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Islamist Parties : A boon or a bane for democracy?

Amr Hamzawy

Nathan J. Brown

What role do Islamist movements play in Arab politics? With their popular messages and broad followings within Arab societies, would their incorporation as normal political actors be a boon for democratization or democracy’s bane? For too long, we have tried to answer such questions solely by speculating about the true intentions of these movements and their leaders. Islamist political movements in the Arab world are increasingly asked—both by outside observers and by members of their own societies—about their true intentions.
But to hear them tell it, leaders of mainstream Arab Islamist movements are not the problem. They see themselves as democrats in nondemocratic lands, firmly committed to clean and fair electoral processes, whatever outcomes these may bring. It is rulers and regimes that should be pressed to commit to democracy, say the Islamists, not their oppositions. We need not take such Islamist leaders at their word. Indeed, we should realize that there is only so much that any of their words can do to answer the question of the relationship between these movements and the prospects for democracy.
While their words are increasingly numerous (Islamist movements tend to be quite loquacious) and their answers about democracy increasingly specific, their ability to resolve all ambiguities is limited. First, as long as they are out of power—as most of them are, and are likely to remain for some time—they will never fully prove themselves. Many Islamist leaders themselves probably do not know how they would act were they to come to power.

The Mismeasure of Political Islam

Martin Kramer

Perhaps no development of the last decade of the twentieth century has caused as much confusion in the West as the emergence of political Islam. Just what does it portend? Is it against modernity, or is it an effect of modernity? Is it against nationalism, or is it a
form of nationalism? Is it a striving for freedom, or a revolt against freedom?
One would think that these are difficult questions to answer, and that they would inspire deep debates. Yet over the past few years, a surprisingly broad consensus has emerged within academe about the way political Islam should be measured. This consensus has
begun to spread into parts of government as well, especially in the U.S. and Europe. A paradigm has been built, and its builders claim that its reliability and validity are beyond question.
This now-dominant paradigm runs as follows. The Arab Middle East and North Africa are stirring. The peoples in these lands are still under varieties of authoritarian or despotic rule. But they are moved by the same universal yearning for democracy that transformed Eastern Europe and Latin America. True, there are no movements we would easily recognize as democracy movements. But for historical and cultural reasons, this universal yearning has taken the form of Islamist protest movements. If these do not look
like democracy movements, it is only a consequence of our own age-old bias against Islam. When the veil of prejudice is lifted, one will see Islamist movements for what they are: the functional equivalents of democratic reform movements. True, on the edges of these movements are groups that are atavistic and authoritarian. Some of their members are prone to violence. These are theextremists.” But the mainstream movements are essentially open, pluralistic, and nonviolent, led bymoderatesorreformists.” Thesemoderatescan be strengthened if they are made partners in the political process, and an initial step must be dialogue. But ultimately, the most effective way to domesticate the Islamists is to permit them to share or possess power. There is no threat here unless the West creates it, by supporting acts of state repression that would deny Islamists access to participation or power.

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

Nathan J. Brown, 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. As a result, 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, however, 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, Jordan, and even Egypt, which still bans all Islamist political organizations but now has eighty-eight Muslim Brothers in the Parliament. Politics, 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.

ISLAM, ISLAMISTS, AND THE ELECTORAL PRINCIPLE I N THE MIDDLE EAST

James Piscatori

For an idea whose time has supposedly come, ÒdemocracyÓ masks an astonishing

number of unanswered questions and, in the Muslim world, has generated

a remarkable amount of heat. Is it a culturally specific term, reflecting Western

European experiences over several centuries? Do non-Western societies possess

their own standards of participation and accountabilityÑand indeed their own

rhythms of developmentÑwhich command attention, if not respect? Does Islam,

with its emphasis on scriptural authority and the centrality of sacred law, allow

for flexible politics and participatory government?

The answers to these questions form part of a narrative and counter-narrative

that themselves are an integral part of a contested discourse. The larger story

concerns whether or not ÒIslamÓ constitutes a threat to the West, and the supplementary

story involves IslamÕs compatibility with democracy. The intellectual

baggage, to change the metaphor, is scarcely neutral. The discussion itself has

become acutely politicised, caught in the related controversies over Orientalism,

the exceptionalism of the Middle East in particular and the Muslim world in general,

and the modernism of religious ÒfundamentalistÓ movements.

The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood

Robert S. Leiken

Steven Brooke

The Muslim Brotherhood is the world’s oldest, largest, and most influential Islamist organization. It is also the most controversial,
condemned by both conventional opinion in the West and radical opinion in the Middle East. American commentators have called the Muslim Brothers “radical Islamists” and “a vital component of the enemy’s assault forcedeeply hostile to the United States.” Al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri sneers at them for “lur[ing] thousands of young Muslim men into lines for electionsinstead of into the lines of jihad.” Jihadists loathe the Muslim Brotherhood (known in Arabic as al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen) for rejecting global jihad and embracing democracy. These positions seem to make them moderates, the very thing the United States, short on allies in the Muslim world, seeks.
But the Ikhwan also assails U.S. foreign policy, especially Washington’s support for Israel, and questions linger about its actual commitment to the democratic process. Over the past year, we have met with dozens of Brotherhood leaders and activists from Egypt, France, Jordan, Spain, Syria,Tunisia, and the United Kingdom.

