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AN INQUIRY INTO A WESTERN FEAR

Dan Jahn

If one can point to an overarching characteristic of our time, concern with justice would surely be
near the top of the list. Never in the history of man has there been such a quest for justice, a quest
pursued by both individuals and groups in all walks of life and around the world. In this quest,
religions have played a vital role, while at the same time, religious movements are continually misunderstood
and mis-characterized by opposing groups. The Muslim movements which the Western
media refer to as representative of a dangerous Islamic fundamentalism with militant overtones
is one example where a misunderstanding has resulted in widespread fear and prohibited
what could potentially be a useful partnership. It is not an exaggeration to say that upon hearing
the words ‘Muslim Brotherhood’, many otherwise educated Westerners tend to think only of a
terrorist organization, and it is not inconceivable to think that some Muslims may in fact look at
the World Council of Churches as yet another example of Western imperialism. The truth is that
although Islamic fundamentalism or perhaps more appropriately ‘revivalism’ does have its extremists,
a major focal point of some Muslim movements is an attempt to balance the scales of
social justice in much the same way that the Christians of the West–through the World Council of
Churches–are attempting to rectify situations of poverty, abuse of human rights and other social
issues. This is not to dismiss the violence inherent in some Islamic fundamentalist movements,
merely to show that the terrorist like activities of these movements are emphatically not the
movements’ main program of action, and are, for instance in the case of the Muslim Brotherhood,
more a reaction to events of the time that many organizations, including the Brotherhood,
responded to in a violent manner.

Claiming the Center: Political Islam in Transition

John L. Esposito

In the 1990s political Islam, what some callIslamic fundamentalism,” remains a major presence in government and in oppositional politics from North Africa to Southeast Asia. Political Islam in power and in politics has raised many issues and questions: “Is Islam antithetical to modernization?,” “Are Islam and democracy incompatible?,” “What are the implications of an Islamic government for pluralism, minority and women’s rights,” “How representative are Islamists,” “Are there Islamic moderates?,” “Should the West fear a transnational Islamic threat or clash of civilizations?” Contemporary Islamic Revivalism The landscape of the Muslim world today reveals the emergence of new Islamic republics (Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan), the proliferation of Islamic movements that function as major political and social actors within existing systems, and the confrontational politics of radical violent extremists._ In contrast to the 1980s when political Islam was simply equated with revolutionary Iran or clandestine groups with names like Islamic jihad or the Army of God, the Muslim world in the 1990s is one in which Islamists have participated in the electoral process and are visible as prime ministers, cabinet officers, speakers of national assemblies, parliamentarians, and mayors in countries as diverse as Egypt, Sudan, Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, Kuwait, Yemen, Jordan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Israel/Palestine. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, political Islam continues to be a major force for order and disorder in global politics, one that participates in the political process but also in acts of terrorism, a challenge to the Muslim world and to the West. Understanding the nature of political Islam today, and in particular the issues and questions that have emerged from the experience of the recent past, remains critical for governments, policymakers, and students of international politics alike.

IS TAYYIP ERDOĞAN THE NEW NASSER

Hurriyet DailyNews
Mustafa Akyol

Last Thursday night, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan suddenly became the focus of all the news channels in the country. The reason was that he had stormed the diplomatic scene at a World Economic Forum panel in Davos by accusing Israeli President Shimon Peres forkilling people,” and reminding the biblical commandment, “Thou shall not kill.

This was not just breaking news to the media, but also music to the ears of millions of Turks who were deeply touched by the recent bloodshed that Israel caused in the Gaza Strip. Some of them even hit the streets in order to welcome Erdoğan, who had decided to come to Istanbul right away after the tense debate. Thousands of cars headed toward the Atatürk airport in the middle of the night in order to welcomethe conqueror of Davos.

’Turkey is proud of you’

I personally had a more mundane problem at that very moment. In order to catch my 5 a.m. flight, I had left home at a quite reasonable time, 2.30 a.m. But the traffic to the airport was completely locked because of the amazing number of cars destined toward it. So, after leaving the taxi at the start of the long river of vehicles, I had to walk on the highway for about two kilometers, my hands on my luggage and my eyes on the crowd. When Erdoğan finally stepped out of the terminal, while I just walking into it, thousands applauded him and started to chant, “Turkey is proud of you!”

