Term Paper: Political Framework of Islam

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[. . .] The responsibility for the administration of the government in an Islamic state is entrusted to an amir (leader) who may be compared to the president or the prime minister in a Western democratic state. All adult men and women who subscribe to the fundamentals of the constitution are entitled to vote for the election of the amir. The basic qualifications for an amir are that he should command the confidence if the majority in respect of his knowledge and grasp of the spirit of Islam, that he should posses the Islamic quality of fear of Allah and that he should be endowed with qualities of statesmanship. In short, he should have both virtue and ability. A shoora (Advisory council) is also elected by the people to assist and guide the amir. It is incumbent of the amir to administer his country with the advice of this shoora. The amir may retain office only so long as he enjoys the confidence of the people and must relinquish it when he loses that confidence. Every citizen has the right to criticize the amir and his government and all reasonable means for the ventilation of public opinion must be available. Legislation in an Islamic state is to be carried out within the limits prescribed by the law of the shari'a. The injunctions of Allah and his Prophet are to be accepted and obeyed and no legislative body may alter or modify them or make any law contrary to them. Those commandments which are liable to two or more interpretations are referred to a sub-committee of the advisory council comprised of men taught in Islamic law. Great scope remains for legislation on questions not covered by specific injunctions of the shari'a and the advisory council or legislature is free to legislate in regard to these matters. In Islam the judiciary is not placed under the control of the executive. It derives its authority directly from the shari'a and is answerable to Allah

The label 'fundamentalism', however, is not applied only to Islam, nor is it a particularly new one. It has also been attached to both radical and conservative schools of thought and often applied inaccurately to anything Muslim which challenges what the West assumes to be progress. A better term, more accurately embodying what is distinctive about Muslim fundamentalism, would be 'Islamism'. Central to it is the notion of activism -- creating a new religio-political order while preserving orthodox religious observances. It therefore appeals for reinterpretation of the sources of doctrine rather than the reassertion of traditional values. Islamism is definitely a twentieth-century phenomenon; it has not developed in a political vacuum. The pressing need to confront western ideas, and the dramatic changes which have taken place in many Muslim societies have encouraged some Muslims to demand the establishment of an Islamic system, a nizam as against the materially-based systems of western capitalism and socialism. Islamism therefore does not represent a return to the past. Then the traditional Islamic view of government was limited to creating and maintaining the right conditions for Islam to flourish. Islamists, in contrast, usually consider, like the West, that government, with the enhanced power of the modernized state at its command, should exercise much greater responsibility for the people. This difference gives a distinctly modern look to the relationship between Islam and the state.

All Muslim societies, majority or minority, came by the late 1970s to contain an Islamist wing. Everywhere there were Muslims striving to purify their communities of the taint of westernization and to restructure them along more consciously Islamic lines. Even in Saudi Arabia, renowned for the conservatism of its rulers, the Islamist opposition movement had emerged by the 1990s as the main challenge to the existing order. But it was in Iran that the secular western mould was broken most spectacularly. Its revolution of 1978-79 appeared to sum up Muslim rejection of western-style modernization. The identification between the state and Islamism in post-revolution Iran also meant that Iran came to be regarded as the prime mover in the Islamist network that forms an element of the politics of Muslims everywhere, and this in spite of Shia-Sunni sectarian differences.

While families and descendents of ruling parties serve to influence Islamic governments, they appear to be losing their power. Changing economic and social conditions in the Gulf over the past five years are increasing the pressure on regimes to reform and enhancing the appeal of radical Islamist parties as the primary vehicle to seek political change. Islamist-oriented groups, whether allowed to operate overtly in local political institutions and mosques or forced underground, are seen by many as the only alternative -- and the most easily comprehensible one -- to the government. Several factors are shaping this view:

Loss of faith in Arab nationalism as a credible solution to regional weakness. In its stead, a radical Islamic theology of social protest is gaining popularity. Islamic radicals are able to shape the tone and terms of political discourse, often with the simple formula, "Islam is the answer."

Dashed economic expectations and decline in societies where the citizens -- a minority of the population in several of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries -- once were cushioned from economic shock waves, such as inflation, taxes, unemployment. The result in many cases is increased corruption and repression by government officials, their families, and private citizens to maintain their privileged positions.

Generational time shift with the majority of the populations under the age of 16 and with transitions underway in several countries as a newer, younger group claims leadership.

Surfing the 'Net' by dissidents abroad and at home, enabling easy passage of information about local conditions, organizational activities, requests for money and other forms of assistance, and operational instructions. Regimes no longer have the capability to block out news by simply monitoring the mail, banning books, and confiscating cassettes.

Changing face of the security threat as the image of the Gulf War recedes and the U.S. presence grows increasingly visible. Iraq, weakened by war and sanctions, is not seen as a significant threat in the short-term. Iran is seen as a threat but one that is probably containable through negotiation, pressure from powerful friends, and financial blandishments. Regime leaders tend to see the greatest threat to their security as an internal one spiked by Islamic radicals and their foreign backers. Except for Kuwait, the popular perception sees the absence of a clear physical threat and wonders "do we really need the U.S. forces here and must we pay for it?"

Bibliography: None requested. [END OF PREVIEW]

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Political Framework of Islam.  (2002, October 6).  Retrieved July 19, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/political-framework-islam/5443661

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"Political Framework of Islam."  Essaytown.com.  October 6, 2002.  Accessed July 19, 2019.