Public Debates in Transcultural Space: The Concept of Islam as Political Order at the Beginning of the Cold War
Dr. Bettina Gräf
Bettina Gräf’s research project investigates, from a media perspective, the confrontation of Arabic-language authors from the environment of the Azhar University in Cairo and of the Egyptian Muslim Brothers with ideologies and political movements that were dominant during the 1950s and 1960s, as well as with European perceptions and theories of the state during that time.
In modern European thinking, Islam has been a widely discussed, controversial and notionally explosive entity. Yet conversely, the term West (al-gharb) – primarily a synonym for Europe up until the end of World War II – has also played a decisive role in Arabic-language debates and imaginaries in many ways. The modernist 1950s-1960s were marked by the formation of the Warsaw Pact and the alliance of Western Europe after the end of World War II. The division into blocs at the beginning of the Cold War was the end of Europe as a cohesive region of communication and imagination. At the same time, in the Arab world this period was marked by Nasser’s rule, the project of Arab socialism and the massive suppression of Islamic political activities in Egypt and elsewhere. The question this project poses is: what role did the European political movements of communism, socialism and liberalism and the European states as parts of the two opposing blocs (socialism versus capitalism) during this period play in the formulation of Islam as a distinct political system and an alternative to those societal models? Further, what were the political and economic conditions of production of the Arabic-language media of these debates, and how were they connected with other local, national or transregional media (press, books, radio)?