May 01, 2006
The Pious Middle & Socio-Political Reform in MENA, or Real Roots Change in Islam versus Empty Alienated Posturing
Our dear Editor in Chief, etc, linked on the sidebar an arty from The New York Times that deserves to be highlighted and discussed further, above all in the context of our own Eva Luna's short note on Irshaad Manji's talk in Chicago, and my (our perhaps?) Pious Middle thesis: Ministering to the Upwardly Mobile Muslim, a story on the famous TV 'preacher' Amr Khaled.
The article itself is long and generally very well done, in my opinion. It has some small idiocies of ignorance due to the Journo's lack of background, but they are relatively minor. Most notably the title (which probably is the ignoramus edtiros' fault), which rather implies a kind of social mobility and place of the "Middle Class" that is very North American and really deeply misreads the equivalent socio-economic strata in MENA (all things being equal, that is - I would note my comment here is about the 'Arab' Middle East, as I know fuck all about Iran, but presumably broadly similar). Upwardly mobile is a sad and terrible distortion, although it is indeed the dream of the newly educated 'pious middle' - a frustrated dream. Thus the emmigration, deep social tensions, etc.
But, let me try to stay on the arty itself.
Regretably I haven't the time to do my usual tear an article apart bit by bit thing, but a few comments.
First, it strikes me that if you want to get a sense of the real 'moderate' pioius middle in the Arab MENA area, Amr Khalid is it (all things being equal, etc.). A conservative (theologically speaking) approach to the religion, but frustrated with the rigid and inappropriate legalisms of the formally trained, and someone who more or less "wants to get along" While intellectual reformers such as Tariq Ramadan probably rightly critique our former account Amr Khaled as glossing over issues and being perhaps incoherent, it strikes me that the populist, conservative but not particularly judgmental nor rigid approach rather captures popular, educated, urban belief - at least its style if not in the absolute detials across the whole region. (That being said, there are clear similarities between Ramadan's thinking and Khaled's re engaging the feared "West" and the section in the arty where Khaled encounters what I would call "rather typical Mosque activist crowd" that don't quite grasp his critique of them is interesting for its reflexion on identity politics in Europe in this area).
This is the "pious Middle" I am constantly refering to, and it strikes me that this is the socio-political reality that anyone genuinely interested and concerned with the Middle East and North Africa must engage. Bloody whinging on about Islam needing reform and pointing to apostates and alienated near-apostates as the answer is of course sheer idiocy and certainly has never worked as 'reforming' a religious movement anywhere to my knowledge.
As to Khaled's "real" political space, I might note it rather strikes me that he falls well within the moderate/politically liberal end of the "Brotherhood" (Ikhouan al-Muslimine) spectrum, or on the conservative end of the 'secularists.' Either way, solidly in the middle, and rather representing the sort of people that do not have much political space outside of the ostentatiously and faux-secular political space.
In short, the Pious Middle that needs to be engaged.
Posted by The Lounsbury at May 1, 2006 03:49 PM
Filed Under: Islam & Politics
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Speaking of the Pious Middle, that's what this CS Monitor article about a new TV station seems to be about. I would have preferred if the article itself, complete with mandatory 'not every woman wore a veil' reference, had been written by someone a bit more savvy.
Posted by: Antiquated Tory at May 2, 2006 07:37 PM