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Middle East Politics Final
Mid East democracy, women participation, tribal law, wealth of dubai, etc.
Political Studies
Undergraduate 3

Additional Political Studies Flashcards




Rentier Theory

A renter state derives a significant amount (>40%) of its income from non-tax sources (sale of oil, foreign assistance, etc.)


The theory has been used to explain why many states in the Middle East have high per capita incomes, levels of education, etc. but are not democratic (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE).


No representation without taxation! People are not taxed, so have little right to political input.


State is far more wealthy than general population, and so can use its vast resources to repress them. Also, has a good deal of money with which to buy off opposition.


What explains the Middle East's Democratic deficit?



  • Culture (Islam, tribalism, patriarchy)
  • Rentier Theory
  • Low human development
  • International Pressures (U.S. support for autocrats, transnational threats, wars, and interstate conflicts)
Process Variables
  • Lack of national unity
  • Situation at independence
  • Absence of a "hurting stalemate" between empowered groups
  • Measurement Bias

Low Human Development

When pay goes up (people start making more than $3,000 a year), the state begins to change.

  • Higher demands on state infrastructure
  • Higher demand for education
Rise of educated, urban middle class
  • make demands on the state b/c they are close to it.
  • professionals like doctors and lawyers have specialized skills the state needs
  • they have the time to be concerned about political rights
Gross National Product
  • Middle East countries are under-performers, but do much better than more democratized sub-Saharan, Pacific, and South Asian regions.
  • Wealth of Middle East is deceptive- elite groups hold all of the wealth, most are poor.
Income Inequality
  • Middle East is pretty bad, but some democracies, like South Africa, are much worse.
  • Oil money contributes to coffers of the wealthy, builds state security.
Education and Health Issues
  • Score on Human development index does not correlate to high democracy.
  • Libya, for example, scores very high, because it invests a lot of oil money into human services to keep population compliant.

Industrialization/Urbanization and Democracy


  • The working class traditionally pushes for political rights, leading to strikes and labor uprisings. 
  • In industrialized nations, economy needs workers to function, so their collective voice is powerful.
  • There is very low industry in oil-producing states. More diversified nations traditionally have a larger industrial sector, and do better in terms of freedom and democracy.
  • The Middle East is fairly well urbanized, but continues to fail in terms of democracy and freedom.

International Influence on Democracy in the Middle East

Lack of access to global culture
  • Remains quite isolated from rest of the world.
  • Travel fairly restricted
  • Does poorly in terms of internet use, other areas of the world are far better connected
Influence of U.S.
  • Sold billions of dollars of weaponry to autocratic states (esp. Saudi Arabia)
  • Didn't pressure Mubarak, who won Egyptian election amidst charges of corruption, to step down.
  • Plan to "encourage stability" in Middle East changed after 9/11
  • Democracy seen as the cure for terrorism, so encourage freedom to earn peace.
Middle East Partnership Initiative
  •  A program of the U.S. State Department.
  • Four key pillars: economic, education, women's empowerment, and political
  • Political pillar seeks to develop institutions and processes that are essential to active citizenries and accountable, representative government.
Goal Areas of Political Pillar
  • Elections and Political Processes: Strengthen democratic practices, electoral systems, including political parties and parliamentarians.
  • Civil Society and Reform Advocacy: Support an expanded public space where democratic voices can be heard in the political process
  • Media: Strengthen the role of free and independent media in society
  • Rule of Law: Promote the rule of law, and accountable, effective government and judicial institutions
Public Diplomacy
  • U.S. government believes it can develop democracy through directly communicating to people of the Middle East.
  • We have done a terrible job of presenting ourselves to Arabs since the 1950s, especially during the beginning of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
  • U.S. believes that the problem is not our actions, but that the Middle East doesn't know or understand us. So, reaching out to the Arab world will inevitably lead to more favorable view of democracy, less terrorism.
What We're Doing Now
  • Partnerships for Learning, inviting Arab students to study in U.S.
  • Ad campaign about religious freedom in America
  • Department of State speakers program
  • Al Hurra Television, Radio Sawa, Middle East Television Network
  • American Rooms
  • Hi Magazine

Measurement Bias of Democracy in the Middle East

  • Question whether people who code states are really considering the diverse ways people in the Arab world contribute to political processes, or are just regurgitating the assumed state of affairs.
  • Freedom House's "party free" category does little to fully capture the "history of political eclecticism" in the region.

Reasons Islam IS NOT Compatible with Democracy


Islam is centered on the sovereignty of God, not the sovereignty of man.


