WORKING PAPERS

Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayyid

Since September 11, the entire world has been acutely aware of the violent, terrorist face of political Islam. the network of organizations we most frequently think of as al-Qaeda represents a serious threat to the United States, other Western countries, governments of Muslim countries, and ordinary Muslims who abhor violence and would like to pursue their lives in peace. Because of the horrors violent Islamist groups have perpetrated and are unfortunately likely to continue perpetrating, there can be no debate about how the world should deal with them. they need to be tracked down and dismantled and their members brought to justice. To be sure, this will not be easy in practice, but it is clear what the world must strive to do.It is much less obvious how the international community should deal with the other face of the Islamist movement, the nonviolent face that Mustapha Kamal Al-Sayyid discusses in this working paper. this side is represented by political movements that acknowledge that they are inspired by Islamic principles and yet claim that they want to attain their goals by peaceful means, competing for power democratically with non-Islamist political parties. this side of the Islamist movements is often ignored in current debates, but it is important and becoming ever more so. the electoral victory by the Justice and Development Party in Turkey in November 2002 is one sign of the growing importance of this face of Islamism; so is the open repudiation of violence by one of Egypt’s most important and heretofore most radical Islamist movements. the reasons for this repudiation are explained in four recently published and as yet untranslated books that Mustapha Al-Sayyid discusses in this paper.this more moderate face of the Islamist movements poses a major policy dilemma for the international community. Should the claims of nonviolence by these movements be believed and thus the movements be accepted as legitimate participants in democratic politics? Have such groups really changed their goals, abandoned the idea of building an Islamic state ruled by shari’a, and accepted democracy? Or are they simply seeking to take advantage of the democratic political space that exists in some Muslim countries to win power and then impose a political system that denies democracy and the respect of human rights? In other words, have such movements simply embraced democracy as a tactic for obtaining power, or are they truly willing to accept pluralism and the protection of individual human rights as a permanent feature of the political system?Like the similar questions that were once asked about Communist parties that appeared to abandon their revolutionary agenda in favor of democratic politics, these are issues that can never be settled once and for all in the abstract but can only be answered as organizations continue to evolve in response to political circumstances. Mustapha Al-Sayyid’s paper cannot tell us how far these Islamist groups now embracing nonviolence and democratic politics will go in their transformation. It does tell us, međutim, about the changes taking place in some Islamist movements and about the growing importance of the other face of Islamism.

Filed Under: EgipatIstaknutoHamasJemaah Islamiyahmuslimansko bratstvoPalestinaStudije & Istraživanja

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