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Islamist Opposition Parties and the Potential for EU Engagement

Toby Archer

Heidi Huuhtanen

In light of the increasing importance of Islamist movements in the Muslim world and

the way that radicalisation has influenced global events since the turn of the century, it

is important for the EU to evaluate its policies towards actors within what can be loosely

termed the ‘Islamic world’. It is particularly important to ask whether and how to engage

with the various Islamist groups.

This remains controversial even within the EU. Some feel that the Islamic values that

lie behind Islamist parties are simply incompatible with western ideals of democracy and

drets humans, while others see engagement as a realistic necessity due to the growing

domestic importance of Islamist parties and their increasing involvement in international

affairs. Another perspective is that democratisation in the Muslim world would increase

European security. The validity of these and other arguments over whether and how the

EU should engage can only be tested by studying the different Islamist movements and

their political circumstances, country by country.

Democratisation is a central theme of the EU’s common foreign policy actions, as laid

out in Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union. Many of the states considered in this

report are not democratic, or not fully democratic. In most of these countries, Islamist

parties and movements constitute a significant opposition to the prevailing regimes, i

in some they form the largest opposition bloc. European democracies have long had to

deal with governing regimes that are authoritarian, but it is a new phenomenon to press

for democratic reform in states where the most likely beneficiaries might have, from the

EU’s point of view, different and sometimes problematic approaches to democracy and its

related values, such as minority and women’s rights and the rule of law. These charges are

often laid against Islamist movements, so it is important for European policy-makers to

have an accurate picture of the policies and philosophies of potential partners.

Experiences from different countries tends to suggest that the more freedom Islamist

parties are allowed, the more moderate they are in their actions and ideas. In many

cases Islamist parties and groups have long since shifted away from their original aim

of establishing an Islamic state governed by Islamic law, and have come to accept basic

democratic principles of electoral competition for power, the existence of other political

competitors, and political pluralism.

STRATEGIES FOR ENGAGING POLITICAL ISLAM

SHADI HAMID

AMANDA ECOM

Political Islam is the single most active political force in the Middle East today. Its future is intimately tied to that of the region. If the United States and the European Union are committed to supporting political reform in the region, they will need to devise concrete, coherent strategies for engaging Islamist groups. Yet, the U.S. has generally been unwilling to open a dialogue with these movements. Similarly, EU engagement with Islamists has been the exception, not the rule. Where low-level contacts exist, they mainly serve information-gathering purposes, not strategic objectives. The U.S. and EU have a number of programs that address economic and political development in the region – among them the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Union for the Mediterranean, and the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) – yet they have little to say about how the challenge of Islamist political opposition fits within broader regional objectives. nosaltres. and EU democracy assistance and programming are directed almost entirely to either authoritarian governments themselves or secular civil society groups with minimal support in their own societies.
The time is ripe for a reassessment of current policies. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, supporting Middle East democracy has assumed a greater importance for Western policymakers, who see a link between lack of democracy and political violence. Greater attention has been devoted to understanding the variations within political Islam. The new American administration is more open to broadening communication with the Muslim world. Meanwhile, the vast majority of mainstream Islamist organizations – including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Jordan’s Islamic Action Front (IAF), Morocco’s Justice and Development Party (PJD), the Islamic Constitutional Movement of Kuwait, and the Yemeni Islah Party – have increasingly made support for political reform and democracy a central component in their political platforms. A més, many have signaled strong interest in opening dialogue with U.S. and EU governments.
The future of relations between Western nations and the Middle East may be largely determined by the degree to which the former engage nonviolent Islamist parties in a broad dialogue about shared interests and objectives. There has been a recent proliferation of studies on engagement with Islamists, but few clearly address what it might entail in practice. As Zoé Nautré, visiting fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations, puts it, “the EU is thinking about engagement but doesn’t really know how.”1 In the hope of clarifying the discussion, we distinguish between three levels of “engagement,” each with varying means and ends: low-level contacts, strategic dialogue, and partnership.

