Political Articulations of Islamic Identity: A Case Study in the Negotiation of Religion and Secularism in Egypt and Iran.
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In order to achieve a greater understanding of religious traditions and their respective contributions to the intellectual, ethical, and cultural aspects of modern society, I chose to study Political Islam in Egypt and Iran. The entire Middle East is an exemplary region to examine this relationship between religion, society, and the state, where extreme tension and debates on religiosity and secularism within the Islamic religious tradition prevail. Several Middle Eastern countries have embraced Islam as their national political identity in order to prevent modernization at all costs, while others have rooted Islam out of their nations in order to uphold secularization. The resulting dialectic between these two approaches has led to a fundamental question of whether or not (and to what degree) Islam is compatible with secular society and allows for pluralism in a modern, progressively oriented world. The purpose of my research project was to explore the extent to which political articulations of Islam will continue to extend their influence over Middle Eastern society and affect Western perceptions of the Islamic religious tradition. Such an exploration led to questions of how Islamic values and perceptions are shaped by their religious and cultural traditions, and to what extent these values are jeopardized by political uses of the religion. A challenge now lies with progressive Muslims, as well as westerners, to find answers to these urgent problems and concerns of the Muslim population in order to bridge the vast divide between both Arab and Western worlds.