• The Hybrid Women of the Arab Spring Revolutions: Islamization of Feminism, Feminization of Islam

    Arab and Muslim women who led the Arab Spring revolutions in their countries were often characterized as secular and liberal. According to this binary approach, religious women are identified with a conservative world view, a traditional education, and a medium to low socioeconomic status. The norms of honor and modesty governing these women are assumed to oblige them to confine themselves exclusively to their roles as wives and mothers and limit their presence in the public sphere. Furthermore, this binary approach stigmatizes those who wrap their heads in the hijab and cover their faces with the niqab as women who are forced by their fathers and husbands to accept traditional norms. Secular women, however, are portrayed as those who have liberated themselves from the shackles of religion and tradition. They are assumed to be highly educated, liberal in their world view, socially and politically engaged, and aspiring to build careers as competent professionals with the goal of becoming economically independent. To achieve this, they are prepared to struggle for their rightful place as equals in both family and society.
    However, the revolutionary Tunisian, Egyptian, and Yemeni women’s life stories, their world views, and their sociopolitical agenda and outer appearance indicate that their prototype is an amalgamation of a faith-motivated religiosity and a liberal, pluralistic world view. These women join their sisters who, since the last decades of the ninetieth century, have taken part in social- and gender-oriented struggles in the Middle East and North Africa. Their retention of their cultural authenticity, religious beliefs, and moral values clearly highlights the fact that for these hybrid women—to borrow Homi Bhabhi’s concept of hybridity—Islamic religious belief and a liberal world view are intertwined.
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  • Rethinking Turkey’s Soft Power in the Arab World: Islam, Secularism, and Democracy

    This article analyzes the meaning, characteristics and evolution of Turkey’s ambitions and limits in the exercising of “soft power” within the Arab World. The article’s central thesis is that Turkey’s model of “soft power” derives from a “historical evolutionary process”, in which the relationship between Islamism and republican secularism creates not two separate and conflicting worlds, but two symbiotic parts within the collective historical development that comprises contemporary Turkey. This process has enabled Turkey to develop a complex and changeable admixture of Islam, secularism and democracy; this “alchemy”, and its future developments, are the key to the meaning of Turkish “soft power”. The article will trace Turkey’s projection of soft power since the AKP’s accession to power in 2002. It will highlight both the AKP’s potential, particularly as signaled during the first mandate, and the party’s limits, which emerged in the subsequent two mandates. The article proposes that Turkey’s soft power has progressively diminished as the government’s initially fine balance between Islam, secularism and democracy has unraveled.
    The article is divided into four parts. The first part explores the origins of the concept of soft power in the literature and the historical process that enabled Turkey to project that power toward the Arab world. The next part depicts the peculiarities of Turkish soft power as instanced during the AKP’s first mandate. The third part describes the developments that made Turkey “attractive” to the Arab world and the relationship between the projection of Turkish soft power and the birth of the “Arab spring”. Finally, the last part considers the Arab spring’s effects on Turkish soft power. Of particular note are the limits and contradictions that have diluted Turkey’s soft power credibility.
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