ISLAMIST MOVEMENTS AND THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS IN THE ARAB WORLD: Exploring the Gray Zones

Nathan J. marró, Amr Hamzawy,

Marina Ottaway

During the last decade, Islamist movements have established themselves as major political players in the Middle East. Together with the governments, Islamist movements, moderate as well as radical, will determine how the politics of the region unfold in the foreseeable future. Th ey have shown the ability not only to craft messages with widespread popular appeal but also, and most importantly, to create organizations with genuine social bases and develop coherent political strategies. Other parties,
by and large, have failed on all accounts.
Th e public in the West and, in particular, the United States, has only become aware of the importance of Islamist movements after dramatic events, such as the revolution in Iran and the assassination of President Anwar al-Sadat in Egypt. Attention has been far more sustained since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Com a resultat, Islamist movements are widely regarded as dangerous and hostile. While such a characterization is accurate regarding organizations at the radical end of the Islamist spectrum, which are dangerous because of their willingness to resort to indiscriminate violence in pursuing their goals, it is not an accurate characterization of the many groups that have renounced or avoided violence. Because terrorist organizations pose an immediate
threat, malgrat això, policy makers in all countries have paid disproportionate attention to the violent organizations.
It is the mainstream Islamist organizations, not the radical ones, that will have the greatest impact on the future political evolution of the Middle East. Th e radicals’ grandiose goals of re-establishing a caliphate uniting the entire Arab world, or even of imposing on individual Arab countries laws and social customs inspired by a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam are simply too far removed from today’s reality to be realized. Th is does not mean that terrorist groups are not dangerous—they could cause great loss of life even in the pursuit of impossible goals—but that they are unlikely to change the face of the Middle East. Mainstream Islamist organizations are generally a diff erent matter. Th ey already have had a powerful impact on social customs in many countries, halting and reversing secularist trends and changing the way many Arabs dress and behave. And their immediate political goal, to become a powerful force by participating in the normal politics of their country, is not an impossible one. It is already being realized in countries such as Morocco, Jordània, and even Egypt, which still bans all Islamist political organizations but now has eighty-eight Muslim Brothers in the Parliament. política, not violence, is what gives mainstream Islamists their infl uence.

ISLAMIST RADICALISATION

PREFACE
RICHARD YOUNGS
MICHAEL EMERSON

Issues relating to political Islam continue to present challenges to European foreign policies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). As EU policy has sought to come to terms with such challenges during the last decade or so political Islam itself has evolved. Experts point to the growing complexity and variety of trends within political Islam. Some Islamist organisations have strengthened their commitment to democratic norms and engaged fully in peaceable, mainstream national politics. Others remain wedded to violent means. And still others have drifted towards a more quietist form of Islam, disengaged from political activity. Political Islam in the MENA region presents no uniform trend to European policymakers. Analytical debate has grown around the concept of ‘radicalisation’. This in turn has spawned research on the factors driving ‘de-radicalisation’, and conversely, ‘re-radicalisation’. Much of the complexity derives from the widely held view that all three of these phenomena are occurring at the same time. Even the terms themselves are contested. It has often been pointed out that the moderate–radical dichotomy fails fully to capture the nuances of trends within political Islam. Some analysts also complain that talk of ‘radicalism’ is ideologically loaded. At the level of terminology, we understand radicalisation to be associated with extremism, but views differ over the centrality of its religious–fundamentalist versus political content, and over whether the willingness to resort to violence is implied or not.

Such differences are reflected in the views held by the Islamists themselves, as well as in the perceptions of outsiders.

