A new book by Earlham professor Ahmed Khanani argues that democracy is an extension of Islamic values and challenges stereotypes about Islam held by Western political leaders and the media.
All Politics Are God’s Politics: Moroccan Islamism and the Sacralization of Democracy (Rutgers University Press, 2021) was written after two years of field research and more than 90 hours of recorded interviews with hundreds of Muslims.
“What is happening with everyday people in the Muslim world is a re-reading of the Qur’an and other source material in the Muslim tradition that was historically not read as democratic but is now,” said Khanani, Plowshares Assistant Professor of Politics and co-director of the Earlham Center for Social Justice. “My book argues that whereas often scholars and lay persons imagine the Muslim tradition and democracy as being in conflict, in the language of Moroccan Islamists, Islam and democracy are actually consonant with each other. The book is also invested in asking questions in ways that advance the cause of people who are historically underrepresented or marginalized in certain parts of the world.”
Khanani traveled to Morocco in 2009 and conducted field research for two years while completing his Ph.D. at Indiana University. His research was funded by a Foreign Language Area Studies Dissertation Year Fellowship, a Fulbright award, and the Project on Middle East Political Science travel grant.
“This project was really motivated by a lot of the sweeping generalizations about Islam I was reading about in the 1990s that I didn’t agree with,” Khanani said. “Morocco is a country with a long history of democracy in ways that other places in the Middle East or North Africa haven’t had. It was a good fit for the kind of questions I was excited about.”
Khanani’s interviews were exclusively with non-violent Islamists, who are often socially conservative and politically active. Among the people Khanani interviewed was a former Moroccan prime minister.
“The Muslim tradition is their point of departure in politics,” Khanani said. “There are Islamists who are violent or open to violence but those were not the people I worked with. I wanted to understand how persons who were deeply committed to the Muslim tradition and also nonviolent would articulate and embody democracy. Nonviolent Islamists are both significantly more numerous and also play pivotal roles in public conversations about politics writ large across the Middle East and North Africa.”
Khanani’s primary scholarly areas include human rights and democracy in the Muslim Middle East and North Africa, with an emphasis on how everyday people understand and embody key concepts in global politics.
A sampling of his courses includes Genealogies of Nationalism in the Muslim Middle East and North Africa, Social Science Research Methods, Gender & Sexuality in the Muslim MENA, and Human Rights in the Muslim World.
As co-director of Earlham’s Center for Social Justice, Khanani helps students make purposeful connections with social justice issues through initiatives that build skills and knowledge in and out of the classroom. The Center supports a spring lobby weekend in Washington, D.C., in partnership with the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Students can also apply to the Center for internal and external funding to support projects that promote peace and understanding in communities around the world.