Political Islam


Graduate Level

Jennifer Murtazashvili,Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh

In the past several decades and especially since September 11, 2001, policymakers, scholars and individuals have been debating issues related to the compatibility of Islam and democracy, the growth of violent Islamist movements, and the causes of terrorism and suicide bombings. In many instances, such debates seem to boil down to a “clash of civilization.” To explore these issues we will examine a diverse body of literature drawing on political science, anthropology, economics, sociology, and history. We will focus our primary attention to Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East as well as Central and South Asia.
This course begins by investigating the nature of the state in Islamic history and thought. We will explore the interaction between religion and the state prior to the rise of 20th century Islamist movements, focusing on the case of the Ottoman Empire. We then explore the rise the origins of contemporary Islamist movements, beginning with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. What are the intellectual origins of such movements? What impact do they have upon domestic politics in the countries where they emerge? Are Islamist movements compatible with democratic forms of governance? When do such groups engage in violence? How have governments responded to such violence and to what result? The course will explore these and other pressing questions by examining a broad range of movements (both violent and non-violent) in authoritarian and democratic settings, as well as in failed or persistently weak states.