Political Islam and European Foreign Policy

POLITICAL ISLAM AND THE EUROPEAN NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICY

MICHAEL EMERSON

RICHARD YOUNGS

Since 2001 and the international events that ensued the nature of the relationship between the West and political Islam has become a definingissue for foreign policy. In recent years a considerable amount of research and analysis has been undertaken on the issue of political Islam. This has helped to correct some of the simplistic and alarmist assumptions previously held in the West about the nature of Islamist values and intentions. Parallel to this, the European Union (EU) has developed a number of policy initiatives primarily the European Neighbourhood Policy(ENP) that in principle commit to dialogue and deeper engagement all(non-violent) political actors and civil society organisations within Arab countries. Yet many analysts and policy-makers now complain of a certain a trophy in both conceptual debate and policy development. It has been established that political Islam is a changing landscape, deeply affected bya range of circumstances, but debate often seems to have stuck on the simplistic question of ‘are Islamists democratic?’ Many independent analysts have nevertheless advocated engagement with Islamists, but theactual rapprochement between Western governments and Islamist organisations remains limited .

why are there no arab democracies ?

Larry Diamond

During democratization’s “third wave,” democracy ceased being a mostly Western phenomenon and “went global.” When the third wave began in 1974, the world had only about 40 democracies, and only a few of them lay outside the West. By the time the Journal of Democracy began publishing in 1990, there were 76 electoral democracies (accounting for slightly less than half the world’s independent states). By 1995, that number had shot up to 117—three in every five states. By then, a critical mass of democracies existed in every major world region save one—the Middle East.1 Moreover, every one of the world’s major cultural realms had become host to a significant democratic presence, albeit again with a single exception—the Arab world.2 Fifteen years later, this exception still stands.
The continuing absence of even a single democratic regime in the Arab world is a striking anomaly—the principal exception to the globalization of democracy. Why is there no Arab democracy? Indeed, why is it the case that among the sixteen independent Arab states of the Middle East and coastal North Africa, Lebanon is the only one to have ever been a democracy?
The most common assumption about the Arab democracy deficit is that it must have something to do with religion or culture. After all, the one thing that all Arab countries share is that they are Arab.

Success of Turkey’s AK Party must not dilute worries over Arab Islamists

Mona Eltahawy

It has been unsurprising that since Abdullah Gul became president of Turkey on 27 August that much misguided analyses has been wasted on howIslamistscan pass the democracy test. His victory was bound to be described as theIslamistrouting of Turkish politics. And Arab Islamistsin the form of the Muslim Brotherhood, their supporters and defenderswere always going to point to Turkey and tell us that we’ve been wrong all along to worry about the Arab Islamistalleged flirtation with democracy. “It worked in Turkey, it can work in the Arab world,” they would try to assure us.Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.Firstly, Gul is not an Islamist. His wife’s headscarf might be the red cloth to the bull of the secular nationalists in Turkey, but neither Gul nor the AK Party which swept parliamentary elections in Turkey in June, can be called Islamists. In fact, so little does the AK Party share with the Muslim Brotherhoodaside from the common faith of its membersthat it’s absurd to use its success in Turkish politics as a reason to reduce fears over the Mus-lim Brotherhood’s role in Arab politics.The three litmus tests of Islamism will prove my point: women and sex, la “oest”, and Israel.As a secular Muslim who has vowed never to live in Egypt should Islamists ever take power, I never take lightly any attempt to blend religion with politics. So it has been with a more than skeptical eye that I’ve followed Turkish politics over the past few years.

