“Islam” and the Problem of Meta-Narratives in IR – A Critical Perspective on Research beyond the West
Jan Wilkens is a PhD candidate and researcher in the Project “Constitutionalism Unbound – Developing triangulation for International Relations” at the University of Hamburg, Germany.
“Islam” in particular as well as “the MENA region” more generally continue to be research objects that are often reflected upon in the light of specific grand narratives. “Orientalism”, “Clash of Civilisations”, and the “Arab Spring” are not only indicative of the ambiguous position of “Islam” in varying discourses but also shows its particular relevance within IR due to its meaning in the global realm. Does the requirement to develop an Islamic or Middle Eastern IR theory logically follow? This paper argues that such an endeavour would rather reinforce meta-theoretical narratives and eventually perpetuate Middle Eastern exceptionalism. Instead, this paper seeks to contribute to critical IR theory which accounts for the ‘situatedness’ of meaning that shapes social practices in a particular context. Further, in an increasingly globalised world that harbours more and more constitutionalised structures on a global scale, the question of legitimacy has to be substantially addressed. Thus, the paper proceeds in three steps: First, it critically assesses predominant IR theories (tacitly) working with normative assumptions, e.g the Westphalian system, and thus producing positivistic scholarship based upon “Western principles”. Second, it will be shown that a turn to reflexive scholarship and interpretive methods in IR not only allow to better assess the diverse practices that are related to “Islam” in different contexts but also constitute the basis to critically approach the question of legitimacy. Third, the discourses during the Syrian uprising will empirically highlight the theoretical claim.
The Minaret vs. the Ivory Tower: Re-Reading Western IR Theory through an Islamic Episteme
Dr. Naveed Sheikh (Keele University, UK)
While much scholarly attention has in recent decades been placed on situating religion in general, and Islam in particular, into Western-dominated IR theory–invariably as an attempt to tame the analytically unspeakable and transform Geisteswissenschaft to Socialwissenschaft–little has sofar been said in terms of Islam’s own normativity in relation to established IR paradigms. The present paper seeks to answer the question of how Islam, qua ethico-nomocentric ideational form, would read the state of art in contemporary IR theory. Drawing on Islam’s own intellectual history pertaining to the questions of power, rights and statecraft–from the Constitution of the Medinan Prophetocracy to the meditations of Abbasid jurists on the nature of politics—but tempered also by that Islamic orthopraxy of which Islamic politics is an extension, the paper provides a critical inquiry into both the ontology and epistemology of Realism and other schools of contemporary IR theory from an Islamicate position. What is at stake in this examination is whether Islam, as a theologically anchored Weltanschauung, provides a fundamentally dissident discourse about the nature of international relations relative to the assumptions implicit in leading IR theories, or whether Islamic normativity, just like Islamist politics, is co-optable in relation to post-Westphalian paradigms of world politics. The answer to this question has implications not only for the intellectual debates surrounding late-modernity’s hybrid social forms but also for the broader question of regional and indeed world order in an age characterized by the political ascendancy of Islam.
“The Parting of the Ways”: A Qutbian Approach to International Relations
Dr. Carimo Mohomed (Officer Research Committee 43 (Religion and Politics) – International Political Science Association
In the last chapter of his book Social Justice in Islam, Sayyid Qutb asked about the direction the world was going, and wished to go, after two world wars. He also considered that the real struggle was between Islam on the one hand and the combined camps of Communist Russia (Soviet Union) and the West (Europe and America) on the other. From Qutb’s point of view, Islam was the true power that opposed the strength of the materialistic philosophy and possessed a universal theory of life which could be offered to mankind, a theory whose aims were a complete mutual help among all men and a true mutual responsibility in society. Sixty years after the first edition of his seminal work, the world is a different place with the Soviet Union no longer in place, the Arab world going through profound changes, the West becoming parochial, and the Rest asserting itself. Using Sayyid Qutb’s political theory, this paper will try to assess how a new, and different, International Relations practice could become viable and surpass an anachronistic world order established after the end of the 1939-1945 war.
CAM Analysis of Nation-State in IR and Islam
Nassef Manabilang Adiong (Founder, IR-IS Research Cohort)
The elemental subject of this study is the concept of ‘nation-state’ but delimited within the bounds of two disciplines, i.e. International Relations (IR) and Islamic Studies (IS), particularly Political Islam and Jurisprudence. This is in part of the author’s aim of contributing to the evolving literature on the relation of IR and religion in the 21st century. The defining problem lies in the vagueness of interpretations and understanding on the conceptualization of nation-state in those mentioned disciplines while subsequently reaching a ‘via media’ of understanding. To ameliorate our focal understanding, the proponent selected two frameworks: 1) a selective mainstream theoretical IR survey, i.e. Liberalism, Realism, and Social Constructivism only, and 2) Islamic jurisprudential and political understanding of nation-state. It will humbly try to examine, analyze, and decipher the origin, idea, and operationalization of nation-state in IR and IslStud by the usage of Comparative Analytical Method (CAM). Three data analytical or coding stages under CAM will be operationalized: the first stage is setting the Textual Codes via alpha-numerical representation next is processing the Arithmetical Codes and the last step is determining the Categorical Codes. Through these CAM codes, the inferential chart of ‘compare and contrast’ will compose the result of data analysis. Thus, allowing us to categorically pinpoint inferences of similarities and differences, and further it through the use of analytical induction, which is, inducing it to specific facts or imperative details. In generalization, there were foreseen differences and/or similarities on the notions of level of analysis, sovereignty, citizenship, and territoriality.