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Politics and Islam


Admission requirements


This course examines the ways in which Islam manifests itself in the socio-political and religious spheres. The emphasis is on the late twentieth century. The course consists of a series of lectures (including several by guest lecturers) about different approaches to ‘political Islam’, different historical trajectories of Islamist movements, and the ways in which various forms of ‘political Islam’ relate to each other. The emphasis is on the late twentieth century. Topics to be addressed include: the relation between Islam and the state in theory and practice; secularization and Islamization; different local forms of Islamist activism; processes of conservative re-Islamization; conceptual issues; debates on gender and Islamism; the relationship between democratization and political Islam; supra-national patterns of radicalization (with special emphasis on Usama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida); and ‘political Islam’ and democratization.

Course objectives

This course presents students with an interdisciplinary approach to the topic of ‘political Islam’. The aim is to offer insight in the historical development of various strands of ‘political Islam’ and its contemporary diversities in the context of colonization, modernization, and transnationalism. After attending this course the students are supposed to develop a familiarity with the main concepts of ‘political Islam’ in addition to being able to distinguish between traditional legal concepts and the theological background of these modern interpretations. Similarly, students are expected to differentiate between the various manifestations of ‘political Islam’, both conceptually and in practical terms.

Format: Weekly two-hour meetings. Combination of formal lectures, Q&A sessions, discussion, and – possibly – students’ presentations and book reviews. Participation is mandatory. A weekly set of the selected photocopied texts is placed at the cuckoo’s nest (vogelnestje) near the secretariat of Vrieshof, building VRIESH4, room 112A.


Requirements & Assessment

Assessment: Class participation and QACQs (30%); take-home exam (20%); paper and presentation (50%).

  1. Regular attendance and contribution to class discussions is obligatory. Students are allowed to miss two classes for a good reason/force majeure (to the discretion of the convener) and will have to make up for the classes missed. Students who miss more than two classes will fail the course. Note that two ten-minutes delays count as one absence.

  2. QACQs:
    An QACQ (Quote, Argument, Connection and Question) paper is a structured reaction to a text/reading material. The format is a short one page essay in which the student (1) presents a quote from a selected text; (2) describes the main argument; (3) relates the issue to another aspect of the course, a discussion, or the literature; and (4) raises one or more questions.
    Students will be required to hand in an QACQ at the beginning of every week covering the previous week’s material (eight in total). Please consult the document “KAVV_nederlands” on Blackboard for a more detailed explanation in Dutch. KAVV stands for (Kerncitaat/Argument/Verband/Vraag)

  3. Term paper (no less than 2500 and no more than 500 words):
    All students must individually discuss with the convener their topics before starting to work on their papers. Papers will be graded according to the following criteria: factual knowledge, analytical thinking and reflection on course readings (primary and secondary sources).
    Plagiarism results in complete failure of the course. Students will incur a 10% grade penalty for everyday the paper is submitted late (papers submitted 4 days after deadline are not accepted anymore). Term papers must be submitted electronically on the 29th of November 2010, by 10 pm.

Due to the structure of the class, students can only present their paper on the scheduled date. Failure to do so without any legitimate reason will deny the student the chance to present and loss of grades. Presentations should include a short summary of the paper, the main arguments, the context of the paper, its relation to other assigned texts, and three questions for discussion in class.

H3. Literature:
Required textbook:

  • Eickelman, Dale F. and James Piscatori. (2004). Muslim Politics. Second edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Accompanying books:

  • Ayubi, Nazih. (1991). Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Arab World. London: Routledge.

  • Gole, Nilufer. (1999). The Forbidden Modern: Civilization and Veiling. Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.

  • Roy, Olivier. (1994). The Failure of Political Islam. Translated by Carol Volk Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

All other readings can be downloaded from Blackboard, are available electronically, or can be copied from a master copy.