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Italy, Islam and the Islamic World

Representations and Reflections, from 9/11 to the Arab Uprisings


Charles Burdett

The recent emergence and increasing visibility of Islam as Italy’s second religion is an issue of undeniable importance. It has generated an intense and often polarized debate that has involved all the cultural, political and religious institutions of the country and some of its most vocal and controversial cultural figures. This study examines some of the most significant voices that have made themselves heard in defining Italy’s relationship with Islam and with the Islamic world, in a period of remarkable geopolitical and cultural upheaval from 9/11 to the Arab Spring. It looks in detail at the nature of the arguments that writers, journalists and intellectuals have adduced regarding Islam and at the connections and disjunctions between opposing positions. It examines how events such as military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq or the protests in Tahrir Square have been represented within Italy and it analyses the rhetorical framework within which the issue of the emergence of Islam as an internal actor within Italian civil society has been articulated.


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Chapter 5. Voices of Tahrir Square: Representations of Egypt and the Arab Uprisings


Chapter 5 Voices of Tahrir Square: Representations of Egypt and the Arab Uprisings Descriverei la rivoluzione con due parole: popolo, di cui ho parlato e scritto molto ma solo a Tahrir ho capito il suo significato; e morte… — alaa al-aswany In the preface to his highly regarded work The Second Arab Awakening, Adeed Dawisha writes that most observers had, in the early years of the twenty-first century, given up on the hope of meaningful political reform occurring in the Arab world and that no one could have anticipated the momentous happenings that were to sweep through Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and other parts of North Africa and the Middle East from late 2010.1 In their similarly esteemed commentary The Battle for the Arab Spring, Lin Nouiehed and Alex Warren argue that the event marked the end of a decade of protest, political activism and media criticism that prepared the ground for more open political systems. They point to the growing rejection of what they define as the uneasy marriage between inefficient Soviet-style bureau- cracy with crony capitalism, a combination which encouraged corruption and left younger generations facing few job prospects and an unremitting rise in the cost of living. They also point to the media revolution that had, through satellite TV and the internet, occurred across the Arab world in the decade leading up to 2011 and which served to undermine the basis of authoritarian governments. Yet, while they suggest ways in which the Arab Spring might have been predictable,2...

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