Can a New ‘Islamic State’ Succeed?

Wednesday Forum this week will have an interesting theme “Can a New ‘Islamic State’ Succeed?”. Our speaker in this forum is Salem Ghandour. We invite you to join this forum. Some information about the forum can be read as follows.

Date: Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Time: 12.30 pm ? 2.30 pm (free lunch)
Venue: Room 306, UGM Graduate School Teknika Utara Pogung
Speaker: Salem Ghandour


Can a new ?Islamic State? succeed? To tackle this question, one has to look at what the traditional Islamic State was and why it worked so well for so many centuries until it ultimately collapsed. Only then can one understand why the idea is so popular today. Most importantly, one should be able to identify the major challenges that will face the new Islamic State.

In a first part, I will highlight that the quasi-total absence of political justice in the modern Muslim states to establish themselves as legal states in the twin senses of being justified by law and governing through it. Such structural failures help explain the surprising renaissance of Islam not only as faith but a powerful political force.

The call for an ?Islamic State? is therefore first and foremost a call for law: a legal state that would be justified by law and govern through it. Indeed, it was the abandonment of law as an organizing political force that doomed the old Islamic empires.

Finally, the greatest challenge facing a new ?Islamic State? is about identifying who is in charge of specifying the meaning of Shari?a and by what authority. In the old Islamic State, it was the scholars, and their authority derived from the Shari?a itself. But who is it to be now? Indeed, if Islamists take the reins of government but cannot manage to institutionalize the balance of powers and restore the rule of law, we are all in for a rough ride.

For now, the Islamist promise of the rule of law offers the only prospect for meaningful political justice for many Muslims. It it too, fails, the alternative could be much worse.

About the speaker:

SALEM GHANDOUR, 24, born of Syrian/French/ American parents in France, attended international schools (elementary through high school) developing fluency in Arabic, English and French as well as semi-proficiency in German and Spanish. Insistent on keeping his Syrian roots alive and aware of a widening gap between Islam and West, Salem decided he should leverage his faith, linguistics and multi-culturalism to void the increasing problems between the latter civilizations. He enrolled in general studies in Political Science in France before transferring to the USA, the University of Michigan, to pursue diplomatic studies specializing in Political Science, Near Eastern Studies and Energy Policy.

In 2005, Salem was selected by the US Department of State Eurasian Bureau (Washington, D.C.) as Diplomatic Intern at the US Embassy in Paris working on Public Diplomacy issues as well as working with the Cultural Affairs section.

In 2007, in another nomination by Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes, Salem was invited to tour Malaysia and Indonesia part of the Citizen Dialog Program aiming to dispel myths, stereotypes about Islam in America as well as American Foreign Policy. Salem is now a US Department of State Fulbright Fellow in Malaysia studying the environmental and social impact of converting Palm Oil to Biodiesel. Salem will also be focusing on drawing from the Malaysian economic story as an exportable model of development for the troubled and impoverished Middle East. He is also currently a US Embassy Speaker engaging issues such as Islam in America, US Foreign Policy and International Relations.

Salem’s extra-curriculars include Rugby, when in 2007, he was selected part of the University of Michigan rugby team. In France, Salem was also an avid Judoka, winning twice (respectively Silver and Bonze medals) regional heavyweight championships.


The forum is free of charge and on a first-come-first basis.

Contact Person:

Elis Z. Anis (ICRS):,; Lina Pary (CRCS):; Mustaghfiroh Rahayu (CRCS):


This post is also available in: Indonesian


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