Engaging Islamists and Promoting Democracy

Mona Yacobián

Deeming democratic change to be a long-term antidote to Islamist extremism, the Bush administration coupled its military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq with intensified efforts to promote democracy in the Arab world, underscoring the need for free and fair elections. To date, parliamentary elections of varying openness have taken place across the region, from Morocco to Kuwait. The elections ushered in a wave of Islamist victories, dubbed by many as an “Islamist tsunami.” 1The Islamists’ successes stem from their effectiveness as vehicles for popular opposition. While liberal, secular opposition parties remain largely detached from much of the population, Islamists have developed vast and easily mobilized grassroots networks through charitable organizations and mosques. The leadership is often younger and more dynamic, with strong ties to the community, and the party organizations brim with energy and ideas, attracting those who are seeking change.The U.S. government has quietly engaged a number of moderate and legal Islamist parties across the region for several years, sometimes through normal diplomatic activity, sometimes through government-funded grants to U.S. organizations. This Special Report examines U.S.-funded engagement with legal, nonviolent Islamist parties through the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), which have the most extensive experience engaging with Islamists in the region, and focuses on Morocco, Jordània, and Yemen, because of their relative political openness and the strength and vibrancy of their Islamist political opposition.Successful Strategy. A successful Islamist engagement strategy both empowers individuals and strengthens institutions to yield greater transparency, more accountability, and shifts toward moderation. Training and empowering individuals cultivates moderates within the parties and enhances their political sophistication and influence. Meanwhile, as regimes in the Arab world resist or manipulate political reforms, strengthening democracy’s infrastructure is as important as supporting individuals. Independent electoral procedures and monitoring help to establish free and fair elections. Institution building ensures appropriate checks on executive power and a strong rule of law. Strengthening parliaments is especially crucial, as Islamists participate primarily in legislatures.In assessing whether Islamist parties have moderated in response to U.S. engagement, it is difficult if not impossible to quantify or measure shifts that may themselves be relative and subjective. Directly linking greater moderation to specific U.S. engagement activities is also highly problematic. At best, this engagement should be considered a contributing factor. Nevertheless, the tentative results in Morocco, Jordània, and Yemen are promising enough that continued engagement with moderate Islamists should be encouraged, albeit with greater emphasis on institution building and an eye on the broader context of the ideological battle in the Muslim world between extremism and moderation.

POLITICAL ISLAM and the West

JOHN L.ESPOSITO


At the dawn of the 21st centurypolitical Islam, ormore commonly Islamicfundamentalism, remainsa major presence in governments andoppositional politics from North Africato Southeast Asia. New Islamic republicshave emerged in Afghanistan,Iran, and Sudan. Islamists have beenelected to parliaments, served in cabinets,and been presidents, prime ministers,and deputy prime ministers innations as diverse as Algeria, Egipte, Indonèsia,Jordània, Kuwait, Líban,Malàisia, Pakistan, and Yemen. At thesame time opposition movements andradical extremist groups have sought todestabilize regimes in Muslim countriesand the West. Americans have witnessedattacks on their embassies fromKenya to Pakistan. Terrorism abroadhas been accompanied by strikes ondomestic targets such as the WorldTrade Center in New York. In recentyears, Saudi millionaire Osama binLaden has become emblematic of effortsto spread international violence

Building bridges not walls

Alex Glennie

Since the terror attacks of 11 setembre 2001 there has been an explosion of interest inpolitical Islamism in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Until fairly recently,analysts have understandably focused on those actors that operate at the violent end of theIslamist spectrum, including Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, some of the sectarian parties in Iraq andpolitical groups with armed wings like Hamas in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)and Hezbollah in Lebanon.However, this has obscured the fact that across the MENA region contemporary politics arebeing driven and shaped by a much more diverse collection of ‘mainstream’ Islamistmovements. We define these asgroups that engage or seek to engage in the legal political processes oftheir countries and that have publicly eschewed the use of violence tohelp realise their objectives at the national level, even where they arediscriminated against or repressed.This definition would encompass groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Party ofJustice and Development (PJD) in Morocco and the Islamic Action Front (IAF) in Jordan.These non-violent Islamist movements or parties often represent the best organised andmost popular element of the opposition to the existing regimes in each country, and as suchthere has been increasing interest on the part of western policymakers in the role that theymight play in democracy promotion in the region. Yet discussions on this issue appear tohave stalled on the question of whether it would be appropriate to engage with these groupson a more systematic and formal basis, rather than on the practicalities of actually doing so.This attitude is partly linked to a justifiable unwillingness to legitimise groups that mighthold anti-democratic views on women’s rights, political pluralism and a range of other issues.It also reflects pragmatic considerations about the strategic interests of western powers inthe MENA region that are perceived to be threatened by the rising popularity and influenceof Islamists. Per la seva banda, Islamist parties and movements have shown a clear reluctance toforge closer ties with those western powers whose policies in the region they stronglyoppose, not least for fear of how the repressive regimes they operate within might react.This project’s focus on non-violent political Islamist movements should not be misinterpretedas implicit support for their political agendas. Committing to a strategy of more deliberateengagement with mainstream Islamist parties would involve significant risks and tradeoffs forNorth American and European policymakers. malgrat això, we do take the position that thetendency of both sides to view engagement as a zero sum ‘all or nothing’ game has beenunhelpful, and needs to change if a more constructive dialogue around reform in the MiddleEast and North Africa is to emerge.