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.

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, Egypt, Lebanon, and the occupied Palestinian territories, and have widespread influence in Morocco and Jordan. Now, 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.

The Syrian Opposition

Joshua Landis

Joe Pace


For decades, U.S. policy toward Syria has been single-mindedly focused on Syria’s president, Hafiz al-Asad, from 1970 to 2000, followed by his son Bashar. Because they perceived the Syrian opposition to be too weak and anti-American, U.S. officials preferred to work with the Asad regime. Washington thus had no relations with the Syrian opposition until its invasion of Iraq in 2003. Even then, the Bush administration reached out only to Washington-based opponents of the Syrian regime. They were looking for a Syrian counterpart to Ahmad Chalabi, the pro-U.S. Iraqi opposition leader who helped build the case for invading Iraq.
Washington was not interested in engaging Islamists, whom it considered the only opposition with a demonstrated popular base in Syria. As for the secular opposition in Syria, U.S. embassy officials in Damascus considered them to “have a weak back bench,” without a popular constituency or connection to Syrian youth.2 Moreover, contact between opposition members and embassy officials could be dangerous for opponents of the regime and leave them open to accusations of treason. For these reasons, the difficult terrain of opposition figures within Syria remained terra incognita.

Resolving America’s Islamist Dilemma

Shadi Hamid

U.S. efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East have long been paralyzed by the “Islamist dilemma”: in theory, we want democracy, but, in practice, fear that Islamist parties will be the prime beneficiaries of any political opening. The most tragic manifestation of this was the Algerian debacle of 1991 and 1992, when the United States stood silently while the staunchly secular military canceled elections after an Islamist party won a parliamentary majority. More recently, the Bush administration backed away from its “freedom agenda” after Islamists did surprisingly well in elections throughout region, including in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian territories.
But even our fear of Islamist parties—and the resulting refusal to engage with them—has itself been inconsistent, holding true for some countries but not others. The more that a country is seen as vital to American national security interests, the less willing the United States has been to accept Islamist groups having a prominent political role there. However, in countries seen as less strategically relevant, and where less is at stake, the United States has occasionally taken a more nuanced approach. But it is precisely where more is at stake that recognizing a role for nonviolent Islamists is most important, and, here, American policy continues to fall short.
Throughout the region, the United States has actively supported autocratic regimes and given the green light for campaigns of repression against groups such as the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest and most influential political movement in the region. In March 2008, during what many observers consider to be the worst period of anti-Brotherhood repression since the 1960s, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice waived a $100 million congressionally mandated reduction of military aid to Egypt.

International Consultation of Muslim Intellectuals on Islam & Politics

Stimson Center & Institute of Policy Studies

This two-day discussion brought together experts and scholars from Bangladesh, Egypt, India,Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sudan and Sri Lanka representing academia,non-governmental organizations and think tanks. Among the participants were a number of former government officials and one sitting legislator. The participants were also chosen to comprise abroad spectrum of ideologies, including the religious and the secular, cultural, political andeconomic conservatives, liberals and radicals.The following themes characterized the discussion:1. Western and US (Mis)Understanding There is a fundamental failure by the West to understand the rich variety of intellectual currents andcross-currents in the Muslim world and in Islamic thought. What is underway in the Muslim worldis not a simple opposition to the West based on grievance (though grievances there also are), but are newal of thought and culture and an aspiration to seek development and to modernize withoutlosing their identity. This takes diverse forms, and cannot be understood in simple terms. There is particular resentment towards Western attempts to define the parameters of legitimate Islamicdiscourse. There is a sense that Islam suffers from gross over generalization, from its champions asmuch as from its detractors. It is strongly urged that in order to understand the nature of the Muslim renaissance, the West should study all intellectual elements within Muslim societies, and not only professedly Islamic discourse.US policy in the aftermath of 9/11 has had several effects. It has led to a hardening andradicalization on both sides of the Western-Muslim encounter. It has led to mutual broad brush(mis)characterization of the other and its intentions. It has contributed to a sense of pan-Islamicsolidarity unprecedented since the end of the Khilafat after World War I. It has also produced adegeneration of US policy, and a diminution of US power, influence and credibility. Finally, theUS’ dualistic opposition of terror and its national interests has made the former an appealing instrument for those intent on resistance to the West.

