Rhetoric and Ideology in Egypt’s Wasaiyya Movement

In: Arabica
Jacob Høigilt Fafo Institute for Applied Studies (Oslo)

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Islamic centrism (Wasaiyya) is commonly presented as an open-minded and dialogue-oriented form of Islamism. This article questions that view by analyzing texts written by two prominent centrists: Muammad ‘Ammāra and Fahmī Huwaydī. Focusing on rhetorical techniques, the article argues that their texts are characterized by aggressive polemics not conducive to pluralist public debate. While relying heavily on barrages of rhetorical questions and implicit arguments, they avoid serious discussion of difficult issues. These characteristics of their texts are brought out by a discourse analysis based on modern text linguistics, specifically Functional Grammar as developed by Michael Halliday. This approach to Islamism is new and helps explaining why centrism, despite its professed open-mindedness, has failed both to defuse the high ideological tension in contemporary Egyptian debates about Islam in society and to contribute to bringing those debates forward.

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