Gulf states and Islamist responses to COVID-19:a changing relationship

Ardovini, Lucia (2020) Gulf states and Islamist responses to COVID-19:a changing relationship. Global Discourse, 10 (4). pp. 439-444. ISSN 2326-9995

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This article focuses on the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Gulf and examines how different responses to the pandemic are affecting the relationship between state institutions and Islamist actors. Several states and regimes are attempting to contain the spread of COVID-19 by imposing increasingly authoritarian measures and tightening social control, which in turn is causing a renewed wave of social unrest. The article shows how, in this increasingly unstable context, the relationships between state institutions and Islamist actors are developing along two main trends. As a response to the pandemic, states in the Gulf are increasingly relying on the mobilisation of Islamic institutions and religious bodies to support lockdown and isolation policies, enlisting Islamic authority to compensate for the decreasing levels of popular trust in the regime. The tightening of authoritarian measures is bringing pre-existing tensions between Islamists and authorities back to the fore, resulting in an increased crackdown on religious opposition actors ad movements. This article shows that, while the extent to which these trends are developing depends on the national context under analysis, different state reactions to COVID-19 are already drastically altering the relationship between political institutions and Islamic ones, affecting both domestic and regional balances of power and highlighting the mutual dependency between religion and politics in the Gulf.

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Journal Article
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Global Discourse
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08 Feb 2022 10:35
Last Modified:
16 Sep 2023 02:26