Politics and Power

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Mahbubatur Rahman Ankhi
PPE: 9500 Introduction to Comparative Politics
Research Proposal: Protest, in the Name of Religion
Most of the religions, including Islam teach their followers how to live peacefully. If that is so, why have there been violent protests against the video, “Innocence of Muslim”? The most significant fact about this ongoing protest is that, people in some Muslim-majority countries are protesting violently and some are not. Why is there such difference? The violent protests in some Muslim majority countries suggest that the followers of Islam in these countries are outraged because their prophet was insulted horribly in the video, which is likely to be insulting to all Muslims. Is it the only reason to protest violently or there are other hidden reasons for this? Based on deductive reasoning and adopting an instrumentalist and institutionalist approach, I will argue that, groups are protesting violently in some Muslim majority countries to stay in power or to grab power in their domestic politics while other Muslim communities are not protesting also because of their own political interest. Also, weak political institutions are another important reason of the protest to be carried on. To test my hypotheses I will conduct interviews with protestors and non-protestors, leaders of the protests from countries where there were protests, as well as the politicians and leaders from Muslim majority countries where protests did not occur. I will also investigate the political and institutional landscape of countries where protests occurred and where they did not and present critical analysis of the relationships between these factors to support my hypotheses. Before proceeding with this proposal, I will define some of the key terms I will use throughout the paper. First, it should be very clear what deductive reasoning is. According to Patrick O’ Neil (2010), deductive reasoning implies that “starting with a puzzle and from there generating some hypotheses about cause and which will then be tested against a number of cases” (p.4) which is already presented in the first paragraph. My puzzle is; why are some Muslim majority countries are reacting violently against the video while some are not? I have offered a tentative explanation that emphasizes the role of interests and institutions. The next term is “instrumentalism”. It focuses on the struggle for resources such as power or economic interests as the basis for conflict. Another important key term is “institutionalism” which emphasizes the strength and role of institutions in a given country. The police, other law enforcement bodies, and the government can be considered institutions. I will also use the term “voluntarism” which suggests that someone or a group of people may play a key role in organizing protest and mobilizing people to stand for them. The final term is culturalism, which focuses on cultural differences as the course of conflict Literature Review

According to my hypotheses, groups that want to gain or stay in power fuelled the protest, along with opportunities provided by weak institutions. Here we can say that the groups protested must have leaders and aim to serve their own interests through protest. Therefore, to carry out the protest they mobilize people. According to Posner (2004) from “The Political Salience of Cultural Difference: Why Chewas and Tumbukas are Allies in Zambia and Adversaries in Malawi,” we see that the leaders mobilize people for them because of their own interest to stay in power. In underlining the role of Kaunda, president of Zambia, Posner says “Kaunda was at times, a skillful manipulator of ethnic division” (2004, p. 537). Posner also says about a Malawi leader “Malawi meanwhile, was ruled from 1964 to 1994 by Hasting Kamuzu Banda, a leader notorious for championing his own culture” (2004, p. 537). In another part Posner says "Banda sought to build up Chewa coalition and played Chewa off against Tumbukas...
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