Muslim revivalism and the emergence of civic society. A case study of an Israeli-Circassian community, by Chen Bram

Central Asian Survey (March, 2003) 22(1), 5–21

The article was submitted to the Hebrew University at 1998 and was recognized as equivalent to a MA Thesis. A first version of this paper was presented at the conference on ‘Israel’s Arabs as a Political Community in Formation’, The Harry S. Truman Institute, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, May 1993. This study and the fieldwork for it were supported by The Harry S. Truman Institute and The Sheine Institute of The Hebrew University.My first journey to the Caucasus in 1990 was supported by The Yad Ben Zvi Institute, Jerusalem. I would like to thank Dr Y. Zilberman, Dr A. Sella, Dr Kumaraswammy, Dr S. Hattokay and S. Fisher for their helpful remarks and Judith Suissa. Without the support and help of my Adyge friends, this study would not have been possible. 

Islamic revival activity in a semi-traditional Muslim society seems to be contrary to the development of what is termed civic society. The following case study of Islamic revivalism and its limits in a Circassian community in Israel will show that the relations between Islamic revivalism and the emergence of civic societyare complex and dialectical.

Civic society refers to a web of activity that exists beyond the formal political system, and beyond the normal network of traditional kinship relations. I use this term in a sense close to that implied by the more commonly employed term ‘civil society’. However, I consider the term ‘civic society’ to be more appropriate to a discussion that draws on the analytical distinction between state and society. Discussion of the idea of a ‘civil society’ usually focuses on two components: the relations between state and society, and the activities and influence of those communities and associations acting outside the sphere of the direct control of the state. The term ‘civic’, however, lends itself more readily to a discussion of specific social and community contexts such as the rise of such a society in a specific community. It is also more appropriate as a description of social developments within traditional and semi-traditional societies, such as that described in the present case study.

Download the full-text document in PDF format