Terrorist and Extremist Movements in the Middle East

Anthony H. Cordesman

Terrorism and asymmetric warfare are scarcely new features of the Middle Eastern military balance, and Islamic
extremism is scarcely the only source of extremist violence. There are many serious ethnic and sectarian differences
in the Middle East, and these have long led to sporadic violence within given states, and sometimes to major civil
conflicts. The civil wars in Yemen and the Dhofar Rebellion in Oman are examples, as are the long history of civil
war in Lebanon and Syria’s violent suppression of Islamic political groups that opposed the regime of Hafez al-
Assad. The rising power of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) led to a civil war in Jordan in September
1970. The Iranian revolution in 1979 was followed by serious political fighting, and an effort to export a theocratic
revolution that helped trigger the Iran-Iraq War. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have both had civil clashes between their
Sunni ruling elites and hostile Shi’ites and these clashes led to significant violence in the case of Saudi Arabia.
There also, malgrat això, has been a long history of violent Islamic extremism in the region, sometimes encouraged by
regimes that later became the target of the very Islamists they initially supported. Sadat attempted to use Islamic
movements as a counter to his secular opposition in Egypt only to be assassinated by one such movement after his
peace agreement with Israel. Israel thought it safe to sponsor Islamic movements after 1967 as a counter to the
PLO, only to see the rapid emergence of violently anti-Israeli groups. North and South Yemen were the scene of
coups and civil wars since the early 1960s, and it was a civil war in South Yemen that ultimately led to the collapse
of its regime and its merger with North Yemen in 1990.
The fall of the shah led to an Islamist takeover in Iran, and resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan triggered
an Islamist reaction that still influences the Middle East and the entire Islamic world. Saudi Arabia had to deal with
an uprising at the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979. The religious character of this uprising shared many elements
of the movements that arose after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Gulf War in 1991.
Algerian efforts to suppress the victory of Islamic political parties in a democratic election in 1992 were followed by
a civil war that has lasted ever since. Egypt fought a long and largely successful battle with its own Islamic
extremists in the 1990s, but Egypt has only managed to have suppressed such movements rather than eradicated
them. In the rest of the Arab World, the civil wars in Kosovo and Bosnia helped create new Islamic extremist cadres.
Saudi Arabia suffered from two major terrorist attacks before 2001. These attacks struck at a National Guard
Training center and USAF barracks at Al Khobar, and at least one seems to have been the result of Islamic
extremists. Marroc, Libya, Tunísia, Jordània, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Yemen have all seen hard-line Islamist
movements become a serious national threat.
While not directly part of the region, the Sudan has fought a 15-year long civil war that has probably cost over two
million lives, and this war had been supported by hard-line Islamist elements in the Arab north. Somalia has also
been the scene of a civil war since 1991 that has allowed Islamist cells to operate in that country.a

