Deconstructing Ideological Approaches to the Arab Spring

Deconstructing Ideological Approaches to the Arab Spring

by Dr. Robert D. Crane

Dogmatic approaches to reality, truth, and justice have always been common, if not predominant, in all religions over the millenia.  Imperial oppression has also always been a part of history but usually was a contributor to dogmatism, not its direct cause, as contended in the excellent presentation from MSN/Die Deutsche Welle on September 27th, entitled “Islam’s Age-Old Dogmas Shape Protests”.  Islamdom, as distinct from non-dogmatic Islam, like the difference between Christendom and Christianity, lost its creativity and power of moral guidance centuries before Europe and America came on the scene.

The real issue is one of essence.  Is there a common essence to Islam and to America?  And if so, is awareness of this rising or declining anywhere or everywhere?

The essence of the real issue may be traced to different jurisprudendial paradigms.

In “Western” positivist jurisprudence, law is regulatory and designed to enforce conformity to the status quo.  If law is not enforced it is not law. 

In classical Islamic jurisprudence of the 4th through 8th centuries, a.h., the essence of law was what in the West used to be called natural law but now increasingly is termed “global ethics”.  In Islamic scholarship this natural law, based equally on divine revelation, scientific observation of the laws of the universe, and human creativity in understanding these first two sources of truth,  came to be known as the normative framework of the maqasid al shari’ah or irreducible universals and essentials of human responsibilities and human rights.  This paradigm of thought was always present but became institutionalized partly in response to domestic imperial oppression.  This was designed to provide enlightened guidance to the fiqh or regulatory law, which was often manipulated by the political rulers for enforcement of the status quo. 

The tension between the two approaches, the normative and the regulatory, rises and falls from one century and one country to another, as well as within individual actors in history, such as within the multi-faceted Ikhwani movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood and even within every Sufi order.

Foreign oppression, regardless of whether it is clad in the garb of freedom and democracy or even of justice, as under Communism not long ago, may incite the ideological perversion of various spiritual paths, but the real cause of such perversion is the loss of both spiritual and intellectual tradition embodied in the commitment to peace, prosperity, and freedom through the interfaith and intercivilizational harmony of compassionate justice.