Vickie Langohr

As Islamist movements have gained strength across the Muslim world, their commitmentto democratic means of achieving and exercising power has been repeatedlyanalyzed. The question of whether resort to violence to achieve its goals is inherentin the Islamist project (that what some Islamists understand as a divine mandate toimplement sharia ultimately sanctions the use of force against dissenters) or contingent(that the violent exclusion of Islamists from the political arena has driven themto arms, best expressed by Franc¸ois Burgat’s contention that any Western politicalparty could be turned into the Armed Islamic Group in weeks if it were subjected tothe same repression Islamists had endured1) looms large in this debate. Where Islamistmovements have not had the opportunity to participate in elections for political office,analysts willing to give these movements the benefit of the democratic doubt arguethat their peaceful participation in the student body and syndicate elections that theyhave been allowed to contest proves their intention to respect the results of nationallevelelections.2 They also point to these groups’ repeated public commitment to playby the rules of the electoral game.3 The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptand Jordan and members of the Islah Party in Yemen have successfully competed innot one but a series of parliamentary elections and evinced a tendency to wage theirbattles through parliament and the courts rather than by force suggests to many thatthe question of whether Islamists can ever be democrats has already been settled inthe affirmative.Analysts who are more skeptical of the possibility of a democratic Islamism generallyadvance one of two arguments. The first is procedural: that although some Islamistshave seemingly opted to effect change through the ballot box, they have chosenthis method only because they do not yet have the power to use more forceful ones.In a manner of speaking, this line of thinking accuses Islamists competing in parliamentarypolitics of engaging in political taqiyya, of parroting the rhetoric that democratswant to hear until they obtain sufficient power to abort the democratic politicalprocess and institute a policy of “one-man, one-vote, one-time.”

Filed Under: EgyptFeaturedHamasIranMuslim BrotherhoodPalestineStudies & ResearchesTurkeyTurkey's AKP


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