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In what ways do debates about ‘rights’ and ‘Islam’ in the contemporary Middle East demonstrate Sami Zubaida’s contention that ‘religion (and culture more generally)’ is ‘an arena of change, contestation and struggle’? Free essay! Download now

Home > A Level > Religious education > In what ways do debates about ‘rights’ and ‘Islam’ in the contemporary Middle East demonstrate Sami Zubaida’s contention that ‘religion (and culture more generally)’ is ‘an arena of change, contestation and struggle’?

In what ways do debates about ‘rights’ and ‘Islam’ in the contemporary Middle East demonstrate Sami Zubaida’s contention that ‘religion (and culture more generally)’ is ‘an arena of change, contestation and struggle’?

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In what ways do debates about ‘rights’ and ‘Islam’ in the contemporary Middle East demonstrate Sami Zubaida’s contention that ‘religion (and culture more generally)’ is ‘an arena of change, contestation and struggle’? essay previewIn what ways do debates about ‘rights’ and ‘Islam’ in the contemporary Middle East demonstrate Sami Zubaida’s contention that ‘religion (and culture more generally)’ is ‘an arena of change, contestation and struggle’? essay previewIn what ways do debates about ‘rights’ and ‘Islam’ in the contemporary Middle East demonstrate Sami Zubaida’s contention that ‘religion (and culture more generally)’ is ‘an arena of change, contestation and struggle’? essay preview

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A world of whose making course essay

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In what ways do debates about ‘rights’ and ‘Islam’ in the contemporary Middle East demonstrate Sami Zubaida’s contention that ‘religion (and culture more generally)’ is ‘an arena of change, contestation and struggle’?

We must begin by asking why would culture ever be an arena of change, contestation and struggle and are there factors in the Contemporary Middle East which would make it especially so. There are a number of reasons why culture matters but at it core culture confers power and power is always worth struggling over. When culture is invoked in the context of politics it is generally in an attempt to build consensus, to increase popular support, or to divide opposition. If a politician’s appeal is built on their defense of ‘a way of life’ then it is difficult to criticize their position without seeming to threaten that way of life; an emotive consensus can be built, particularly around things presented as ‘fundamental’ or ‘basic’ to a culture. This can particularly be seen in times of threat, indeed over the last few weeks we in the UK have heard from our politicians that ‘security’ is fundamental to our culture; this will no doubt ease the passage of topical legislation. In happier times ‘civil liberties’ might have been claimed to be fundamental to our culture but in recent weeks they have lost some of their popular appeal.

In the Middle East the democratic institutions which give voice to diverse views (with varying success) are less developed than in Europe and the US; the popular appeal of culture is therefore all the more sought after. There is another, even more direct way, in which the Middle East has seen culture define power. As colonialism unwound throughout the Twentieth Century and imperial powers withdrew their regimes, granting independence, they tended to pass power to the dominant indigenous cultures. This rarely went undisputed and led to sectarian strife, even among those who had previously united behind the expedient of nationalism. These struggles whilst principally over power were now informed by the understanding that the dominant culture is the one that the world respects.

You will have noticed that I am using a fairly tight definition of culture, I will not speak of an ‘Islamic Culture’ or a ‘Middle Eastern Culture’ because I do not believe there to be such things. Islam contains Asian, Sunni, Shi’a, African, Arab and Kurdish cultures (a even tighter definition of ‘culture’ would argue that there are as many Islamic cultures as there are cultures in which Islam is practiced), the Middle East contains many of these as well as Jewish, Hindu, ...

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