The Ascendance of Official Islams

Title: The Ascendance of Official Islams
Format: Journal Article
Publication Date: 2018
Published In: Democracy and Security


This article examines how and why four Arab states, Morocco, Jordan, Tunisia, and Egypt, have increased official Islam (OI) to counter the new challenges in the regional environment following the Arab uprisings. It argues that regimes responded to the initial rise of popular Islam as well as the threat from extremist groups by enhancing their support for official Islam. In an effort to control the religious space and legitimize their rule, these regimes have allocated financial resources, political capital, and institutional power to elements of official Islam. Furthermore, these regimes’ survival strategies vary according to the regime type and the presence or absence of inherited religious institutions. For example, we find that Tunisia turned to foreign training of their imams and greater cooperation with religious leaders in other countries. By contrast, Egypt, under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, further coopted al-Azhar and OI by setting the agenda for how religion institutions should engage society. Meanwhile, Jordan continued its long-standing development of OI while Morocco further expanded and internationalized OI. These similar goals but distinct approaches demonstrate the importance of the understanding the context in which these specific policies are developed.


Ivan Allen College Contributors:
External Contributors: Michael Robbins
Related Departments:
  • School of International Affairs