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The clerics’ betrayal? Islamists, ʿUlamaʾ and the polity

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Chapter Summary

The critical writings of Benda, Gramsci and Nizan were part of a broader European debate over the image of the secular intellectual. The code words "betrayal" and "watchdogs" favored by these Western writers were relevant as well to the anti-ʿulamaʾ Islamist polemic, although in a quite different context. Retrospectively, the legal and historic record of Sunni ʿulamaʾ held little appeal for modern Islamist movements. Rather, it was viewed as an obstacle, in the Islamists' depiction. The harsh verdict of Islamists on modern Arab ʿulamaʾ, together with the slighting treatment of them in Western research, borders to a large extent on historical injustice. The Saudi Muslim World League, charged with the task of exporting the Wahhabiyya brand of Islam, soon took the lead in remolding the global Islamic landscape through the power of petro-Islam. Islamists, for their part, did not burn their bridges with the Sunni establishment.

Keywords: Islamists; modern Arab ʿulamaʾ



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