RSSArchive for July, 2010

Engaging Political Islam to Promote Democracy

Shadi Hamid

Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans have struggled toarticulate an overarching, long-term strategy for fighting religious extremism and terror in the Middle East. Most experts on both the left and right agree that promoting democracy will help address the root causes of terrorism in theregion, though they differ on to what degree. The reasoning is simple: If Arabs and Muslims lack legitimate, peaceful outlets with which to express their grievances, they are more likely to resort to violence. In one important 2003study, Princeton University’s Alan Krueger and Czech scholar Jitka Maleckova analyzed extensive data on terrorist attacks and concluded that “the only variable that was consistently associated with the number of terrorists was the Freedom House index of political rights and civil liberties. Countries with more freedom were less likely to be the birthplace of international terrorists.


Bernhard Platzdasch

AS INDONESIA gears up for its elections next April, making sense of developments can be a challenge.
Take, for example, the latest election forecasts. In a recent opinion poll, the Indonesian Survey Institute named President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s DemocratsParty (PD) as the leading contender with an approval rating of 16.8 per cent. The party was followed by Vice-President Jusuf Kalla’s Golkar Party with 15.9 per cent and Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri’s Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) with 14.2 per cent. But several surveys had earlier this year put PDI-P and
Golkar first and second, with PD taking third or fourth place. Another noteworthy difference in the latest survey is the meagre 4.9 per cent for the Islamist Justice and Welfare Party (PKS). Earlier surveys put the PKSshare a few points higher and the party has even claimed that it can achieve some 20 per cent of the total vote.
Without forgetting that the forecasts have limited credibility due to the large number of undecided voters, what conclusions can be drawn from the varying results of these surveys?
First, it is almost certain that no party will secure an outright victory, thus paving the way for yet anotherand again potentially brittlecoalition government. With no party gaining an absolute majority, contenders for the presidential elections in July
will need the endorsement of other parties. As for Dr Yudhoyono, he and Golkar will probably continue their partnership. But Ms Megawati has already made it clear that she is not willing to serve as vice-president. This means a coalition made up of Golkar
and the PDI-P is unlikely.

Islam and Democracy

Dalia Mogahed

Islam in politics has been asserted in many countries in the Muslim world through democratic elections. Islamist parties have gained varying degreesof political power in Turkey, Egipat, Libanon, and the occupied Palestinian territories, and have widespread influence in Morocco and Jordan. Sada, more than ever, Western governments, alarmed by this outcome, have raised the perennial question: Is Islam compatible with democracy?A recent in-depth Gallup survey in 10 predominantly Muslim countries,representing more than 80% of the global Muslim population, shows that whenasked what they admire most about the West, Muslims frequently mention political freedom, liberty, fair judicial systems, and freedom of speech. When asked to critique their own societies, extremism and inadequate adherence to Islamic teachings were their top grievances.However, while Muslims say they admire freedom and an open political system,Gallup surveys suggest that they do not believe they must choose between Islam and democracy, but rather, that the two can co-exist inside one functional government.

Egyptian Politics 2006

Sarah Ben Néfissa

The year 2006 in Egyptian politics was preceded by aperiod of an unprecedentedly broad-based movement for democracy, political and institutional reforms, the first‘pluralist’ presidential elections, which confirmed Hosni Mubarak in his post and finally, legislative elections, withthe significant entry of the Muslim Brotherhood into thePeople’s Assembly, which won 88 out of a total of 444seats. The year 2006 itself, on the other hand, was characterised by an ebb of democratic activism, the regime’s return to authoritarian methods and above all,the consolidation of the ‘hereditary political succession’scenario, with Gamal Mubarak succeeding his father. Inany case, the regional situation, inparticularwith the victory of Hamas in Palestine, the war waged by Hezbollah against the Israeli military forces in Lebanon and the rise of Iran as a possible future regional power,contributed significantly to diminishing international and particularly US pressure for democratisation of the Egyptian regime. The latter thus consolidated its continuity. Egipat 2006 was likewise the stage for important social movements, as if the changeof political climate in 2005 had had delayed effects onother spheres, in this case, the social and labourmilieus.The democratic movement instigated and developed among the ranks of the political and intellectual elitesubsided in 2006 due to a series of factors: thedisillusionment generated by the poor political and institutional results of 2005; the demobilisation of part of the actors; the repressive stance taken against them;and finally, increasing internal division. This was preciselythe case with the EgyptianMovement forChange, better known by its slogan, ‘Kifaya,’ or ‘Enough,’ which wassingular because it united all branches of politicalopposition in the country, including the Islamist political tendency.

