Ummatics Forums

The Umma in International Relations: Presence and Effectiveness

Ummatics Colloquium: The Umma in International Relations: Presence and Effectiveness

Our November colloquium focused on the topic of the Umma’s role in international relations and the potential for a global power shift. Esteemed panelists Dr. Nadia Mostafa, a pioneer in integrating the Islamic civilizational paradigm into international relations, and Dr. Medhat Maher, Director of the Al-Hadarah Center, led the discussions.

Dr. Mostafa initiated the conversation by reflecting on the recent events in Gaza and challenging the perception of the Umma is a dormant entity. Despite its current inability to directly aid Gaza and its overall state of vulnerability, the Umma maintains a deep-seated solidarity with Gaza, seeing its fate as intrinsically linked to that of Palestine at large.

She underscored the Umma’s tangible presence across the globe, dismissing the notion of it as a mere concept. Marking 100 years since the caliphate’s dissolution, Dr. Mostafa highlighted the enduring impact of this event on the Umma, from East Turkestan to Palestine. The situation in Gaza, she argued, is part of a broader narrative of the Umma, which continues to resonate and respond to its call.

Dr. Mostafa critiqued the regional political regimes for failing to mitigate the Umma’s suffering, a reality starkly evident in Gaza. However, she cautioned against overstating the significance of these regimes, affirming the Umma’s resilience and its capacity to persevere independently.

She also addressed the lessons the Umma offers in confronting modern colonialism, occupation, and imperialism. By asserting its identity, the Umma safeguards its civilizational paradigm, which is pivotal for liberation and transformative change.

Dr. Mostafa advocated for a shift from the existing international system to one that embodies the Umma’s worldview, emphasizing the need to reevaluate the dynamics between the Umma and nation-states, Islamic values and national security, and the Umma’s right to movement. These discussions, she noted, are essential for achieving the Umma’s civilizational autonomy amidst the ongoing media war that often portrays it negatively. Yet recent events in Gaza have also illuminated these biased narratives, offering a moment of clarity and recognition of the Umma’s resilience.

Dr. Maher continued the dialogue by distinguishing between the Umma’s existence, presence, and agency, focusing predominantly on its agency within international politics. He outlined his discourse on three fronts: conceptualizing agency in research and analysis, evidencing the Umma’s agency in global politics, and exploring strategies for enhancing this agency as part of a broader civilizational vision.

He posited the Umma as a global entity hindered by various obstacles that diminish its effectiveness in achieving its objectives and exerting a productive influence on the world stage. To transcend its status as a passive figure in global politics, the Umma must leverage contemporary political realities, including the digital landscape, to activate its civilizational potential beyond the confines of nation-state politics.

Dr. Maher identified multiple factors impeding the Umma’s agency, ranging from Islamophobia to the stifling effects of the current international system on economic development, the aftermath of wars, and the thwarted aspirations of the Arab Spring due to internal and external pressures.

To navigate these challenges, Dr. Maher proposed three avenues: reviving democracy as advocated by liberal thinkers, despite the setbacks experienced during the Arab Spring; fostering intra-Ummatic unity to secure freedom; and pursuing independence and civilizational autonomy to reorient political and public focus towards the Umma as the primary unit of political action and agency.

Dr. Nadia M Mostafa, an Emeritus Professor at Cairo University and a leading figure in establishing the Islamic Civilizational Paradigm in International Relations, will speak on the Umma as a unit and level of analysis as well as activation in international relations. Following her presentation, Dr. Medhat Maher, the Director of Al-Hadara Center of Studies and Research, will connect the theoretical discussion to current world events to explain the applications and possible opportunities for the effectiveness of the Umma as an actor on the international stage.

Time: Saturday, Nov 25, 2023 11AM Eastern

  • Dr. Nadia M Mostafa, Emeritus Professor of International Relations, Cairo University
  • Dr. Medhat Maher, Director of Al-Hadara Center of Studies and Research

Moderator: Dr. Usaama al-Azami

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