COMPARING THREE MUSLIM BROTHERHOODS: SYRIA, JORDAN, EGYPT

Barry Rubin

The banner of the Islamist revolution in the Middle East today has largely passed to groups sponsored by or derived from the Muslim Brotherhood. This article develops an introductory examination of three key Muslim Brotherhood groups and compares their politics, interrelations, and methods. Each, of course, is adapted to the conditions of a particular country.The banner of the Islamist revolution in the Middle East today has largely passed to groups sponsored by or derived from the Muslim Brotherhood. This article develops an introductory examination of three key Muslim Brotherhood groups and compares their politics, interrelations, and methods. Each, of course, is adapted to the conditions of a particular country.First, it is important to understand the Brotherhood’s policy toward and relations with both jihadist groups (al-Qa’ida, the Zarqawi network, and others such as Hizb al-Tahrir and Hamas) and theorists (such as Abu Mus’ab al-Suri and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi).The Brotherhoods do not have ongoing relationships with Hizb al-Tahrir—which is regarded by them as a small, cultish group of no importance. Other than in Jordan, they have had little contact with it at all.Regarding al-Qa’ida—both its theorists and its terrorist infrastructure—the Brotherhoods approve generally of its militancy, attacks on America, and ideology (or respect its ideologues), but view it as a rival.

The Future of the Muslim Brotherhood

Amr Al-Chobaki


The Muslim Brotherhood managed to maintain its organizational existence since its establishment in 1928, by the late Hasan Al-Banna. Throughout eight decades, it has managed to exist as a religious movement as well as a political and social organization. This, on one hand, helped it to be sufficiently strong to be distinguished from other political powers, but also made it weak and feeble in some other ways.

The Muslim Brotherhood as a movement is similar to other Egyptian political movements, as it was established at the time of the royal regime and a semi-liberal era. It clashed with the government during the time of President `Abd Al-Nasser, adapted to the regime of President Sadat, and tended to fluctuate in its relationship with President Mubarak, however, the relationship was based on partial elimination, just like the state during the age of President `Abd Al-Nasser. Moreover, it has been outlawed for most of its history; since 1954 until the present time (i.e. more than half a century).

The Muslim Brotherhood has continued to be both a witness and a party in the political and cultural dispute in Egypt and the Arab countries, throughout different historical periods; Egypt in the time of the royal regime and in the time of the republic with its three stages. This dispute was about issues of identity and cultural belonging, the relationship between the religion – on one handand politics, the East and the West on the other hand, as well as the coming and the inherited. The Muslim Brotherhood had a flexible political and intellectual reference that gave it a comprehensive conception of Islam.

Current Trends in the Ideology of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

Dr. Israel Elad Altman

The American-led Middle East reform and democratization campaign of the last twoyears has helped shape a new political reality in Egypt. Opportunities have opened up fordissent. With U.S. and European support, local opposition groups have been able to takeinitiative, advance their causes and extract concessions from the state. The EgyptianMuslim Brotherhood movement (MB), which has been officially outlawed as a politicalorganization, is now among the groups facing both new opportunities and new risks.Western governments, including the government of the United States, are consideringthe MB and other “moderate Islamist” groups as potential partners in helping to advancedemocracy in their countries, and perhaps also in eradicating Islamist terrorism. Couldthe Egyptian MB fill that role? Could it follow the track of the Turkish Justice andDevelopment Party (AKP) and the Indonesian Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), twoIslamist parties that, according to some analysts, are successfully adapting to the rules ofliberal democracy and leading their countries toward greater integration with,respectively, Europe and a “pagan” Asia?This article examines how the MB has responded to the new reality, how it has handledthe ideological and practical challenges and dilemmas that have arisen during the pasttwo years. To what extent has the movement accommodated its outlook to newcircumstances? What are its objectives and its vision of the political order? How has itreacted to U.S. overtures and to the reform and democratization campaign? How has itnavigated its relations with the Egyptian regime on one hand, and other opposition forceson the other, as the country headed toward two dramatic elections in autumn 2005? Towhat extent can the MB be considered a force that might lead Egypt toward liberaldemocracy?

