The use of traditional symbols by leaders of newly independent states to achieve consensus in their respective political communities is not unusual these days. The professed aspiration of these leaders to modernize their societies does not keep them from manipulating traditional symbols for the maintenance of order in a period of troubled transition. Often the student of politics in these states finds that formal changes in the institutions and functions of the state and government do not necessarily reflect or imply serious structural and conceptual changes. Nor do they necessarily affect appreciably the concept, use, or allocation of power.
When members of the military establishment acceded to political power in some Middle Eastern states in the past decade, they announced their intention to “modernize” their societies. This aspiration raises a variety of questions for the student of Middle Eastern politics. What political ideology, order, and system was the new leadership proposing? The desire to “modernize” implied that their societies were still bound in a complex of traditional relationships and structures. The attitudes of the new military leaders, who claim to desire a departure from the past in national development, toward the Islamic religious-traditional background of society should be a primary factor in any analysis of the orientation of this new leadership.