Terrorism and asymmetric warfare are scarcely new features of the Middle Eastern military balance, and Islamicextremism is scarcely the only source of extremist violence. There are many serious ethnic and sectarian differencesin the Middle East, and these have long led to sporadic violence within given states, and sometimes to major civilconflicts. The civil wars in Yemen and the Dhofar Rebellion in Oman are examples, as are the long history of civilwar in Lebanon and Syria’s violent suppression of Islamic political groups that opposed the regime of Hafez al-Asad. The rising power of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) led to a civil war in Jordan in September1970. The Iranian revolution in 1979 was followed by serious political fighting, and an effort to export a theocraticrevolution that helped trigger the Iran-Iraq War. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have both had civil clashes between theirSunni ruling elites and hostile Shi’ites and these clashes led to significant violence in the case of Saudi Arabia.There also, malgrat això, has been a long history of violent Islamic extremism in the region, sometimes encouraged byregimes that later became the target of the very Islamists they initially supported. Sadat attempted to use Islamicmovements as a counter to his secular opposition in Egypt only to be assassinated by one such movement after hispeace agreement with Israel. Israel thought it safe to sponsor Islamic movements after 1967 as a counter to thePLO, only to see the rapid emergence of violently anti-Israeli groups. North and South Yemen were the scene ofcoups and civil wars since the early 1960s, and it was a civil war in South Yemen that ultimately led to the collapseof its regime and its merger with North Yemen in 1990.The fall of the shah led to an Islamist takeover in Iran, and resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan triggeredan Islamist reaction that still influences the Middle East and the entire Islamic world. Saudi Arabia had to deal withan uprising at the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979. The religious character of this uprising shared many elementsof the movements that arose after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Gulf War in 1991.Algerian efforts to suppress the victory of Islamic political parties in a democratic election in 1992 were followed bya civil war that has lasted ever since. Egypt fought a long and largely successful battle with its own Islamicextremists in the 1990s, but Egypt has only managed to have suppressed such movements rather than eradicatedthem. In the rest of the Arab World, the civil wars in Kosovo and Bosnia helped create new Islamic extremist cadres.Saudi Arabia suffered from two major terrorist attacks before 2001. These attacks struck at a National GuardTraining center and USAF barracks at Al Khobar, and at least one seems to have been the result of Islamicextremists. Marroc, Libya, Tunísia, Jordània, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Yemen have all seen hard-line Islamistmovements become a serious national threat.While not directly part of the region, the Sudan has fought a 15-year long civil war that has probably cost over twomillion lives, and this war had been supported by hard-line Islamist elements in the Arab north. Somalia has alsobeen the scene of a civil war since 1991 that has allowed Islamist cells to operate in that country.

