Did the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have any basis in religion?

The protests that have gripped the Middle East in recent months have had secular triggers: rampant poverty, high unemployment, government corruption and political oppression. While religious voices have been a part of the upheavals, they have not been at the forefront. Protesters clamor not for an Islamic state but for democracy and individual freedoms, ideas that some see as Western imports foreign to Islam. However, religion is so deeply rooted in culture – and vice versa – that the nascent process of political change in the Muslim world must chart its own distinctively Muslim course. Political turmoil exposes other fractures in society, as revealed by recent sectarian clashes in Egypt. In Egypt and elsewhere, defining the role of Islamist movements in the future government remains a pressing challenge. By way of comparison, consider how Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, undertook a similar transition to democracy after protests overthrew its president in 1998. Find an excellent analysis at http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/religion-may-not-dominate-middle-east.

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.