p><p>secular Baath-party, has suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood; the same policy has beenand is</p><p>used by the Western-backed Egyptian president Mubarak.11 The vicious circle undermining</p><p>legitimacy becomes clear: To legitimise suppression, Coicaud stresses that governments require a</p><p>strong consent. In fact, since it has been suggested that popular identity is poorly reflected in</p><p>government, consent is weak. As discontent rises, more force is necessary to sustain the</p><p>government, further eroding the basis for consent and, thus, government legitimacy. A more</p><p>successful, reconciliatory approach towards Islamists is evident in Jordan; and in Kuwait, even</p><p>more tolerant governments have contributed to a relatively legitimate, stable system with limited</p><p>discontent.12 Clearly, to brutally quell discontent rooted in the substance of legitimacy, the</p><p>Islamic identity, only undermines long-term prospects for government legitimacy.</p><p>There is, however, a growing realisation among Arab governments that law has to reflect</p><p>popular Islamic identity. In Egypt, the constitution has been amended, declaring Islamic law</p><p>(Sharia) the principle source of legislation; in Syria, a bill to further secularise the constitution</p><p>has been scrapped.13 But as suppression continues, such legal measures seem to have been only</p><p>Gustav Mansson</p><p>Student no: 41124235</p><p>10 On the rise of Islamism and legitimacy sought from Islam, see: Shahram Akbarzadeh, Statelegitimacy, in Shahram Akbarzadeh and Abdullah Saeed (eds) Islam and Political legitimacy(London: Routledge Curzon, 2003), p. 169. See also: Ilan Papp, The modern Middle East(London: Routledge, 2005),p. 277. On the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, see: Esposito, TheIslamic Threat,p. 112; Owen, State, Power, and Politics, p. 164; Papp, The Modern Middle</p><p>East,pp. 272-273; Hesham Al- Awadi, Mubarak and the Islamists: why did the "honeymoon"end?, The Middle East Journal, Vol . 59 No. 1 (Winter 2005), pp. 62-81, The Move toCoercion. About the prevailing lack of reciprocity in the Arab World, see for example: Aburish,A brutal friendship,pp. 70-72.</p><p>11 On Syria, see: Papp, The Modern Middle East,p. 276. On Egypt, see: Esposito, The IslamicThreat,p. 244; Owen, State, Power and Politics,pp. 166; Sad K Aburish,A brutal friendship :the West and the Arab elite (New York: St Martins Press, 1998), p. 65; For a recent update on theEgyptian crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, see also:BBC NEWS: Egypt Islamists' wait forpower, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7335410.stm.</p><p>12 On Kuwaits experiment with democracy, reconciliation with Islamists, and its welfare state,see: Hudson,Arab Politics,pp. 182-189. Modern Reconciliatory Kuwait: Katherine Meyer,Helen Rizzo and Yousef Ali, Changed Political Attitudes in the Middle East: The Case of</p><p>Kuwait,International Sociology Vol. 22 (2007), pp. 289-324.</p><p>13 Akbarzadeh and Saeed, Islam and politics, pp. 7-8; Papp, The Modern Middle East,p. 277.</p></li><li><p>8/4/2019 Legitimacy in the Arab World</p><p> 5/10</p><p>aimed at thwarting the rise of Islamism. So their adoption will certainly not enjoy the same level</p><p>of religious legitimacy as, say, the Sharia of Saudi Arabia (SA).14 In SA, however, the rulers</p><p>conformity to the law is inadequate. While Coicaud stresses that law should define the</p><p>sovereigns powers, in SA, as in many other Arab states, leaders are in practise above the law,</p><p>wielding absolute paralegal veto powers.15 Interestingly, in 1992, a clergy sponsored reform</p><p>memorandum made plain such lack of legal restriction.16 Similarly, in Egypt, prominent</p><p>theological scholars are questioning and demanding their rulers accountability.17 Although much</p><p>remains to be done for law to better reflect identity and to improve leadership accountability, the</p><p>debate about conformity to the law in SA and Egypt is encouraging.</p><p>All-Arab issues</p><p>Partly because of the pervasiveness of an Islamic identity, and partly because of events unique</p><p>to the region, all-Arab issues are crucial for short-term government legitimacy. First and arguably</p><p>most important is Palestine. Ever since Britain, the old colonial power, betrayed the Arabs by</p><p>supporting the creation of a Jewish Homeland, Palestine has been high on the agenda. Zionist</p><p>settlements in Palestine, however, had been under way since 1882, culminating in the creation of</p><p>the Jewish state in 1948, followed by subsequent expansion far beyond the original borders.18</p><p>Today, the Palestine question is still as important as ever for Arab governments legitimacy. An</p><p>injustice of epic proportions, the Palestine conundrum is seen as the last remnant of imperialism,</p><p>which the Arab World is still struggling to come to terms with. 19 Notwithstanding Fouad Ajamis</p><p>assertion that Arab unity has failed, Palestine is still one of few issues on which the Arab League</p><p>has been able to show a united front.20 A united front, however, is still just that. It is possible to</p><p>Gustav Mansson</p><p>Student no: 41124235</p><p>14 Larbi Sadiki, Saudi Arabia: re-reading politics and religion in the wake of September 11, inShahram Akbarzadeh and Abdullah Saeed (eds)Islam and Political legitimacy (London:Routledge Curzon, 2003), p. 31.