Escalation in the Middle East: a lasting damage to peace and democracy

Paolo Cotta

The rapid and dangerous escalation of war operations in the Middle East has resulted in a very significant loss of life among Lebanese, Palestinians and Israelis, and serious damage to civilian infrastructures. Major operations began with a low-level conflict around Gaza,that involved the launching of some missiles into Israel, some (more deadly) Israeli retaliation on Gaza, and the attack on an Israeli military post outside Gaza to which Israel reacted swiftly and very strongly. In the chain reaction that followed, admittedly Israel’ sintention was, and is, to inflict on the other side a far heavier punishment than that taken by Israel—which may appear as a militarily sound posture aimed at avoiding incidents andattacks, ali, in fact, it is the civilian population that has been mainly affected. As a result,the suffering of the Lebanese and Palestinian civilian populations (in terms of deaths,wounded and destroyed infrastructures) has to date been largely disproportionate to that of Israel. When, in the case of Palestine, this discrimination already follows about 40 years of discrimination in the same direction, hostility and adversarial relations are bound toincrease. So while Israel’s heavy deterrence through punishment may work temporarily and occasionally in preventing or reducing attacks, the general sentiment of hostility in the region is increased, and creates in the long range a bigger obstacle to peace.

The History of the Muslim Brotherhood

Michelle Paison

We in the West !nd it incomprehensible that theological ideas still iname the minds of men, stirring up messianic passions that can leave societies in ruin. We had assumed that this was no longer possible,that human beings had learned to separate religious questions from political ones, that political theology died in 16h-century Europe. We were wrong.1Islam is no longer exclusively a religion, but an ideology that provides a total framework for all aspects of political, social, economic, and cultural life in the Muslim world. Although Islam has continuously demonstrated the theme of resurgence throughout its history in response to the internal and external forces that challenge Muslim faith and society, the assertion of Islamism has strongly reemerged. Discontent is evident through the gradual movement towards Islamist ideology, whether or not the idea ofIslam strongly resonates among the populous. Individuals, despondentfrom the suppression of alternatives from oppressive regimes, look towards change. Organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, provide clear examples of the greater trend developing throughout the region ofthe Middle East and North Africa. #e political power and social inuenceheld by the Brotherhood capitalizes on the Arab Republic of Egypt’s failureto support its peoples. Subsequently the dissatis!ed population turns to a movement that has the ability to provide the necessary services for survival;Islamizam. #is increasing development is pushing moderate, mainstream Islam into the realm of radicalism through means of desperation.Part of the emergence of neorevivalism, the Muslim Brotherhood,established by Hassan al-Banna in 1928, saw the Islamic community at a critical crossroads and insisted that Muslims would !nd strength in the totalself-su$ciency of Islam.