The Death of Political Islam

Jon B. Alterman

The obituaries for political Islam have begun to be written. After years of seemingly unstoppablegrowth, Islamic parties have begun to stumble. In Morocco, the Justice and DevelopmentParty (or PJD) did far worse than expected in last September’s elections, and Jordan’sIslamic Action Front lost more than half its seats in last month’s polling. The eagerly awaitedmanifesto of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, a draft of which appeared last September,showed neither strength nor boldness. Instead, it suggested the group was beset by intellectualcontradictions and consumed by infighting.It is too early to declare the death of political Islam, as it was premature to proclaim therebirth of liberalism in the Arab world in 2003-04, but its prospects seem notably dimmerthan they did even a year ago.To some, the fall from grace was inevitable; political Islam has collapsed under its owncontradictions, they say. They argue that, in objective terms, political Islam was never morethan smoke and mirrors. Religion is about faith and truth, and politics are about compromiseand accommodation. Seen this way, political Islam was never a holy enterprise, butmerely an effort to boost the political prospects of one side in a political debate. Backed byreligious authority and legitimacy, opposition to Islamists’ will ceased to be merely political—it became heresy—and the Islamists benefited.These skeptics see political Islam as having been a useful way to protect political movements,cow political foes, and rally support. As a governing strategy, malgrat això, they arguethat political Islam has not produced any successes. In two areas where it recently rose topower, the Palestinian Authority and Iraq, governance has been anemic. In Iran, where themullahs have been in power for almost three decades, clerics struggle for respect and thecountry hemorrhages money to Dubai and other overseas markets with more predictablerules and more positive returns. The most avowedly religious state in the Middle East, Aràbia Saudita, has notably less intellectual freedom than many of its neighbors, and the guardiansof orthodoxy there carefully circumscribe religious thought. As the French scholar of Islam,Olivier Roy, memorably observed more than a decade ago, the melding of religion and politics did not sanctify politics, it politicizedreligion.But while Islam has not provided a coherent theory of governance, let alone a universally accepted approach to the problems ofhumanity, the salience of religion continues to grow among many Muslims.That salience goes far beyond issues of dress, which have become more conservative for both women and men in recent years, andbeyond language, which invokes God’s name far more than was the case a decade ago. It also goes beyond the daily practice ofIslam—from prayer to charity to fasting—all of which are on the upswing.What has changed is something even more fundamental than physical appearance or ritual practice, and that is this: A growingnumber of Muslims start from the proposition that Islam is relevant to all aspects of their daily lives, and not merely the province oftheology or personal belief.Some see this as a return to traditionalism in the Middle East, when varying measures of superstition and spirituality governed dailylife. More accurately, though, what we are seeing is the rise of “neo-traditionalism,” in which symbols and slogans of the past areenlisted in the pursuit of hastening entry into the future. Islamic finance—which is to say, finance that relies on shares and returnsrather than interest—is booming, and sleek bank branches contain separate entrances for men and women. Slick young televangelistsrely on the tropes of sanctifying the everyday and seeking forgiveness, drawing tens of thousands to their meetings and televisionaudiences in the millions. Music videos—viewable on YouTube—implore young viewers to embrace faith and turn away froma meaningless secular life.Many in the West see secularism and relativism as concrete signs of modernity. In the Middle East, many see them as symbols ofa bankrupt secular nationalist past that failed to deliver justice or development, freedom or progress. The suffering of secularism ismeaningless, but the discipline of Islam is filled with signficance.It is for this reason that it is premature to declare the death of political Islam. Islam, increasingly, cannot be contained. It is spreadingto all aspects of life, and it is robust among some of the most dynamic forces in the Middle East. It enjoys state subsidies to be sure,but states have little to do with the creativity occurring in the religious field.The danger is that this Islamization of public life will cast aside what little tolerance is left in the Middle East, after centuries asa—fundamentally Islamic—multicultural entrepôt. It is hard to imagine how Islamizing societies can flourish if they do not embraceinnovation and creativity, diversity and difference. “Islamic” is not a self-evident concept, as my friend Mustapha Kamal Pasha onceobserved, but it cannot be a source of strength in modern societies if it is tied to ossified and parochial notions of its nature.Dealing with difference is fundamentally a political task, and it is here that political Islam will face its true test. The formal structuresof government in the Middle East have proven durable, and they are unlikely to crumble under a wave of Islamic activism. For politicalIslam to succeed, it needs to find a way to unite diverse coalitions of varying faiths and degrees of faith, not merely speak to itsbase. It has not yet found a way to do so, but that is not to say that it cannot.

The Internet and Islamist Politics in Jordan, Morocco and Egypt.

The end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first saw a
dissemination of the Internet as a center of communication, information, entertainment and
commerce. The spread of the Internet reached all four corners of the globe, connecting the
researcher in Antarctica with the farmer in Guatemala and the newscaster in Moscow to the
Bedouin in Egypt. Through the Internet, the flow of information and real-time news reaches
across continents, and the voices of subalternity have the potential to project their previously
silenced voices through blogs, websites and social networking sites. Political organizations
across the left-right continuum have targeted the Internet as the political mobilizer of the future,
and governments now provide access to historical documents, party platforms, i
administrative papers through their sites. Similarly, religious groups display their beliefs online
through official sites, and forums allow members from across the globe to debate issues of
eschatology, orthopraxy and any number of nuanced theological issues. Fusing the two, Islamist
political organizations have made their presence known through sophisticated websites detailing
their political platforms, relevant news stories, and religiously oriented material discussing their
theological views. This paper will specifically examine this nexus – the use of the Internet by
Islamist political organizations in the Middle East in the countries of Jordan, Morocco and
Egipte.
Although a wide range of Islamist political organizations utilize the Internet as a forum to
publicize their views and create a national or international reputation, the methods and intentions
of these groups vary greatly and depend on the nature of the organization. This paper will
examine the use of the Internet by three ‘moderate’ Islamist parties: the Islamic Action Front in
2
Jordània, the Justice and Development Party in Morocco and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
As these three parties have increased their political sophistication and reputation, both at home
and abroad, they have increasingly utilized the Internet for a variety of purposes. First, Islamist
organizations have used the Internet as a contemporary extension of the public sphere, a sphere
through which parties frame, communicate and institutionalize ideas to a broader public.
Secondly, the Internet provides Islamist organizations an unfiltered forum through which
officials may promote and advertise their positions and views, as well as circumvent local media
restrictions imposed by the state. Finally, the Internet allows Islamist organizations to present a
counterhegemonic discourse in opposition to the ruling regime or monarchy or on display to an
international audience. This third motivation applies most specifically to the Muslim
fraternitat, which presents a sophisticated English language website designed in a Western
style and tailored to reach a selective audience of scholars, politicians and journalists. The MB
has excelled in this so-called “bridgeblogging” 1 and has set the standard for Islamist parties
attempting to influence international perceptions of their positions and work. The content varies
between the Arabic and English versions of the site, and will be examined further in the section
on the Muslim Brotherhood. These three goals overlap significantly in both their intentions and
desired outcomes; malgrat això, each goal targets a different actor: the public, the media, and the
regime. Following an analysis of these three areas, this paper will proceed into a case study
analysis of the websites of the IAF, the PJD and the Muslim Brotherhood.
1

