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In only a decade, Qatari policy-makers - led by the Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and his prime minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani - catapulted Qatar from a sleepy backwater to a regional power with truly international reach. Its eighteen case studies by eminent scholars cover a wide range of topics, such as lifestyle, dress, revolutionary street theater, graffiti, popular music, poetry, television drama, visual culture, and dance throughout the Muslim world from Indonesia, Africa, and the Middle East to Europe. Not simply a "westernizing" or "secularizing" force, as some have asserted, popular culture now plays a growing role in defining what it means to be Muslim. These factors converged in early with the outbreak of the Arab Spring revolts in North Africa, Syria, and Yemen, which Qatari leaders saw as an opportunity to seal their regional and international influence, rather than as a challenge to their authority, and this guided their support of the rebellions against the Gaddafi and Assad regimes in Libya and Syria. Aesthetic expression has become intertwined with politics and religion due to the uprisings of the "Arab Spring," while, at the same time, Islamist authorities are showing increasingly accommodating and populist attitudes toward popular culture. In addition to pursuing an aggressive state-branding strategy with its successful bid for the FIFA World Cup, Qatar forged a reputation for diplomatic mediation that combined intensely personalized engagement with financial backing and favorable media coverage through the Al-Jazeera. With well-structured chapters that explain key concepts clearly, Islam and Popular Culture addresses new trends and developments that merge popular arts and Islam. From the high watermark of Qatari influence after the toppling of Gaddafi in , that rapidly gave way to policy overreach in Syria in , Coates Ulrichsen analyses Qatari ambition and capabilities as the tiny emirate sought to shape the transitions in the Arab world. The first comprehensive overview of this important subject, Islam and Popular Culture offers essential new ways of understanding the diverse religious discourses and pious ethics expressed in popular art productions, the cultural politics of states and movements, and the global flows of popular culture in the Muslim world.
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