Forcing Choices

Haim malka

Regardless of what happens in future Palestinian parliamentaryelections, Hamas has already won a historic victory. The organization, whosename is an acronym for “the Islamic Resistance Movement,” enjoyed tremendoussuccess in municipal elections, and its readiness to participate onthe national level constitutes nothing less than an earthquake in Palestinianpolitics, signaling the clear end of one-party rule. For a movement that hasmorphed from a militant organization into a political party in less than a generation,Hamas’s participation on the national level is evidence of theorganization’s adaptability and durability within Palestinian society and politics.Among the United States, Izrael, and Europe, as well as Arab governments,speculation and uneasiness has surrounded Hamas’s newfound role.Skeptics argue that electoral politics do not make one democratic, and thatHamas’s electoral ambitions mask the group’s true intention of establishingan Islamic state in all of historic Palestine—a goal that includes Israel’s destruction.1 These critics believe that, once Hamas has secured its positionwithin the Palestinian Authority (PA) and institutions of the Palestine LiberationOrganization (PLO), the movement will resume its campaign of terrorand attempt to control the Palestinian national agenda by force.Despite the inherent risks, proponents of expanding Hamas’s role in Palestiniannational politics argue that political activity will ultimately moderatethe movement. These advocates point to the fact that Hamas’s leadershave long called for transparent and accountable governing institutions andhave demonstrated political pragmatism, suggesting that the group could acceptless than its absolutist demands.

To Be A Muslim

Fathi Yakan

All praises to Allah, and blessings and peace to His Messenger.This book is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on the characteristics that every single Muslim should portray in order to fulfill the conditions of being a Muslim in both belief and practice. Many people are Muslim by identity,because they were ”born Muslim” from Muslim parents. Theymay not know what Islam really means or its requirements, an dso may lead a very secular life. The purpose of this first partis to explain the responsibility of every Muslim to become aknowledgeable and true believer in Islam.The second part of this book discusses the responsibility to become an activist for Islam and participate in the Islamic Movement. It explains the nature of this movement and its goals, philosophy, strategy, and tactics, as well as the desirable characteristics of it members.The failure of various movements in the Islamic world, and especially in the Arab countries, result from a spiritual emptiness in these movements as well as in society generally. In sucha situation the principles and institutions of Islam are forgotten.The westernized leaders and movements collapse when they encounter serious challenges. These leaders and movements and the systems of government and economics they try to imposehave fallen because they lacked a solid base. They fell becausethey were artificial constructs copied from alien cultures anddid not represent the Muslim community. Therefore they wererejected by it. This situation is comparable to a kidney transplantin a human body. Although the body is able to tolerate it painfully for a short period of time, eventually the kidney willbe rejected and die.When the sickness of the Muslim Ummah became acute few Muslims thought of building a new society on Islamic principles.Instead many tried to import man made systems and principles, which looked good but really were grossly defectiveand so could be easily toppled and crushed.

The Brotherhood’s Dilemma

Prof. Marc Lynch

The question of the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) real attitudes toward democracy has rarely been of more
intense interest to American foreign policy. Despite recent electoral setbacks for the Islamic Action Front
in Jordan and the Moroccan Party of Justice and Democracy, Islamist electoral success (the Brotherhood
in Egypt, Hamas in Palestine, the AKP in Turkey) has thrown into sharp relief the dilemma posed for the
United States by promoting democracy: Free elections in today’s Arab world are likely to produce Islamist
The Egyptian government and many Egyptian skeptics alike accuse the MB of lying about its democratic commitments and working within the system in order to overthrow it. Inevitably, the specter is raised of an organization that
would, in effect, subscribe to the position “One man, one vote, one time”—and which, if given the opportunity, would impose a despotic religious law over an unwilling population. If this alarming picture were shown to be accurate, then
many Americans would back away from promoting democracy—as the United States has, indeed, done over the last year and a half.
In response, the MB paints itself as a peaceful, moderate organization committed to working within a democratic system—repressed because of its popularity rather than its extremism. It argues that the Egyptian regime, not the opposition, shows contempt for democracy and systematically undermines moderation and human rights. In its defense, it points both to its own public
rhetoric and behavior over the last few years, and to the regime’s repressive performance. If Islamist parties could demonstrate a genuine commitment to the rules of democratic politics and a genuine opposition to violent extremism, then many in the West might be more willing to accept their electoral success.