Minorities, civil society, and the state in the contemporary Middle East

A framework for analysis

Authored by: Paul Kingston

Routledge Handbook of Minorities in the Middle East

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138649040
eBook ISBN: 9781315626031
Adobe ISBN:


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The exercise of citizenship, the emergence of deliberative public spheres, and the flourishing of civic life depend upon the fulfillment of some basic political (pre)conditions – namely, the existence of stable, if not durable, political orders that seek and have some degree of capacity to protect the equal rights of individuals. These conditions can be especially important for cultural minorities who seek to entrench their rights as equal members of a national political community rather than as subordinate members of a political system that enforces differential rights based upon an individual’s membership in a particular ethnic and/or religious community. Throughout the contemporary history of the Middle East, however, these political conditions – for minorities and majorities alike – have never been strong and, in recent years, have deteriorated further in the wake of the destabilization of various states in the region as a result of the outbreak of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 and the intensification of geostrategic rivalries. Indeed, Raymond Hinnebusch has gone so far as to suggest that the region is experiencing a ‘sectarian revolution’ characterized by intense political competition along religious lines at the geo-strategic, national, and even local levels. 1 In these current socio-political conditions, civic actors – including those emanating from minority communities – have found their political opportunities for exercising their rights as equal citizens increasingly constricted.

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