Reserchers and experts call for new (phase) for studying Islamic movements.
Amman- Researchers and experts who participated in “Political Islam after a decade of Arab spring” conference (which was held by Political and Society Institute in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert Institute) in Amman, called for a new phase of researches for studying Islamic Movements in the Arab World, based on a thorough assessment of previous research efforts in studying and analyzing these movements, as well as revising concepts, methods, methodologies, research tools, and improving conceptual frameworks in order to better comprehend the subject and its complexities. Thus, transforming the field from individual and random efforts of scientific research to collaborative efforts in order to provide more coherent conceptual frameworks and to get access to the core of the phenomena and its evolution and change trends.
Last Tuesday, the conference concluded the work (through six weekly sessions in the period from July 6 to August 31-2021 which were held via virtual world). The weekly sessions discussed research papers about the identification of reality of political Islam after a decade of beginning of Arab spring, as well as studying and analyzing the changes and transformations which occurred to Islamic movements in Arab world.
The last sessions of conference discussed the current state of political Islam and its future prospects, in two research papers, the first one titled “ The regional and international changes and its effect on Islamist policies”, presented by Dr.Ammar Fayed, researcher in political science and international relations in university of Aydın Istanbul, highlighted the features of the Arab region’s IsIamist response to recent regional and international changes. The researcher briefly presented the most prominent international changes which intercepts, directly or indirectly, Isalmist policies considered to be closed to the Islamic brotherhood in Arab region.
AlFayed argued that these Islamic powers despite the variance of their local reality and variance of their position in political equation as opposition or participant in ruling, however it gave the priority for the local and national considerations on its interaction with political changes, on the account of any ideological orientations or external relations with the rest of Islamic (forces powers).
According to AlFayed, policies of Islamic movements towards local and regional changes were response to external context pressures and coercions, not as result for strategic planned policies inside the Islamic movements.
The researcher AlFayed specified four (evolutions developments) that effects the (direct) image of reality and future of islamist in Arab world, these are: rise of right wings in west world in conjunction with formal regional targeting to the islamist, raging conflicts of regional hubs, normalization agreements between Arab countries and Israel, rising of Russian and Chinese power in the region.
The researcher concluded common factors among islamists with varying rates: dominatıon of local and national issues of their intersest, predominance of partial and geopolitical interests upon their ideological considerations, Adhering to the approach of peaceful change.
AlFayed on his research paper concluded that islamist respond in accordance with the contexts where they exist: locally or regionally or internationally. This likely comes as result of that Islamic (project) has not been accomplished yet which provides an important feature for the Islamist, thus susceptibility of developments, renewing the work patterns and organizational and political choices, provide them the important flexibility for political practicing.
The second paper titled “Questions of methodology and theory for islaic movements studying: primary notes” presented by Dr. Khalil AlAnani, professor of political science and international relations, participant in AlDoha institute for graduate studies, the paper introduced by the pivotal question: How can and how should we study the Islamic movements?
In response to the question, Al-Anani identified a set of approaches and problematic that starts through the existence of “conceptual chaos”, despite the maasive amount of studies and writings, in addition to the produced (media material) that is related to phenomena which is searched for (movements and Islamic groups), there is an absence of what is called “obvious scientific, methodological and research map for studying these movements and groups”, the researcher claimed that the plenty of such research and writings, in contrast with what apparently seems as positive point, but it is considered as evidence of absence of this scientific map which can be guided for framing and understanding the phenomena, which makes these studies and writings part of the problem, not the soilution.
Al-Anani found that despite the massive scientific production during the last four decades (specifically seventies of the last century) in field of studying Islamic movements, groups and organizations, so far there is no obvious specific knowledge or research field is formed with aspects, traditions, research and knowledge map and clear methodology which can help in understanding, analyzing, explaining the phenomena. Mostly phenomena studying is subjected to estimations, judjments, personal experience of researchers without clear framing which is agreed about.
Based on the above, Al-Anani called to revisiting of the methodologies and research tools which utilized in Islamic movements field study, during the last four decades two major methodolgies dominates the studying of islamic movements, the first one is historical methdology which focuses on establishment and evolvement of these movements particulary the beginings of tweneth century decade and trying to track its organizational, political and intellectual evolvements. The second one is descriptive methdology that focuses on description of intellectual,ideological and organizational structure of this movements and its political interactions either with political regimes or similar movements.
The Egyptian academic researcher called for revisiting of assumptions and premises, and gave two examples: the first one there is an impression prevailed for decades about some movements like Egyptian brotherhood group, the impression is that this group is political, ideological and organizational coherent or its flexible, unbreakable group, the second assumption is related what is known by literature of studying Islamic movements as “merging and moderation” which prevailed during the last two decades, is proved as defective and insufficient in explaining the transformation of islamist in Arab region.
AlAnani argued about the impoertance of transition to collective dimension over the individual level of analyzing and studying Islamic movements, during decades the concept of “group” or “movement” the analysis unite that researchers started from trying to understand and analyze the islamist behaviors, despite its importance but it ignored individuals as the basic analysis unite in these movements.
