In this March-April 2013 issue, which Futuribles is devoting very largely to the social and political impact of religions, Jean-Paul Burdy and Jean Marcou analyse the role played by Islam and Islamists in the “Arab Springs” of the last two years and the role they are playing today in the ongoing political transitions. They first remind us that the Arab revolutions were unleashed by protest movements that were primarily social and political, and that Islamists (generally well established within the lower strata of the countries concerned) joined in with these after the event. Burdy and Marcou then show how the Islamists, following the example of the Muslim Brotherhood, took advantage of these uprisings to gain power (in Tunisia and Egypt in particular). However, they also show the extent to which the Islamists’ ideological line merely played into a social and political body that had actually long been dominated by Shari’a law. They outline, too, the various divergences in this regard between the various Arab countries concerned in the “Arab Springs” and the reference models on which they drew etc. In particular, they study the denominational issues (Shiite/Sunni rivalries) that have emerged in states like Bahrain or Syria and the way these have been made use of by certain players, while nonetheless disputing the “simplistic interpretation” that sees a “Shiite arc” emerging over against a “Sunni bloc” within the Arab world, when the positions and actions of states are in many cases motivated very classically by Realpolitik.
Lastly, Burdy and Marcou warn against what are sometimes rather over-hasty readings of current developments, recalling how important the part played by political, economic and social processes has been and pointing out how difficult it will be, in this context, for the Islamist parties which have gained power (democratically) to reconcile their ideological imperatives with the aspirations of their fellow citizens.