Muted Modernists: The Struggle over Divine Politics in Saudi Arabia
Analysis of both official and opposition Saudi divine politics is often monolithic, conjuring images of conservatism, radicalism, misogyny and resistance to democracy.
In her new book Madawi Al-Rasheed challenges this stereotype as she examines a long tradition of engaging with modernism that gathered momentum with the Arab uprisings and incurred the wrath of both the Saudi regime and its Wahhabi supporters.
With this nascent modernism, constructions of new divine politics, anchored in a rigorous reinterpretation of foundational Islamic texts and civil society activism, are emerging in a context where an authoritarian state prefers its advocates to remain muted.
Based on a plethora of texts written by ulama and intellectuals, interviews with important modernist interlocutors, and analysis of online sources, mainly new social media activism, Madawi Al-Rasheed debunks several academic and ideological myths about a country struggling to free itself from the straitjacket of predetermined analysis and misguided understandings of divine politics. She also challenges much of the scholarly received wisdom on Islamism in general, blurring the boundaries between secular and religious politics.