Travelling to Beirut is always inspirational, the diversity of its people and culture and the absolutely enchanting beauty with the snow covered mountains and cedar dressed hills by the Mediterranean Sea.
The event that has brought me to Lebanon was a seminar on Political Islam.
Political Islam continues to be an important and contentious topic when the future of the Arab world and Arab spring is discussed. The institute in cooperation with the Center for Arab Unity Studies organized this seminar in Beirut 30 November which brought together around 70 researchers from the Arab world. The main aim of the seminar was to address the issue of political Islam in the Arab World in general and analyze the actual roles played by political Islamic forces in the “revolutions” and uprisings which took place in the Arab world during the last three years. Furthermore researchers examined the impact of Islamist-American concurrence during the transitional period in the countries where religious parties took the power. The researchers discussed why the political Islamic forces consumed their popularity so quickly and committed all those critical mistakes which caused the public to turn against them. To what extent are the “Political Islamic” forces ready to carry out intellectual and political reviews of their past experiences, in order to restore a good image among citizens and return to political life? Are we really witnessing the beginning of a “Political Islamic Autumn”, as described by many thinkers who studied that phenomenon lately?
A lot of the discussions revolved around the Egyptian context and the short rule of the Islamists. It was pointed out that political Islam is much greater than the Muslim Brotherhood and that we have to understand the diversity of political Islam. Political Islam can take many shapes and forms. Another issue raised was to what extent the powers behind Political Islam are ready to distinguish themselves decisively and absolutely from jihadi and takfiri forces, and completely renounce violence and duplication of speech and deals.
Some researches stressed that the future of political Islam in the Arab world is absolutely dependent upon the democratic development in the region. It is difficult to talk about political Islam if there is no base for a political democratic life to operate in, like the Gulf countries for example. Each country will have to find its way and its approach. There is no universal recipe for application of political Islam. Another researcher pointed out the importance to unite around the issues of which there is consensus.
One researcher viewed political Islam as sectarian by definition; meaning that when religion is imposed on political conflict, it divides society. Historically religion and politics have never been linked without both of them paying a price.
To conclude one might say that the developments in the region have been and are very difficult to predict. Political Islamic forces have not yet managed to convince people of their aims, contribution and values within a political context. However political Islam is a force that is present, alive and kicking and has to find its approach in the development in the region. The role political Islam will play will differ in each Arab country, but the developments in Egypt will probably have an impact on the whole region.