Religion and Politics in the Middle East

Identity, Ideology, Institutions, and Attitudes


Robert D. Lee

Second Edition • July 30, 2013 • 376 pages


Print ISBN: 9780813348735 • $44.00 USD$56.99 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780813348742 • $25.99 USD$25.99 CAN

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This innovative book analyzes the relationship between religion and politics in the Middle East through a comparative study of five countries—Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Robert D. Lee examines each country in terms of four domains in which state and religion necessarily interact: national identity, ideology, institutions, and political culture. In each domain he considers contradictory hypotheses, some of them asserting that religion is a positive force for political development and others identifying it as an obstacle. Among the questions the book confronts: Is secularization a necessary prerequisite for democratic development? How is it and why is it that religion and politics are so deeply entangled in these five countries? And, why is it that all five countries differ so markedly in the way they identify themselves and use religion for political purposes? The book argues that the nature of religious organization and practice in the Middle East must be understood in the context of individual nation states.

The second edition is updated throughout and includes an entirely new chapter discussing the political and religious climate in Saudi Arabia. Earlier introductory analysis has been condensed to make room for new material, and chronologies at the end of each chapter have been added to help students understand the broader context. The second edition of Religion and Politics in the Middle East is a robust addition to courses on the Middle East.


Robert D. Lee is professor of political science at Colorado College. He is the author of Overcoming Tradition and Modernity: The Search for Islamic Authority as well as the translator and editor of Rethinking Islam: Common Questions, Uncommon Answers by Mohammed Arkoun.

1. The Political Determinants of Religion
2. The Taming of Islam in Egypt
3. The Transformation of Judaism in Israel
4. The Politics of Religion in “Secularist” Turkey
5. State Shiism in Iran
6. State Sunnism in Saudi Arabia
7. Reconciling Religion and Politics

Praise for Prior Editions:

“Lee skillfully balances a broad conceptual framework and careful analysis of particular Middle Eastern political systems. As a result, this book provides significant insights into the relationships between religion and politics in the region. In many ways, Lee moves the study of comparative politics to a new level in this synthesis of theory and descriptive specifics.”
—John O. Voll, Georgetown University

“Stimulating, jargon-free theorizing about the tensions and balances between political and religious authority across time and space, putting into fresh comparative perspective the doctrines and ideologies of secularism, Islamism, and Zionism in the Middle East. … Rich reading for students and scholars alike.”
—Clement Moore Henry, University of Texas at Austin

“The relationship between religion and politics is one of the most analyzed in the study of the Middle East. Few such studies are as clearly written and compelling as Robert Lee’s Religion and Politics in the Middle East. Especially impressive is the author’s comparative focus that brings together nation-states that rarely share the same analytic stage, namely Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and Iran. By offering a well developed set of 25 hypotheses that systematically assess the relationship between religion and politics, the author offers the reader both an empirically rich and conceptually sophisticated analysis. Religion and Politics in the Middle East not only provides an excellent introductory text for undergraduate and graduate students, but one from which specialists in the field of Middle Eastern studies will find new perspectives and empirical data drawn from a cross-national context.”
—Eric Davis, Rutgers University, author of Memories of State: Politics, History and Collective Identity in Modern Iraq

“Lee brings a breadth of knowledge from studies of religion and politics and a depth of insight from many years of studying Middle Eastern politics. . . . The case studies are dense and richly developed and reveal deep insights from a long career of exposure to Middle Eastern politics. Highly recommended.” —Choice

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