Twenty years ago, religious trends were hardly visible in Palestine. Various factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) were all secular. This is not the case today, as the religious discourse is overwhelming and the secular one is on the retreat. This so-called Islamic awakening has several explanations: (1) the cultural heritage beginning with the end of the Rashidi era of the Abbasids when the backward streams erased rational thinking and judgment from public life; (2) colonialism, beginning with the arrival of Napoleon in Egypt and the rise of nationalist forces and their opposition to all that the West represented, including Western secular values; (3) the formation of the state of Israel and Zionism, which continued to represent the viscous face of occupation and the misrepresentation of secularism; and (4) oil and the Saudi-backed Wahhabi movement and their control over most Arab television channels, in contrast to secular Arab groups and their lack of financial means to compete with the Islamists' propaganda (some turn to religious programs to win the street back). Nonetheless, the possibility for progressive secular movements to recover and act again is increasing in Palestine and in other countries in the region.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.