Mobilizing Islam

Mobilizing Islam: Religion, Activism, and Political Change in Egypt

Carrie Rosefsky Wickham
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 300
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  • Book Info
    Mobilizing Islam
    Book Description:

    Mobilizing Islam explores how and why Islamic groups succeeded in galvanizing educated youth into politics under the shadow of Egypt's authoritarian state, offering important and surprising answers to a series of pressing questions. Under what conditions does mobilization by opposition groups become possible in authoritarian settings? Why did Islamist groups have more success attracting recruits and overcoming governmental restraints than their secular rivals? And finally, how can Islamist mobilization contribute to broader and more enduring forms of political change throughout the Muslim world?

    Moving beyond the simplistic accounts of "Islamic fundamentalism" offered by much of the Western media, Mobilizing Islam offers a balanced and persuasive explanation of the Islamic movement's dramatic growth in the world's largest Arab state.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50083-8
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Religion, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. 1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    Over the last quarter century, authoritarian regimes the world over have found it harder than ever to coerce their citizens into silence. In Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, ordinary men and women have managed to overcome their fear and do what once seemed unthinkable: confront their own leaders with demands for sweeping reform. Recent challenges to authoritarian rule embody different hopes and dreams. In places as diverse as Prague, Santiago, Johannesburg, Manila, and Beijing, protesters have raised the banner of liberal democracy, invoking the example of earlier democratic struggles in the West. In the Muslim...

  6. 2. Nasser and the Silencing of Protest
    (pp. 21-35)

    On July 23, 1952, a group of young army officers overthrew Egypt’s constitutional monarchy in a military coup. After a brief leadership struggle in 1954, Gamal Abdel Nasser gained control of the new regime and remained its leading force until his death in 1970. For our purposes, the most striking feature of the era from 1954 to the June 1967 War was the virtual disappearance of opposition activism among modern-educated, lower-middle-class youth. This lull is conspicuous because such youth figured prominently in the opposition movements before 1952 and formed the main base of the reconstituted Islamic movement after Nasser’s death....

  7. 3. Educated and Underemployed The Rise of the Lumpen Intelligentsia
    (pp. 36-62)

    Nasser’s system of free higher education and guaranteed state employment not only survived under his successors but even expanded to cover a growing circle of beneficiaries. By the early 1980s, however, the country’s output of university graduates exceeded the state sector’s capacity to absorb them, forcing an increasing number of graduates to accept jobs they considered beneath their station or to join the ranks of the unemployed. Paradoxically, a system of populist entitlements designed to reinforce the political loyalty of educated youth ultimately increased their expectations beyond the regime’s capacity to deliver. It thus inadvertently produced an enormous reservoir of...

  8. 4. Parties Without Participation
    (pp. 63-92)

    By the mid-1980s, a large number of Egyptian graduates found themselves blocked from the upward mobility they had come to associate with possession of a university degree. But their frustrated ambition did not automatically give rise to Islamic activism. No matter how great their grievances, citizens may lack the motivations, resources, and opportunities to participate in opposition politics. Hence collective grievance is as likely to generate political alienation and abstention as political protest.

    To explain the rise of Islamic activism in Egypt, we therefore need to look beyond the frustrations of educated youth and examine how and why Islamist groups...

  9. 5. The Parallel Islamic Sector
    (pp. 93-118)

    Uneven political liberalization under Sadat and Mubarak created a political system with a hollow core and a dynamic periphery. Although contestation for power in Egypt’s formal political system remained tightly controlled from above, outside the sphere of party politics, there emerged a vast network of Islamic institutions with de facto autonomy from state control. During the 1980s and early 1990s, these ostensibly “nonpolitical” institutions became important sites of Islamist outreach to educated youth. This political opening thus inadvertently gave rise to new kinds of political participation detached from — and opposed to — the country’s formal political institutions and elites....

  10. 6. “The Call to God” The Islamist Project of Ideological Outreach
    (pp. 119-149)

    The frustrations of Egypt’s educated youth are not sufficient to explain the rise of Islamic activism. It is now widely acknowledged that even the most aggrieved citizens may end up avoiding any kind of political involvement. The reasons are, first, that as social movement scholars have emphasized, participation entails costs.¹ Not only does participation in an opposition movement impose on a citizen’s time, energy, and resources but, in some instances, may expose him or her to serious risks. In authoritarian settings, such risks can extend to job loss, arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm. Second, citizens may doubt the efficacy of...

  11. 7. Explaining the Success of Islamist Outreach
    (pp. 150-175)

    The rise of Islamic activism among urban, educated youth in Egypt in the 1980s and early 1990s poses something of a puzzle for students of collective action. Under the shadow of Egypt’s authoritarian state, even nonviolent, reformist Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood remained technically illegal and subject to surveillance and harassment by the security police. An open affiliation with the Islamist cause entailed real risks, whereas the prospects of effecting change — at least in the immediate term — were remote. Under these seemingly unpropitious conditions, we might expect Egyptian graduates to reject the Islamist message. Why, then, did...

  12. 8. From the Periphery to the Center The Islamic Trend in Egypt’s Professional Associations
    (pp. 176-203)

    Islamic mobilization in Egypt occurred on the periphery of the formal political system in settings removed from state control. Mobilization also was a decentralized process involving thousands of Islamic activists scattered across the neighborhoods of Cairo’s cities and provincial towns. Indeed, those engaged in Islamist outreach at the local level had diverse affiliations, and many of them had no direct relationship to the realm of high politics, or al-siyasa. How, then, did mobilization on the periphery affect national political institutions and elites?

    Mobilization can yield very different results. In some instances, its impact is purely local and social, whereas in...

  13. 9. Cycles of Mobilization Under Authoritarian Rule
    (pp. 204-213)

    The rise of Islamic activism in Egypt is often portrayed as an expression of “real-life” grievances by educated, lower-middle-class youth. A closer analysis, however, suggests that grievance-based explanations of Islamic activism are not sufficient. In authoritarian settings, in which the risks of participating in an opposition movement are high and the prospects of effecting change are, at best, uncertain, even the most aggrieved citizens may retreat into self-preserving silence. Hence the burden is on movement organizers to create the motivations and venues for political protest and, in so doing, enable citizens to overcome the powerful psychological and structural barriers to...

  14. 10. Postscript The Muslim Brotherhood and the Mubarak Regime, 1995–2001
    (pp. 214-226)

    The events covered in this book ended in the mid-1990s, when the Mubarak regime launched a major counter-initiative against the Muslim Brotherhood. Mubarak’s assault on the Brotherhood represents an abrupt departure from the grudging toleration accorded nonviolent Islamist groups during the first decade of his rule. Beginning around 1993, against a backdrop of mounting violence by Islamic militants, the regime began to denounce the Brotherhood as an “illegal organization” with “ties to extremist groups.” A glance at the charges brought against Brotherhood leaders suggests, however, that the regime found them threatening not because they were terrorists but because they were...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 227-268)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 269-294)
  17. Index
    (pp. 295-306)