Lawrence Rubin

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Sudanese mark the anniversary of a transitional power-sharing deal with demands for quicker political reforms in Khartoum on Aug. 17, 2020. (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters)

Last month, Nasredeen Abdulbari, Sudan’s justice minister, announced the end of bans on alcohol and apostasy, and prohibited the use of traditional corporal punishment. These moves are part of a wider effort to shift Sudan away from traditional sharia, or Islamic law, which has been the basis of law in the country for decades.

Some observers in the West might see this as Sudan taking a step toward liberal democracy, recognizing that the transition remains delicate. But survey data from Arab Barometer — a nonpartisan research network providing insights on the views of citizens across the Arab world — suggest that Sudan’s population may not widely support these moves.…  Seguir leyendo »

Worshipers arrive for Friday prayers at al-Azhar mosque in Cairo on Dec. 28, 2012. (Khalil Hamra/AP)

In a recent interview, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made headlines with a striking claim that he will try to return his country to “moderate Islam” as part of his broader reform efforts. Though it is unclear what, if any, tangible changes this will produce, his remarks are part of a growing trend among leaders in the Arab world to use elements of the state-sponsored religious establishment, or “official Islam”, to counter extremist ideologies.

Some countries have been far more successful than others at harnessing the power of official Islam to challenge popular Islamist movements and limit radical ideologies. In a new article, we examine how regimes have used official religious institutions in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia after the 2011 uprisings shook the region.…  Seguir leyendo »