Al-Anani concentrated on the importance of female role inside the Islamic movements, rethinking of gender issue and female representation in studying Islamic movements as well, in addition to is called “humanization” and “normalization” the field of Islamic movements, that is dealing with these movements and groups as natural movements and objects (socially or politically or religion) without treating them as exceptional phenomena that is outside the logical (rational) context in research field, with recognition about the intellectual and ideological privacy of these movements.
In turn researchers discussed what these mentioned researchers presented ideas and conclusions, Abd al-Hakim Abu al-Lawz pointed out that to the extent that Islamic movements are embedded in local practices, they are distracted from regional work, He praised the role of the descriptive approach and its role in the past in identification study cases, but he claimed that the problem often lies in the skills of researchers and their ability to study movements in a systematic and objective manner.
Dr. Heba Raouf concluded that it is important to take into consideration the transition from simple or unilateral approaches in studying these movements to methdolgy with the same complex, and considered that the absence of complexity in (vision) reality led researchers to not realize the dimensions of the phenomenon.
She pointed out that the Islamists were not interested in analyzing the reality in which they live, not even in studying the various variables, which affected their ability to understand and deal with the variables that surround them. Izzat claim that there is an absence of what she calls the Islamic “Intelligentsia” with the continued consideration of Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb as intellectual levers, which gave preference to the kinetic aspect over the intellectual and theorist.
As for Dr. Shafeeq Choucair pointed out the importance of interviews and approaching in a more systematic manner in studying the movements instead of preconceptions or merely looking at them from the outside. But he differed with Al-Anani in the problem of defining who is an Islamist and the question of moderation and extremism, and he believed that it is possible to reach common definitions among researchers in this regard.
In turn, Dr. Hisham Jaafar refers to the importance of studying regional transitions and influences, studying internal voices in movements, and the importance of placing the phenomenon in its societal context, because in many times it is separated by researchers to find an independent scientific production, these points are considered as important and essential factors that leads to understand the reasons and results of these transitions and variables.
Dr.Amal Grami notified that there are methods and approaches other than the historical and descriptive of studying Islamic movements that developed in recent years, Including the sociological approach, which studies social interaction and the trajectory of individuals, She called for the importance of employing the ethnographic methodology, which is based on the study of Islamists through social coexistence.
Dr Ahmed Zaghloul agreed with other researchers that there is a crisis in the translated studies on Islamic movements, and in many cases, a lot of researchers are unable to approach Islamic movements from within, for many reasons that prevent islamists themselves like security and political conditions.
The researcher, Ghaith Al-Qudah, commenting on Al-Anani’s discussion about the research and conceptual chaos, he wondered whether, after all these efforts of studies, research and scientific books, we still believe that we are unable to define Islamists and frame their study methodologies, whether the reason is due to researchers and experts themselves or to the nature of The phenomenon itself studied?
According to Jordanian researcher Hassan Abu Haniyeh said that there are many problems in the study of Islamic movements, including bias in the backgrounds and orientations of researchers and stakeholders in this matter, especially if we consider the development of the study of Islamic movements in Western research and academic circles, which are often associated with Intelligence apparatus and Orientalist visions, and the fears and concerns surrounding the study of these movements in the Arab world, including the security dimension that prevents access to in-depth and objective studies, in light of the classification of most of these movements by Arab regimes as terrorist or extremist movements or a threat to security the National.
Dr. Muhammad Abu Rumman presented concluding remarks, summarized in three main problems: the problem of researchers, the problem of the academic field and the problem of the phenomenon studied. At the level of researchers, there is a real crisis in the ability to safely approach the phenomenon and study it away from ideological backgrounds, security pressures and political agendas. Therefore, fears, classifications and stigmas prevail among researchers, so they are divided into for and against, and in many times there are consequences for them as a result of studying these movements.
The problem of studying the phenomenon (Islamic movements) is that it is a dynamic and intertwined phenomenon, security, political, strategic, historical and realistic. That is conditions of bias, impartiality and objectivity become external inputs that influence the results in addition to personal security that affect researchers’ dealings with the phenomenon. Therefore, the researcher of Islamic movements is not immune.
Finally, at the level of the research field, it is clear that most of the Arab researchers have been involved in studying these movements directly and individually, without giving the required and deep importance to the theoretical and conceptual frameworks and methods used in these studies, there has become a proliferation in the bulk of these studies accompanied by a state of chaos and theoretical deficit in the field of methodologies, tools and theories, and a lack of collective research efforts.
Dr.Abu Rumman concluded the importance of launching a new phase in Arab scientific research, in partnership with Western researchers, based on a review of methodologies and tools, developing the theoretical field, organizing the research field and its priorities, reconsidering research questions, and most importantly of all, transition towards collective efforts, which was supported by Dr. Al-Anani, who called for the formation of a stream of researchers specialized in studying these movements.
Dr.Rasha Fityan, Director of the Institute for Politics and Society, conclude the conference works confirming the need for the continuation of the research seminar of experts and researchers participating in communication and consensus on the upcoming research agenda, and confirmed the institute’s readiness to sponsor any efforts in this field.