Andrew Helms

Ikhwanweb

The end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first saw a dissemination of the Internet as a center of communication, information, entertainment and commerce.

The spread of the Internet reached all four corners of the globe, connecting the researcher in Antarctica with the farmer in Guatemala and the newscaster in Moscow to the Bedouin in Egypt.

Through the Internet, the flow of information and real-time news reaches across continents, and the voices of subalternity have the potential to project their previously silenced voices through blogs, websites and social networking sites.

Political organizations across the left-right continuum have targeted the Internet as the political mobilizer of the future, and governments now provide access to historical documents, party platforms, and administrative papers through their sites. Similarly, religious groups display their beliefs online through official sites, and forums allow members from across the globe to debate issues of eschatology, orthopraxy and any number of nuanced theological issues.

Fusing the two, Islamist political organizations have made their presence known through sophisticated websites detailing their political platforms, relevant news stories, and religiously oriented material discussing their theological views. This paper will specifically examine this nexus – the use of the Internet by Islamist political organizations in the Middle East in the countries of Jordan, Morocco and Egypt.

Although a wide range of Islamist political organizations utilize the Internet as a forum to publicize their views and create a national or international reputation, the methods and intentions of these groups vary greatly and depend on the nature of the organization.

This paper will examine the use of the Internet by three ‘moderate’ Islamist parties: the Islamic Action Front in Jordan, the Justice and Development Party in Morocco and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. As these three parties have increased their political sophistication and reputation, both at home and abroad, they have increasingly utilized the Internet for a variety of purposes.

First, Islamist organizations have used the Internet as a contemporary extension of the public sphere, a sphere through which parties frame, communicate and institutionalize ideas to a broader public.

Secondly, the Internet provides Islamist organizations an unfiltered forum through which officials may promote and advertise their positions and views, as well as circumvent local media restrictions imposed by the state.

Finally, the Internet allows Islamist organizations to present a counterhegemonic discourse in opposition to the ruling regime or monarchy or on display to an international audience. This third motivation applies most specifically to the Muslim Brotherhood, which presents a sophisticated English language website designed in a Western style and tailored to reach a selective audience of scholars, politicians and journalists.

The MB has excelled in this so-called “bridgeblogging” 1 and has set the standard for Islamist parties attempting to influence international perceptions of their positions and work. The content varies between the Arabic and English versions of the site, and will be examined further in the section on the Muslim Brotherhood.

These three goals overlap significantly in both their intentions and desired outcomes; malgrat això, each goal targets a different actor: the public, the media, and the regime. Following an analysis of these three areas, this paper will proceed into a case study analysis of the websites of the IAF, the PJD and the Muslim Brotherhood.