</p><p>15Ibid.,pp. 32-33.</p><p>16Ibid., p. 40.</p><p>17 Bruce K. Rutherford, What do Egypt's Islamists want? Moderate Islam and the rise of Islamicconstitutionalism, The Middle East Journal, Vol 60, Issue 4 (Autumn 2006), pp. 707-732.</p><p>18 Papp, The Modern Middle East,p. 19.</p><p>19 Hudson,Arab Politics,p. 118, p. 124; Salem,Bitter Legacy,pp. 28-29.</p><p>20 Fouad Ajami, The End of Pan-Arabism,Foreign Affairs (Winter 1978/79), p. 368; Hudson,Middle East dilemma, p. 10.</p></li><li><p>8/4/2019 Legitimacy in the Arab World</p><p> 6/10</p><p>see a connection between the failure to coerce Israel into ending the occupation and the rise of</p><p>Islamism, challenging government legitimacy partly because of that failure.21 In that context,</p><p>active support for Palestine is vital.</p><p>A second and related all-Arab issue is the aversion to external presence and influence. This, of</p><p>course, has partly to do with the fairly recent memory of Colonialism, but also with humiliating</p><p>Western interference in historical rises of pan-Arabism.22 In later years, interference by the West</p><p>has taken the form of a supposed struggle between civilisations, exacerbated by the attacks of</p><p>September 11 and the subsequent United States (US) War on Terror.23 Despite this, many Arab</p><p>states are strong allies to the US, which is inducing strong regional, anti-Western discontent. As</p><p>with Palestine, a rift between government and masses can be observed. Whilst there are several</p><p>all-Arab issues, these are the most serious because they draw on the same grievances as with the</p><p>substance of government legitimacy. While not strong enough alone to build long-term</p><p>government legitimacy, all-Arab issues certainly have the power to undermine such efforts.</p><p>Towards legitimacy, a plan of action</p><p>Based on the analysis, a three-step rationale for achieving greater government legitimacy in the</p><p>Arab World will now be offered. As there seems to be no doubt that a strong Islamic identity</p><p>exists in the region, it is fundamental that all spheres of authority reflect and realise that identity.</p><p>The first step to achieving this would be to initiate a thorough revision of the law. This should be</p><p>done in a framework of Ijtihadthe practise, within Islam, of independent thinking and</p><p>reinterpretation of the sacred texts. For all the differences between mass, radical, moderate and</p><p>traditional Islamic identity, support for Ijtihad is largely a uniting force.24 Thus, by revising the</p><p>law in this traditional, Islamic way, not only would the swath of popular Islamic identity be</p><p>incorporated, but the problematic issue of how to cope with modernity couldand shouldbe</p><p>Gustav Mansson</p><p>Student no: 41124235</p><p>21 Akbarzadeh and Saeed, Islam and politics, pp. 4-5.</p><p>22 Ian S. Lustick, The Absence of Middle Eastern Great Powers: Political Backwardness inHistorical Perspective,International Organization, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Autumn, 1997), pp. 653-683.</p><p>23 See for example: Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilisations?,Foreign Affairs, Vol. 72,Issue 3 (Summer 1993), pp. 22-49.</p><p>24 Shepard, Islam and Ideology, pp. 307-336. Islamic constitutionalists: Rutherford, What doEgypt's Islamists want?, Chapter 2, The Source and Purpose of Law.</p></li><li><p>8/4/2019 Legitimacy in the Arab World</p><p> 7/10</p><p>legitimately addressed. Furthermore, the revision of law should entail improved government</p><p>accountability. That would be in accordance with calls, as demonstrated by the Saudi and</p><p>Egyptian examples, for the executive to be separated from, and held accountable to, Sharia. It</p><p>would also acknowledge the Islamic principle of Shura, or consultation, which obliges the ruler</p><p>to consult with the Umma.25</p><p>Second, through the framework of the revised law, government reciprocity, and fair distribution</p><p>of wealth must be ensured. The analysis has shown that apart from relying on their Islamic</p><p>credentials, Islamist groupsHezbollah, The Muslim Brotherhood, etc.are hugely popular for</p><p>their grassroots actions to achieve the social justice that governments have failed to deliver.26</p><p>Rather than trying to suppress groups that better reflect the Islamic identity of the people,</p><p>governments should let them participate in the political process. More importantly, aspects of</p><p>their formula for success should be mimicked; especially their work towards social justice</p><p>through the framework of Islam. Doing so would not only improve government legitimacy, but</p><p>further radi...</p></li></ul>