Abstract: Islam, Islamists and statehood in Palestine
by Na’eem Jeenah
Presented at “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace” Conference, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Toronto
This paper will examine the origins of political Islam in Palestine, and relate the political positions of the Hamas movement to its origins and its Islamist ‘lineage’. It will discuss the emergence of Hamas (and refer to the emergence of Islamic Jihad), examine the Hamas charter, and expound on some of the political positions and strategies of Hamas.
In addition, the paper will discuss the notion of ‘Islamic state’ within contemporary Islamic thought. This is not an uncontested notion among Muslim scholars. Whether the forms of Islamic governance that characterised the early Prophetic and post-Prophetic Muslim empire resembled the form of nation states as understood today is doubtful. What, then, does it mean to refer to those forms of governance and to use them as justification for an ‘Islamic state’ in the 21st Century? Are comparisons between an ‘Islamic state’ that might / could exist today to the Islamic governance from the Seventh Century onwards correct and / or useful, either in terms of defining a new political model or in terms of determining forms of struggle and steps towards achieving such models? What does an ‘Islamic state’ mean and what would it represent?
The paper will answer these questions, and will argue that, in order for the notion of an ‘Islamic state’ in the 21st Century to bear any resemblance to past models of Islamic governance – particularly those that Islamists deem to be exemplary, such notions must emphasise objectives and values rather than specific political and legislative structures and forms. Any idea of a state that is based on ‘shari’ah’ must focus mainly on the objectives of the shari’ah, and cannot be obsessed with prohibitions and punishments. This is especially true in a multicultural society, the kind of society that was unfamiliar to most of those that ruled the Islamic empire of the past. It is, thus, particularly true in a single state that covers all of British Mandate Palestine and which seeks to present itself as an ‘Islamic state’ that is governed by the ‘shari’ah’, as is argued for by most Islamists.