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Various national liberation movements usually aim at statehood in Western terms: recognition by the major powers, UN membership, accepting the international accords (like the Geneva Conventions and nuclear non-proliferation treaty), etc. Such recognition is often seen as a prerequisite for achieving and maintaining national independence.

However, there are notorious examples of movements that aim at statehood on non-western terms - notably the Islamic State and Hamas (both militant off-shoots of the Muslim Brotherhood). Both openly defy any adherence to Western politics and values. E.g., 1988 Hamas charter states:

There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.

whereas softer 2017 charter (which however does not annul the previous one) says:

The agreements reached in the Oslo Accords are criticized and rejected as incompatible with international law. The state of Israel, created with the help of Western nations, is still regarded as "completely illegal" (bâtil in Arabic, a word that also has religious connotations).

The latter appears more conciliatory, but it is to my knowledge the furthest that Hamas has even gone towards accepting Western values in either words or deeds.

The Islamic State's confrontational stance led to its quick demise... but after attracting significant support from all over the globe - in terms of fighters and families joining the movement. Hamas has been doing much better until recently. Is there an "eco-system" that such anti-western movements count upon in their bid to survive and win independence? Some alternative to "western order"? It is easy to dismiss these movements as religious fanatics committed to medieval notions of the Caliphate, but this doesn't seem to do justice to Muslims.

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  • What do you mean by "modern Muslim"?
    – C.F.G
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 10:35
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    The question conflates diplomatic recognition and participation to international treaties with "adherence to western politics and values", obviously these are not the same. For example China doesn't share most of the "western politics and values", but participates in international treaties. Additionally Hamas is a poor example since it;s very far from the stage of actual state-building, and without it there is only one example left for this new kind of state.
    – Erwan
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 10:58
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    It's also worth noting that both organizations use the non-recognition of a Palestinian state by Western countries and their support of Israel as evidence that the West is corrupted and unfair, hence the rejection of western politics and values.
    – Erwan
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 11:02
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    @RogerV. I agree that Hamas rejectionist attitude doesn't help Palestinians. However it's very convenient for Netanyahu's government, as he admitted himself, since this justifies their lack of effort towards peace and a Palestinian state.
    – Erwan
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 11:11
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    @RogerV. It is the western system that divides everything into modern and non-modern. Muslims were leaders in various sciences, civilization, economic, etc before the beginning of Western colonization. For example, Ibn Sina. Khayyam, Al-Biruni and many others. See also Islamic Golden Age.
    – C.F.G
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 11:26

1 Answer 1

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The definition of a 'state' is fairly pragmatic: a state is government that can effectively defend its sovereignty by controlling and maintaining territorial borders. Recognition by other states or international actors is a formality (with some practical consequences, obviously). Formal recognition by others is an acknowledgement (sometimes grudging) that the government in question has sufficient power and structure to make invading 'their' territory costly and difficult. Such recognition is aimed mainly at preventing border squabbles from turning into full-scale wars.

Middle-Eastern political actors are not interested in challenging the definition of the state; they merely object to the Western hegemony over formal recognition. The Islamic State was actually close to achieving pragmatic statehood: they had a significant military force (for the region) and were in the process of establishing institutional structures for governance. If it hadn't been for the intervention of major world powers it's conceivable they would have deposed Assad or carved off a significant territory they could effectively control, and then they would have been a de facto state, regardless of what anyone said. Recognition would have (eventually) followed. Hamas was nowhere near pragmatic statehood, as we can see by the ease in which the IDF penetrated their borders and took over their territory. While the UN could have granted them formal statehood, that would merely have been paper; it would not have stopped Israel from invading, but merely turned it into a proper war between states. The Palestinians are a stateless people, concentrated into a small area of land that surrounding nations (Israel and Egypt) have studiously avoid claiming as their own territory, specifically to prevent Palestinians from claiming rights within those established states. It's a cruel mess, and I understand why Arabs are angry about it, but no one is trying to change the essential nature of statehood.

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    Your start was good. :)- Which countries do you mean by If it hadn't been for the intervention of major world powers?
    – C.F.G
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 19:13
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    Your answer seems to exclude completely West bank and Jordan (with significant Palestinian population.)
    – Morisco
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 19:16
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    @RogerV.: The West Bank is occupied territory, and thus clearly not a state in any sense. Jordan is an established state, Palestinians are a sateless people residing with in it. I suppose we could argue that Hezbollah has sufficient political power in Jordan that it's become a mixed Palestinian/Jordanian state; that's an interesting (if problematic) line of thought. But in any case, neither of those poses a challenge to the concept of 'state' per se; just an assertion that Israel is an illegitimate state. Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 19:55
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    @C.F.G: Well, you'll have to tell me how this history is 'wrong'. The US Coalition against IS — with Turkey, England, Germany, France, etc. — certainly existed. Iran also opposed IS, but through its support of Assad, not as part of the US coalition. Iran and the US have their own long-standing antagonisms, leading to the US assassination of Soleimani for rationales entirely unrelated to the issue of IS. Call it amoral realpolitik and I'll happily agree, but it isn't fiction. Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 21:29
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    @C.F.G: If you're trying to convince me that US foreign policy is short-sighted, selfish, and manipulative, don't bother. I already know that. But let's not be simplistic. The US had ample opportunity to promote regime change during the Arab Spring (including deposing Assad) years before the IS reared its head. In fact, I could argue that the only reason IS rose is because Obama backed away from the Arab insurgencies after Gaddafi fell, and IS stepped into the power vacuum. Being blindly cynical is just as bad as being naïve, if you follow me… Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 7:40

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