SYMPOSIUM: CONSTITUTIONAL COURTS IN THE FIELD OF POWER POLITICS: Constitutional Courts vs. Religious Fundamentalism: Three Middle Eastern Tales Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2004 Texas Law Review
Texas Law Review

SYMPOSIUM: CONSTITUTIONAL COURTS IN THE FIELD OF POWER POLITICS: Constitutional Courts vs. Religious Fundamentalism: Three Middle Eastern Tales

June, 2004

82 Tex. L. Rev. 1819

Author

Ran Hirschl*

Excerpt



Over the past few decades, principles of theocratic governance have gained enormous public support in developing polities worldwide. The countries experiencing this resurgence of religious fundamentalism are diverse, spanning the globe from Central and Southeast Asia, to North and Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. While populist Western academic and media accounts tend to portray the spread of religious fundamentalism as a monolithic and ever-accelerating phenomenon, in practice most countries that have recently experienced a fundamentalist revival have long been caught between secular and religious identities, worldviews, and commitments.

The growing popular support for principles of theocratic governance poses a major threat to the cultural propensities and policy preferences of secular and relatively cosmopolitan elites in these countries. An increasingly common strategy undertaken by political powerholders representing these secular voices has been the transfer of fundamental collective identity, or "religion and state" quandaries, from the political sphere to the constitutional courts. Drawing upon their disproportionate access to and influence over the legal arena, social forces in polities facing deep division along secular-religious lines aim to ensure that their secular Western views and policy preferences are less effectively contested. The results have been an unprecedented judicialization of foundational collective identity, particularly in the realm of religion and state questions, and the consequent emergence of constitutional courts as important guardians of secular interests in these countries. In this Article, I explore the scope and nature of this phenomenon.

This Article is divided into four Parts. In the first three Parts, ...
 
 
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