Religion changes and mutates. Some of these religious mutations can be positively harmful in a changing Middle East. But other religious innovations can help religion accommodate itself to modernity, says Ahmad Sadri. It doesn’t matter whether a society has or does not have religion per se. What is important is what kind of religion or irreligion pervades in that society.
An Armenian saying avers that one can snuff out a candle but there are always other matches to light a new candle. This came to mind when I learnt that Shahbaz Bhatti, the Federal Minister for Minority Affairs in Pakistan, had been killed in Islamabad when his car was ambushed by four religious extremists.
Religious state and non-state authorities have entered into a discussion about the legitimacy of political resistance, says Malika Zeghal. Al-Azhar, through the presence of some of its members in Tahrir Square, has shown its relevance to the recent political mobilization and has asserted its role in shaping a narrative of hope against tyranny.
While the Middle East uprisings have not revolved around religion, faith has not been absent from Arab scenes of protest in the last two months, says Shatha Almutawa. God and scripture are invoked by revolutionaries and those who oppose them for the simple reason that Arab dialects and ways of life are infused with religion.
A hurricane of change is blowing through the Arab world. Even now, many Arab regimes are still in denial, says Nadim Shehadi. But this volatile situation also challenges the West to grasp a new political reality.
Despite the pernicious narratives of past decades, and despite dismissive Western attitudes towards the Middle East and North Africa, Arabs are showing that they can practise democracy after all, says Harry Hagopian. This moment in history is not just a revolt, it is a struggle for the Arab soul.