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Sectarianism after the Arab Spring: An Exaggerated Spectre

June 25th, 2012

barah mikail Sectarianism after the Arab Spring: An Exaggerated Spectre This report is published by FRIDE a European think tank for global action, which provides innovative thinking and rigorous analysis of key debates in international relations.

By: Dr. Barah Mikaïl

Sectarianism has experienced a boost in the aftermath of popular uprisings in the Arab world. Recent sectarian strife following the fall of Arab authoritarian leaders has been provoked by ideological rifts between Islamists and secularists, and between conservatives and liberals, as well as by religious divisions between Sunnis and Shias, Muslims and Christians. However, the rise of sectarian strife in the aftermath of the 2011 uprisings has also been stoked by geopolitical strategies, as power vacuums create opportunities for political ambitions and agendas. While sectarianism is real and bears important risks, it is not the main driver of divisions in the region. The West must not lose sight of the fact that many regimes are stirring up sectarianism while neglecting other cleavages, such as regional agendas, a lack of respect for human rights, corruption and poor economic conditions.

Yet however manipulated it may be, the rise of sectarianism in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region risks undermining the prospects for building peaceful and stable democratic societies in the Arab world. This raises several questions. How are political players favouring and instrumentalising the re-awakening of traditional religious and denominational cleavages? How have governments in the region responded? And what could Europe and the international community do to reduce sectarianism’s potential to spoil peaceful democratic transitions?

To read, Dr. Mikaïl’s full report, click here.

Dr. Barah Mikaïl is a Senior Fellow on Middle Eastern issues at IRIS, a Paris-based Institute for International and Strategic Relations. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science.

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