Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type



Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

Ziad W. Munson


The self-immolation of Mohammed Bouzaizi, a Tunisian fruit vendor, in the front of the Sidi Bouzid regional council ignited the most widespread demonstrations the Middle East has ever witnessed. During the months that followed demonstrators demanded an end to corrupt regimes through both peaceful and vio lent means. In Morocco, swift constitutional action suppressed protests. In Egypt, 18 days of protests led to the removal of President Hosni Mubarak and the National Democratic Party; the Party's office was soon replaced by a military regime. The protest events of 2011 and 2012 will continue to challenge Western perceptions of the Middle East. The demonstrations forced journalists and scholars to get past images of the Cold War mujahedeen, terrorist organizations, and the Iranian nuclear program. During the initial months of what some refer to as 'the Arab Spring,' reporters paraded around the idea that the Middle East was suddenly looking for a liberal democratic solution. They painted portraits of secular protestors trying to remove corrupt tyrants. Such portraits are misleading partial truths. Religion and social movements continue to be closely intertwined, in the Middle East as elsewhere. Devout Muslims across the Middle East are finding new ways to carry their beliefs, rituals, and practices over into social movement groups. The popular mobilization in the recent Arab Spring is an excellent opportunity to explore these new ways. The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between contemporary Islam and social movement mobilization. How is Islam being carried over into every function of a social movement organization? A new generation of protestors has emerged in the Middle East, but one thing is for certain: one fruit vendor's self-immolation, the fall of oppressive dictators, and over a year of demonstrations does not unravel the intimate relationship between Islam and the millions of devout Muslims living in the Middle East.


Senior Thesis