The transnational religious leader, regime change, and state sovereignty: the unlikely case comparison of Pope John Paul II and Abdullah Yusuf Azzam
Lozano-Bielat, Hope Marie
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The role of religion in shaping geopolitics and its associated norms is often overlooked by international relations scholars. This influence can be examined through the lives of transnational religious leaders (TRLs), particularly those who contribute to new definitions of state sovereignty through their involvement in regime change. Two seemingly incomparable figures center in this paper's case studies- Pope John Paul II and Abdullah Yusuf Azzam. Pope John Paul, through the roles of pastor to a transnational community and head of an international organization, lent international legitimacy to the Solidarity movement, which contributed to the fall of Communism in Poland. Abdullah Yusuf Azzam authored the theological concept of "defensive jihad", led the transnational Afghan Arabs in armed resistance against Soviet invasion in Afghanistan during the Soviet Afghan war, and contributed to the creation of a global jihadist movement. Traditionally, Westphalian sovereignty claims that the territorial state holds ultimate authority over the affairs within its borders and that it is the primary actor in the international system. This dissertation examines how the characteristics of a TRL and the characteristics of the associated transnational social movement (TSM) qualify regime change as an indicator of challenges to conceptions of Westphalian sovereignty and modern state sovereignty. Characteristics of TRL include leadership style, hard versus soft power, relationship to secularization, and relationship to modernity. Characteristics of TSM include political theology, mobilizing structures, political opportunity structures, and nature of transnational activism. In both case studies, a transnational leader used soft power, based in a transnational religious identity and civil society, to contribute to a transnational social movement that helped alter the domestic authority structures in Poland and Afghanistan. As individual actors determining the actions of nation states, these TRLs ultimately challenged state sovereignty. Pope John Paul II's theological worldview was compatible with the Westphalian system, and he contributed to the birth of a stable, democratic Poland with sovereign authority within internationally respected borders. Azzam, however, envisioned an alternate world order based on religiously defined, pre-Westphalian boundaries. His theological and pragmatic contributions to the Afghan Arabs and the modern day jihadist movement further challenged the Westphalian system.
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