“The Arab Spring was really … a collective loss of faith in politics,” writes Shadi Hamid in Islamic Exceptionalism, which argues for a new understanding of how Islam and Islamism shape politics.
Islam has manifested its exceptionalism through its remarkable ability to withstand pressures of modernization and secularization in countries in the Middle East and beyond, he argues. Democratic countries such as Tunisia, Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia have also been active Islamist centers.
“In Indonesia and Malaysia, there has been a coming to terms with Islam’s role in public life, whereas in much of the Middle-East, there hasn’t, at least not yet,” Hamid writes.
While Christianity has withdrawn from political life, Islam has retained its power and purity in the face of secularism. Hamid examines the reasons behind the failure of the Arab Spring, discussing the different modes of reconciling religion and state, the AKP model in Turkey and the Ennahda model in Tunisia. He is at his best analyzing the Muslim Brothers’ disastrous rule in Egypt.
Islam’s relation to politics is unique and “the democratic process must play out for a long enough period so that Islam, Islamism, and democracy can evolve in a natural, uncontrived fashion,” he concludes.