Egypt’s Constitutional Test: Averting the March toward Islamic Fundamentalism

Hany Besada
Senior Researcher

After gaining overwhelming support in a March 2007 national

referendum, long-time Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak introduced

new constitutional amendments that effectively give more

power to the president and loosen controls on security forces.
Mubarak’s amendments constitute the latest move in a set of

orchestrated plans not only to entrench the stronghold of his own

National Democratic Party and pave the way for his son as his

successor but also to curb the power and ambition of his greatest

opposition – the Muslim Brotherhood. As he steps into his fifth

consecutive six-year term in office, Mubarak and his regime are

being met with harsh criticism as opposition groups, human rights

advocates, and Western governments urge for meaningful democratic

reform in the country. But promoting democracy is a complex

issue in Egypt, and indeed in much of the Arab world.
Mubarak and other leaders face the Islamist Dilemma, where any

move toward a more democracy-friendly political system threatens

to empower Islamic militants and open the floodgates for nonsecular

political parties.

Priorities of The Islamic Movement in The Coming Phase

Yusuf Al-Qardhawi

What Do We Mean By Islamic Movement?

ByIslamic Movement”, I mean that organized, collective work, undertaken by thepeople, to restore Islam to the leadership of society, and to the helm of life all walksof life.Before being anything else, the Islamic Movement is work: persistent, industriouswork, not just words to be said, speeches and lectures to be delivered, or books andarticles are indeed required, they are merely parts of a movement, not themovement itself (Allah the Almighty says, Work, and Allah, His Messenger and thebelievers will see your work} [Surat al-Tawba: 1 05].The Islamic Movement is a popular work performed for Allah’s sakeThe Islamic movement is a popular work based mainly on self-motivation andpersonal conviction. It is a work performed out of faith and for nothing other thanthe sake of Allah, in the hope of being rewarded by Him, not by humans.The core of this self-motivation is that unrest which a Muslim feels when theAwakening visits him and he feels a turmoil deep inside him, as a result of thecontradiction between his faith on the one hand and the actual state of affairs of hisnation on the other. It is then that he launches himself into action, driven by his lovefor his religion, his devotion to Allah, His Messenger, the Quran and the MuslimNation, and his feeling of his, and his people’s, neglect of their duty. In so doing, heis also stimulated by his keenness to discharge his duty, eliminate deficiencies,contribute to the revival of the neglected faridas [enjoined duties] of enforcing theSharia [Islamic Law] sent down by Allah; unifying the Muslim nation around the HolyQuran; supporting Allah’s friends and fighting Allah’s foes; liberating Muslimterritories from all aggression or non-Muslim control; reinstating the Islamiccaliphate system to the leadership anew as required by Sharia, and renewing theobligation to spread the call of Islam, enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrongand strive in Allah’s cause by deed, by word or by heartthe latter being theweakest of beliefsso that the word of Allah may be exalted to the heights.

The future of Islam after 9/11

Mansoor Moaddel

There is no consensus among historians and Islamicists about the nature of theIslamic belief system and the experience of historical Islam, on which one couldbase a definitive judgment concerning Islam’s compatibility with modernity. Nonetheless,the availability of both historical and value survey data allow us to analyzethe future of Islam in light of the horrific event of 9/11. The key factor that woulddetermine the level of societal visibility necessary for predicting the future developmentof a culture is the nature and clarity of the ideological targets in relation towhich new cultural discourses are produced. Based on this premise, I shall try toilluminate the nature of such targets that are confronted by Muslim activists inIran, Egypt, and Jordan.

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, Egypt, Indonesia,Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon,Malaysia, 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 September 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. For their part, 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. However, 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.