  • Thus democracy is the opposite of Islam. This argument is usually made by hardline Islamist radicals (ex. Iran)
  • Must adhere to Sharia in all matters to preserve sovereignty of God


Sharia lives little or no space for human decisions


  • There are few cases in which the Sharia is silent, and humans make communal decisions on those silences.
  • However, should not expand human authority to same level of law making.
  • Democracy should be rejected because it would give people the ability to overrule a religious text (ex. making capital punishment illegal).


Citizens are given rights as part of the state community, not as individuals


  • Non-Muslims were integrated into the state and received rights as a defined community, not as individuals.
  • Sharia law makes Muslims equal under the law, but not non-Muslims. Rights are determined by religion, not citizenship.


Democracy can lead to unjust outcomes


  • Here, secular and religious critiques of democracy overlap.
  • elections can be hijacked by the rich and powerful
  • the rights of future generations and the unborn are not protected in democracies as they are under Sharia
  • People are easily swayed and deeply flawed, which can lea to mistakes: Hitler was democratically elected.
  • The majority can easily dominate the minority. The Koran warns against this, saying only with input of minority and majority can the truth be determined.


Democracy can lead to fitna (disunity)


  • Muslims are part of one, large community
  • Democracies require division to function, and encourage disagreement, not consensus. This will tear the Islamic community apart.
  • The Koran only mentions two parties: the party of God, and the party of Satan
  • Democracy does not have strong rule, which prevents the intrusion of outsiders.


Democracy is a forbidden imitation of a non-Islamic practice


  • Democracy is inherently Western, and thus should not be imitated.
  • There is no separation of church and state is Islam: political policy is listed in the Sharia, unlike in other religions


Democracy cannot emerge because of the state-society relations created by Islam. This argument takes two conflicting forms- that Islamic nations have strong societies and weak states, and that Islamic nations have strong states and weak societies.


Strong Society vs. Weak State


  • Islam helps this, as there are no priests for the government to control.
  • Religious entrepreneurs challenge the state when it tries to enforce orthodoxy
  • These countries always have trouble raising armies, because they are distant, predatory states whose citizens want to ignore it.
  • No pressure for democracy because people want to go about their business
Strong State Vs. Weak Society
  • State is legitimated by Islam- anything is better than chaos.
  • The rule of passivity has lead to authoritarian states, and encourages Muslims to be loyal to the ruler (leftover self-preservation instincts from the Mongol invasions)



Who says Islam is incompatible with Democracy?

Mostly Radicals on Both Sides


  • Al-Queda and Al-Zawahiri say that democracy is a western invention used to divide and undermine the Islamic world and undermine sovereignty of God.
  • Islamophobic groups in America say Democracy is incompatible with Islam
  • Saudi Arabia is moderate, says they are a democracy, and American democracy inappropriate in Middle East.


Reasons Islam IS Compatible with Democracy

Neither the Koran or Hadith designate a proper form of government

  • Does not call democracy bad

God delegated sovereignty to the people

  • Koran says men are "vice-regents" of God
  • humans have a special role on earth, and Muslims have a special connection to God.
  • God is sovereign, but he delegated this power to man through the agency for self determination.
  • Separation of powers and rule of law restricts the power of man to overrule the power of God.
  • We can only know God's will through humans- the koran does not speak, humans speak for it.
  • all interpretations of the koran come from humans, in authoritarianism lose important aspect of Islam by not recognizing role of the people in determining God's will.
  • interpretation cannot come from one or a few individuals (autocracy, plutocracy)

Democracy serves the basic principle of Islam

  • they do a better job at ensuring fairness, justice, and equality before God than autocracies

Democracy is most Islamic form of government because it results in the best outcomes for the people


Sharia law leaves many gaps which Muslims can regulate for themselves

  • Parliament can interpret Islamic law as well as any other group, and so can legislate for gaps in Sharia
  • Everything in Koran is open to interpretation. For example, many tenants of Islam made lives of women better. So, can be assumed Islam is fundamentally designed to improve the lives of women. This can be done today by granting them full legal rights and equality.

Sharia is the ideal, Democracy can bring Muslims close to it

  • No one man can know God's plan, Democracy can help states do the best they can

All Muslims are equal

  • This idea is enforced in democracy, not authoritarianism

Muslim democracy does not have to imitate the West


Islamic acceptance of pluralism

  • Democracy is contract between ruler and ruler. Contract is renewed in elections.

Compact of Medina


Islamic concepts like shura and ijma suggest that democracy is very Islamic

  • Both practices of "consultation" and consensus by Islamic community, praised in Koran


Who argues Islam is compatible with Democracy?

Moderates, sometimes Americans


Tariq Ramadan

  • Argues Islam has fundamental principles that support Democracy.
  • Very pragmatic, doesn't push Sharia too hard, but tries to engage those who don't agree with him in discussion.

