Temporal and spiritual authority, East and West
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Author:  MadArchitect [ Fri Jul 14, 2006 2:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Temporal and spiritual authority, East and West

The end of chapter 10 brings us to a question that I think still haunts our attempts to understand the Middle East. Kitchener and his associates, Fromkin suggests, misunderstood the character of Middle Eastern authority, assuming that religious and secular authority were divisible in Middle Eastern society the same way that the West had portioned out comparatively well-defined stations to king and pope. As such, they attempted to broker a deal that would hand over the spiritual authority to the leader of Mecca, assuming that secular rule would still fall to the British, or at least to Arab rulers who could be trusted to act in British interests.

On the obverse side, I think that we tend to err in the opposite direction these days, assuming that secular and religious authority are still indissolubly linked in the Middle East. The line between political action and spiritual guidance remains blurry, and in some cases intentionally so, but I think it's no longer reasonable to assume that Middle Easterners hold them to be the same thing. If nothing else, the influence of the Western separation of the two seems palpable in certain nations, and it strikes me that a certain cynicism sometimes shows through the assertion that a political action is dictated by religious necessity.

Author:  MadArchitect [ Mon Jul 17, 2006 5:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Temporal and spiritual authority, East and West

I'm not sure; do you guys think this is related, or is it a tangent?

Chapter 11 (iii) dwells on the British fears concerning the declaration of jihad by the then-reigning Caliph. The jihad never really took off, though, and British anxiety seems to have been misplaced.

So what does that say about the assertion, made in the previous chapter, that political and religious authority were both vested in the Caliph?

And fast-forwarding a bit, has the situation changed such that the declaration of jihad is taken more seriously by modern Middle Eastern Muslims, or is the current state of terrorism mostly the result of more effective weapons technologies falling into the hands of the minority that does respond to such declarations?

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