The argument of this lecture runs against the widely accepted apocalyptic portrayal of the Middle East as “disintegrating” according to which the rise of politicized Islam is either a manifestation or a cause. A closer look shows that despite the bloody conflicts in three major countries in the region, more than ten other countries, including those lying in the vicinity of the war theaters have kept their political and societal fabric relatively stable.
What we are witnessing today is rather a bloody round of negotiation reflecting the changing power relations among the major actors within the respective societies with the aim of reestablishing and configuring their states that have hitherto drawn their legitimization from the concept of ethnic nationalism. Politicizing religion has been part and parcel of the processes of nation-formation in most of Europe and the United States and politicizing Islam today seems no exception. Apart from the Kurds’ long time aspiration to establish their own independent state in Iraq and an autonomous entity in Syria, the warring parties are striving to lay hand on the central power rather than carving out mini-states of their own.