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  • Author: Timo Behr
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The rise of political Islam in the EU's southern neighbourhood represents a political as well as conceptual challenge to the EU as a foreign policy actor. In the past, the EU reacted to this challenge based on its essentialist perception of political Islam and its overarching interest in regional stability and security. However, the growing salience of 'contingencist' interpretations of political Islam and the resolution of the EU's democratisation-stabilisation dilemma in the wake of the Arab Spring have recently provided an opportunity for greater engagement and cooperation. This has enabled a switch in EU policies from a strategy of containment to a strategy of engagement. Despite this, problems remain as the EU continues to expect Islamist actors to adjust to its own discursive framework and as intra-European divisions revive as a result of the renewal of secular-religious divisions in the neighbourhood. This will complicate EU attempts to build a new partnership with Islamist democracies and will fuel old stereotypes and animosities.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Islam
  • Political Geography: Europe, Arabia
  • Author: Erik Jones
  • Publication Date: 04-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Populists argue that Islamic immigrants are fundamentally different from Europeans. As evidence, they point to notions of religious and cultural identity. Such arguments have popular resonance. As more mainstream politicians pick up on these themes, they begin to take on an air of common sense. Nevertheless, they are mistaken. Europe has a long track record of reconciling competing identities. This has happened by focusing on patterns of interaction (solidarity) rather than obvious indicators of distinctiveness. Using the examples of the Netherlands and Turkey, this article illustrates the wide spectrum of European approaches to the challenge of getting different groups to share the same geographic space.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Netherlands
  • Author: Ebru Oğurlu
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Over the last few years, the Eastern Mediterranean has been increasingly fraught with growing competition between regional players, most notably Turkey, Cyprus, and Israel, signalling an apparent return of power politics in regional relations. Of all actors involved, Turkey stands out for being both an ever more influential power and a source of serious concern to other countries in the region due to its greater assertiveness and perceived hegemonic ambitions. Against the backdrop of recent regional developments and their international implications, including the dispute over drilling rights off Cyprus' coasts, Turkey's image as a constructive and dialogue-oriented country, a critical achievement pursued by a generation of Turkish politicians, diplomats and officials, risks being replaced by one of an antagonistic/assertive power. Facing the first serious challenge to its claim to embody a benign model as a secular Muslim democracy and a responsible international actor, Turkey should not indulge in emotional reactions. It should opt instead for a more moderate and balanced approach based on the assumption that only cooperation and constructive dialogue, even with rival countries, can help it realize its ambition of being the regional pivot.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Democratization, Development, Islam, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Middle East, Israel, Greece, Asia, Colombia, Cyprus
  • Author: Rossella Marangio
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The long-lasting Somali conflict is profoundly linked to the country's historical development and its socio-cultural specificities. The political milieu and the struggle for power in Somalia reflect the cleavage between tradition and modernity. This rift has led to a legitimacy vacuum, which has made it difficult for the warring parties to find enough common ground for a compromise. Furthermore, external influences, at both regional and international levels, have contributed to the fragmentation of the political arena, due notably to the emphasis on the use of force as the principal tool for acquiring or maintaining power. In this unfolding crisis, regional pressures and rivalries, international interventions, economic and strategic interests as well as piracy, corruption and Islamic extremism all play an interlocking role. In view of this, a new approach to the crisis is badly needed. The EU, in particular, should promote a new strategy based on three components: enhancement of social cohesion through local cooperation programmes, state-building and development.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Political Violence, Islam, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Somalia
  • Author: Yahia H. Zoubir
  • Publication Date: 09-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: In the late 1980s, prospects for Maghreb integration were high; the process of integration reflected the aspirations of Maghreb states and societies. However, analysis shows that the process was merely a response to internal and external events of that period, namely, economic difficulties, 'fortress Europe', and the rise of radical Islamism. Following the Arab Spring, incessant calls for unity have re-emerged. Once again, these calls for unity, after a long period of tense relations, especially between Algeria and Morocco, have resulted from internal and external constraints. The threats to the incumbent regimes and/or the insecurity prevailing domestically and at the borders have compelled the Maghreb states to seek greater cooperation to overcome the hardships with which they are faced.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: Europe, Algeria, Spain
  • Author: Nathalie Tocci, Nona Mikhelidze
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Since the late 1980s, research on political Islam has been much in vogue in Europe and the US. This phenomenon is typically viewed as an expression of religion rather than of politics. Precisely because of the assumed "religious" underpinnings of political Islam, most Western attempts to engage with Islamists often remain trapped in an attempt to test their "democratic credentials". By focussing on what Islamists think about democracy, many studies have ignored the political, social and economic contexts in which Islamists operate. Accounting for the political underpinning of Islamist movements can both help understand their political evolution and open up fruitful avenues for comparative analysis. For this reason, attention is turned to Europe to seek best practices of external engagement with domestic opposition movements in authoritarian contexts, such as Western engagement with opposition actors in Franco's Spain, Kuchma's Ukraine and Shevardnadze's Georgia.