Hezbollah and Democracy

Hezbollah likes Democracy as long as it benefits them

  • In 1990, Lebanese Civil War ends and elections resume
  • Hezbollah used to be totally dedicated to Ayatollah Khomeni, but now he's gone.
  • Participated in elections starting in 1992.
  • At first, "we'll participate, but we won't like it. and we won't accept cabinet positions in this flawed democrcy we don't approve of"
  • in 1998, began to call for municipal elections, and won larger percentage of seats. Won even more in 2004.
  • Predictably, they began to stop their calls for an Islamic State
How do they justify this?
  • Say only way to achieve their policies other than democracy is violence, which is unacceptable.
  • As islamic groups participate in democracy, they become more moderate, and willing to accept it

Reasons it Doesn't Matter if Democracy and Islam are Compatible

If anything, support for Democracy has increased everywhere but Iraq

  • Democracy is best, or fairly good, form of government
  • All of Arab Middle East supports it
However, nearly half of Muslims believe religions should play some role in government, and many support the Sharia
  • Say Sharia limits excess by and power of government
  • Number who want Islamic Democracy or Secular Democracy fairly equal- very few want authoritarianism

Why is Arab Middle East Less Democratic than Other Muslim Nations?

Arab Culture?

  • Culture of patronage and division encouraged by tribalism
  • little national identity

Twin Tolerations

That government doesn't interfere with religion, and religion doesn't interfere with government.


Do you need this for democracy?

  • Not really.
  • A lot of western states still maintain state religions (ex. Scandinavia). Only France crazy secular.
The idea that Islam isn't compatible with democracy could also be said about Christianity
  • Christians only recently fully accepted democracy
  • Catholicism had power of God vs. power of man crisis just like Islam

Who is an Islamist?

Advocate for a greater role for Islamic Law in policy making

  • Al Queda is Islamist to the extreme- want return to Caliphate and strict Sharia law, feel that all Middle East governments are illegitimate
  • Not all like this though, many more moderate groups
Justify policy positions on their permissibility within Islam

Names, practices, and rhetoric all refer to religious tradition

The Da'wa Party

Islamist party in Iraq


Name means "The Call"


Central Tenants:

Absolute sovereignty belongs to God.
Islamic injunctions are the basis of legislation.  The legislative authority may enact any law not repugnant to Islam.
The people, as vice regents of Allah, are entrusted with legislative authority and executive powers.
The jurist holding religious authority represents Islam. By confirming legislative and executive actions, he gives them legality.


Two Factions:

Islamic Da'wa

  • Headed by Maliki, hold 12 seats in Council of Reps
  • People are God's agents on earth
  • Encourages democracy guided by Sh'ia religious scholars
Da'wa Tanzim
  • Headed by Abdel Karim
  • 13 seats in Council of Reps
  • wants Jurisconsulate to guide politics, like Iran
  • less democratic

The Origins of the Islamic Revival

Dates from about 1980


Historical Antecedents

  • Period of internal decline of middle eastern states
  • response to the challenge of the west, culturally and militarily- critique of secular cultures

Post-WWI Settlement


The Failure of Arab Nationalism


Social and Political Trends

  • Urbanization
  • Authoritarianism
  • Failure of State to meet social needs

The Iranian Revolution

  • Gave hope to Islamist groups
  • showed power of Islam to reject governments imposed on them by authoritarians and west

The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

  • Muslim country invaded by Communist country- way to see political world in religious fashion

What Forms do Islamist Groups Take?

Political Parties

  • Participates in elections (ex. Da'wa in Iraq)

Cells/"Leaderless Resistance"

  • ex. Al-Qaeda

Hierarchical Militias

  • ex. The Taliban

Functionally Specialized Membership Organizations

  • Have party leader and complex structure and people involved in education
  • ex. Hezbollah

Political Party with Separate Military/Social Wing

  • ex. Muslim Brotherhood a social movement, Islamic Action Front party born from movement

Broad Social Movement Associated With Particular Politicians

  • Diverse set of individuals connected to all aspects of government
  • Sadrist Movement in Iraq, have militia, so can't have a party.

The Muslim Brotherhood

Started to confront the penetration of the British into everyday Egyptian life


Wanted to help the lower classes feel more at home in their own country, as they felt increasingly distant from Westernized Egyptian elite


Build institutions throughout Egypt to help Muslims live as Muslims


Key Events

  • Death of Al-Banna
  • After assassination attempt on Nasser, he locks up all members of MB, who become radicalized in prison
  • Publication of "Preachers not Judges" encourages people to live as better Muslims in nonviolent social movement
  • Death of Sayyid Qutb, leading jihadist thinker who said leaders of Egypt no longer Muslim and could be killed
  • The Oil Boom 1973-1983
  • Anwar Sadat frees MB from prison, and they begin to participate in politics
Most Sunni political parties born from MB

Are generally similar, but some more radical than others

What effect does participating in Democracy have on Islamist groups?

