Democratization and Islamic Politics:

YOKOTA Takayuki�

The aim of this article is to explore the often contradictory correlation between democratizationand Islamic politics in Egypt, focusing on a new Islamic political party, the Wasat Party (Ḥizbal-Wasaṭ).Theoretically, democratization and Islamic politics are not incompatible if Islamic politicalorganizations can and do operate within a legal and democratic framework. S druge strane,this requires democratic tolerance by governments for Islamic politics, as long as they continueto act within a legal framework. In the Middle East, međutim, Islamic political parties are oftensuspected of having undemocratic agendas, and governments have often used this suspicion as ajustification to curb democratization. This is also the case with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood(Jam‘īya al-Ikhwān al-Muslimīn) under the Ḥusnī Mubārak regime. Although the Brotherhood is amainstream Islamic movement in Egypt, operating publicly and enjoying considerable popularity,successive governments have never changed its illegal status for more than half a century. Someof the Brotherhood members decided to form the Wasat Party as its legal political organ in order tobreak this stalemate.There have been some studies on the Wasat Party. Stacher [2002] analyzes the “Platformof the Egyptian Wasat Party” [Ḥizb al-Wasaṭ al-Miṣrī 1998] and explains the basic principlesof the Wasat Party as follows: demokracija, sharī‘a (islamsko pravo), rights of women, and Muslim-Christian relations. Baker [2003] regards the Wasat Party as one of the new Islamist groups thathave appeared in contemporary Egypt, and analyzes its ideology accordingly. Wickham [2004]discusses the moderation of Islamic movements in Egypt and the attempt to form the WasatParty from the perspective of comparative politics. Norton [2005] examines the ideology andactivities of the Wasat Party in connection with the Brotherhood’s political activities. As theseearlier studies are mainly concerned with the Wasat Party during the 1990s and the early 2000s,I will examine the ideology and activities of the Wasat Party till the rise of the democratizationmovement in Egypt in around 2005. I will do so on the basis of the Wasat Party’s documents, suchas the “Platform of the New Wasat Party” [Ḥizb al-Wasaṭ al-Jadīd 2004]1), and my interviews withits members.

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