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Given the diversity of political Islam, Islamists and Islamist moments, there is unsurprisingly limited agreement on what legitimately constitutes an Islamic or Muslim state, whether and how sharia is to be operationalised, who should interpret sharia and be accorded religious authority. Islamists range from reformist political and social protest movements to ultra-conservative movements often preoccupied with morality-related issues. The more ‘moderate’ Islamists tend to adopt flexible and contextual interpretations of Islam and the holy texts while conservative and radical Islamists are inclined to adhere to rigid and literalist interpretations of the scriptures. Some Islamists are strongly nationalist in orientation whilst the more radical and militant tend to be transnational in focus. Notwithstanding the setbacks following the ‘Arab Uprisings’, political norms in the form of elections and parliamentary politics have become a dominant feature in the vast majority of Muslim-majority states. These norms are supported by theologically grounded discourses articulated within a reformist Islamic framework which emphasises wasatiyyah (middle-path, centrist or moderate) principles. Such norms have not emerged from a void. They are, in many respects, manifestations of the incremental political shifts propagated by participatory Islamists committed to ‘faithful contestations’.


School of Arts

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