After collapse of oil boom in 1980s, more pressure for democracy.

States were reliant on oil wealth, when wealth disappeared, could no longer provide for the people, so contract between authoritarian ruler and citizens was violated.

Defaulting on national debt, rioting, unemployment, and Arab-Israeli quagmire prominent throughout Middle East.

Many states decided to give people vote because they couldn't give them bread, but had no intention of changing governments.


Islamist groups were the only parties that oucld organize and participate effectively

  • had mosques to gather supporters
  • had ready made political speeches and leaders
  • main opponent, Arab nationalism, had been crushed
Began era of fake democratization and competition between government and Islamic groups


The Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian Politics

In 1984, Anwar Sadat allows MB to participate in Parliamentary elections.

They join with weak political party, and force them to push for Sharia law and attack secularization.

In 1997, they join with another weak party, which gives them control of newspapers, which they use to rail against government corruption, and push for democracy, economic laws that favored the private sector, and the adoption of Islamic law.


As they began to participate in Democracy, their platform moderated.

  • in 2004, platform took liberal, open positions, and justified them with Islamic law
  • Rejected radical, violent members of party
What pushed them to moderate?
  • Wanted votes and compromise- those who didn't agree left the group
  • Younger, more democratically oriented members took control
  • Idea of citizenship in practice
  • Still very anti-Israel, but now whatever works for Palestine works for them



Secularism and the Turkish Constitution

Ataturk banned all kinds of religious activity at the end of WWI, and imposed secularism in Turkey. This secularism is written into the Turkish Constitution.


Growing concern about the Soviet Union in 1970s and 80s

  • People were worried leftists supported by Russia were gaining influence in Turkey
  • Allowed islamic life back into state and education to combat socialist influence
Islamist parties were born and reborn again and again, and were banned again and again by Turkish courts

Finally, Justice and Development Party (AKP) wins majority in Parliament and not declared unconstitutional by courts.

Have stopped calling for Sha'ria law to survive as a party, and have adopted moderate stances to both remain popular and try to avoid a military coup

Should Islamist Parties be Allowed to Take Power?

Sure, why not?

  • The AKP argues for more space for religious practice in the public sphere: people should be freer to practice their religion without it being a big deal. 
Put to test in 2005, when Hamas and Iraqi Islamists come to power
  • Egyptian president would say this is bad, they are backwards and terrorists
  • Islamists say they have abandoned platforms that scare moderates in order to win seats, and want to implement human rights
There is no evidence (except Sudan) of an Islamist power changing a constitution or refusing to give up power
  • Islamists say they represent no threat to secularization or democracy

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Electoral Manipulation

  • Jordan becomes independent in 1946
  • Start moving towards democracy, but Arab-Israeli War creates problems
  • King Abdullah takes the West Bank, and gives Palestinians full voting rights.
  • King Hussein comes to power in 1950s and is nearly deposed by Nasserists
  • In response, he severely limits democracy for next decade
  • Jordan loses West Bank in 1967
  • Uses war to suspend Democracy- says can't have elections because Palestinians in West Bank are occupied and can't vote
  • Rewrites suspends Parliament and rewrites constitution in 1974
  •  Operates as complete autocracy until 1989
  • Has huge debt crisis in 1989, which encouraged King to open government
  • No political parties allowed, but Muslim Brohood organized enough to organize group of candidates
  • Were easily the most successful group in the first election cause noone else was organized
  • Now King has pissed off Islamist parliament calling for Islamic law and slamming Israel
  • However, he wants to sign peace treaty with Israel, so he dissolves parliament early, setting precedent
  • Changes elections from proportional representation to first past the post, because he knows Jordinians will vote for tribe members first, then Islamists
  • results in tribal parliament
  • Also banned Muslim Brotherhood party, as it was Egyptian, not Jordanian

Examples of Limiting Islamist Participation in Middle East

  • In some states political parties illegal
  • In others illegal for party to have religious roots
  • Some have laws preventing parties from "duplicating other parties" locking all Islamists in one group
  • When Islamists responded by running as independents, Egypt banned running as an independent
  • Some use the courts: arrest candidates so they cant run, claim they are protecting national security, get support of US
  • Control the Press: capitol requirements for newspapers put end to independent publications and papers with "nothing to lose"
  • simple fraud: bussing voters, force places to vote at different times

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