  • Topic: Islam, Politics
  • Political Geography: Europe, Georgia
  • Author: Amel Boubekeur
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: When European Muslim citizens are involved in social conflicts or when they contest the place that is given them in Europe, these political claims are often seen as radical and inspired by external influences. If an attempt is made to understand what part the influences of the so-called Muslim "countries of origin" play in the way Muslims contest European models of society and integration, it turns out that the roots of radicalisation are often purely European. The idea that it is the Islamic and communitarian nature of the European Muslim way of life which is at the base of their failing integration has to be challenged. Indeed, the initiatives of religious actors have failed to channel the radicalisation of European Muslims' political demands. The role of the religious variable is of much less importance in political radicalisation than the lack of an institutional response to the demands for greater social and economic integration.
  • Topic: Economics, Islam
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Andrea Coppi, Andrea Spreafico
  • Publication Date: 09-2008
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The Muslim community in Italy does not benefit from official recognition, which could, among other things, provide it with access to state funding. Nor does its fragmented nature favour a process of aggregation leading to the formation of a single representative body delegated to dialogue with the institutions. The government initiative establishing the Council of Italian Islam (Consulta) sought to encourage an original course in this direction, but it seems that the body is unlikely to solve the problem. The solutions adopted in various European countries and the proposals put forward by experts suggest that legal recognition cannot sidestep the question of representation and therefore calls for a process of cultural mediation.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: Europe, Italy
  • Publication Date: 07-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and the Center for Global Counter Terrorism Co-operation (Center) convened a brainstorming on 11 - 12 July in Rome on “Implementing the UN General Assembly's Counter-Terrorism Strategy: Addressing Youth Radicalisation in the Mediterranean Region. Lessons Learned, Best Practices and Recommendations.” The event was organised in co-operation with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Centro Studi sul Federalismo (Turin), with the support of the Compagnia di San Paolo. The participants included experts from the UN and other multilateral bodies, officials from the Italian and German governments, and academic and other non-government experts from the United States, Europe and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The meeting also included a roundtable of representatives of the “Consulta Giovanile per il Pluralismo Religioso e Culturale” (Youth Consultative Council), a youth advisory board recently established by the Italian Ministries of Youth and Sport and Interior to enhance the role of youth in promoting dialogue and tolerance among different cultures and religions. The Rt. Hon. Giovanna Melandri, the Italian Minister for Youth Policies and Sport addressed the brainstorming.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Islam, Science and Technology, Terrorism, United Nations
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: George Joffé
  • Publication Date: 06-2007
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The International Spectator
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: Europe' reactions to its recently-constituted Muslim communities reflect its implicit self-image of cultural homogeneity, despite a long tradition of endless cultural adaption. This, in turn, is a facet of the persistance of an Orientalist vision which stimulates its opposed mirror-image, Occidentalism or Orientalism-in-reverse, as those communities react with a sense of profound alienation. The two interact to generate the cultural and political confrontation that typifies inter-communal relations today, constructing a new inter-communal socio-political boundary that could harden into a permanent divide of mutual hostility. It is this, far more than globalised salafi-jihadism, that explains the political extremism confronting European states today.
  • Topic: Islam
  • Political Geography: Europe