What percentage of Saudis are Muslims?
Dr. phil., born 1962; Professor of Islamic Studies at the Free University of Berlin and Director of the Center for the Modern Orient in Berlin.
Address: Zentrum Moderner Orient, Kirchweg 33, 14129 Berlin.
Email: [email protected]
Numerous publications on Islam in the Arab world in specialist journals.
Arabic is the language of the Koran, the Islamic revelation text. The Muslims regard this as a divine miracle, not least because of its artistic language, which to a certain extent authenticated the mission of the Islamic prophet. In the eyes of many of the more than 280 million Arabs, there is a special relationship between them and a religion to which more than 1.2 billion people worldwide now belong.  Today the largest Islamic states lie outside the Arab settlement areas, they are Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. 
Now, because of the undeniable historical connection between them and Islam, can Arabs be seen as more authentic or at least particularly good Muslims? Such an idea was put forward, for example, in the early 20th century, when the Ottoman Empire was politically and militarily on the defensive and the demand was made to renew the region under Arab religious and political leadership. Arabs, so the reasoning, are called to do this in a special way because of the Arab character of Islam. An Arab ambassador who worked for a long time in Indonesia recently stated that the "moderate" form of Islam represented there, according to which, for example, plural marriage has been abolished, testifies to a misunderstanding of the religion. In doing so, he deliberately overlooked the fact that in most Arab states, too, Islamic family law has now been modified by civil legislation. The role of Islam in the Arab world is consequently by no means a fixed and unchangeable one; on the contrary, it is repeatedly questioned by secularists as well as by Islamists and renegotiated between them.
So the first question to be asked is to what extent one can actually speak of "an Islam" in "the Arab world". Then the historical connections between Arabs and Islam are briefly discussed and then the question of the current role of Islam in selected Arab countries is asked. A distinction should be made between the institutional position attributed to religion in the constitutions and legal systems of the Arab states, on the one hand, and the partly legal, partly illegal Islamist movements, whose demands for changes in the respective systems are finally examined.
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