The Management of Islamic Activism: Salafis, The Muslim Brotherhood, and State Power in Jordan

Faisal Ghori

In his first book, The Management of Islamic Activism, Quintan Wiktorowicz examines the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis through the lens of social movement theory. Unlike some political scientists who dismiss Islamic movements because of their informal networks, Wiktorowicz contends that social movement theory is an apt framework through which Islamic movements can be examined and studied. In this regard, his work leads the field. Yet for all its promise, this book largely fails to deliver.
The book is divided into four primary sections, through which he tries to construct his conclusion: Jordanian political liberalization has occurred because of structural necessities, not because of its commitment to democratization. In addition, the state has been masterful in what he dubs the “management of collective action, (p. 3) which has, for all practical purposes, stifled any real opposition. While his conclusion is certainly tenable, given his extensive fieldwork, the book is poorly organized and much of the evidence examined earlier in the work leaves many questions unanswered.

What Leads Voters to Support the Opposition under Authoritarianism ?

Michael D.H. Robbins

Elections have become commonplace in most authoritarian states. While this may seem to be a contradiction in terms, in reality elections play an important role in these regimes. While elections for positions of real power tend to be non-competitive, many
elections—including those for seemingly toothless parliaments—can be strongly contested.
The existing literature has focused on the role that elections play in supporting the regime. For example, they can help let off steam, help the regime take the temperature of society, or can be used to help a dominant party know which individuals it should promote (Schedler 2002; Blaydes 2006). Yet, while the literature has focused on the supply-side of elections in authoritarian states, there are relatively few systematic studies of voter behavior in these elections (see Lust-Okar 2006 for an exception). Rather, most analyses have argued that patronage politics are the norm in these societies and that ordinary citizens tend to be very cynical about these exercises given that they cannot bring any real change (Kassem 2004; Desposato 2001; Zaki 1995). While the majority of voters in authoritarian systems may behave in this manner, not all do. In fact, at times, even the majority vote against the regime leading to
significant changes as has occurred recently in Kenya, the Ukraine and Zimbabwe. Yet, even in cases where opposition voters make up a much smaller percentage of voters, it is important to understand who these voters are and what leads them to vote against the
regime.

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.

Democracy, Terrorism and American Policy in the Arab World

F. Gregory Gause

The United States has embarked upon what President Bush and Secretary of State Rice has called a “generational challenge” to encourage political reform and democracy in the Arab world. The Bush Administration and other defenders of the democracy campaign contend that the push for Arab democracy is not only about spreading American values, but also about insuring American security. They hypothesize that as democracy grows in the Arab world, anti-American terrorism from the Arab world will decline. Therefore, the promotion of democracy inthe Arab world is not only consistent with American security goals in the area, but necessary to achieve those goals.
Two questions present themselves in considering this element of the “Bush Doctrine” in the Arab world: 1) Is there a relationship between terrorism and democracy such that the more democratic a country becomes, the less likely it is to produce terrorists and terrorist groups? In other words, is the security rationale for democracy promotion in the Arab world based on a sound premise?; and 2) What kind of governments would likely be generated by democratic elections in Arab countries? Would they be willing to cooperate with the United States on important policy objectives in the Middle East, not only in maintaining democracy but also on
Arab-Israeli, Gulf security and oil issues?
This paper will consider these two questions. It finds that there is little empirical evidence linking democracy with an absence of or reduction in terrorism. It questions whether democracy would reduce the motives and opportunities of groups like al-Qa’ida, which oppose democracy on both religious and practical grounds. It examines recent trends in Arab public opinion and elections, concluding that while Arab publics are very supportive of democracy, democratic elections in Arab states are likely to produce Islamist governments which would be much less likely to cooperate with the United States than their authoritarian predecessors.

POLICY AND PRACTICE NOTES

KENNETH ROTH

Today, virtually every government wants to be seen as a democracy, but many resist allowing the basic human rights that would make democracy meaningful because that might jeopardize their grasp on power. Instead, governments use a variety of subterfuges to manage or undermine the electoral process. Their task is facilitated by the lack of a broadly accepted definition of ‘democracy’ akin to the detailed rules of international human rights law. But much of the problem lies in the fact that, because of commercial or strategic interests, the world’s established democracies often close their eyes to electoral manipulation, making it easier for sham democrats to pass themselves off as the real thing. That acquiescence undermines the efforts to promote human rights because it can be more difficult for human rights organizations to stigmatize a government for its human rights violations when that government can hold itself up as an accepted ‘democracy.’ The challenge facing the human rights movement is to highlight the ploys used by dictatorial regimes to feign democratic rule and to build pressure on the established democracies to refuse to admit these pretenders into the club of democracies on the cheap. Keywords: civil society, democracy promotion, dictatorship, elections,
electoral manipulation, political violence Rarely has democracy been so acclaimed yet so breached, so promoted yet so disrespected, so important yet so disappointing. Democracy has become the key to legitimacy. Few governments want to be seen as undemocratic. Yet the credentials of the claimants have not kept pace with democracy’s
growing popularity. These days, even overt dictators aspire to the status conferred by the democracy label. Determined not to let mere facts stand in their way, these rulers have mastered the art of democratic rhetoric which bears
little relationship to their practice of governing.
This growing tendency poses an enormous challenge to the human rights movement. Human rights groups can hardly oppose the promotion of democracy, but they must be wary that the embrace of democracy not become a subterfuge for avoiding the more demanding standards of international human rights law. Human rights groups must especially insist that their natural governmental allies – the established democracies – not allow competing interests and short-sighted strategies to stand in the way of their
embrace of a richer, more meaningful concept of democracy.

Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan

The Islamic movement in Jordan came to international attention in thewake of the April 1989 disturbances and the subsequent November 1989 parliamentary elections. These developments highlighted the movement’s political clout and raised the spectre in the West of an Iranian-style Islamic revolution in Jordan, fuelled by radical Islamic movements such as those of Egypt and the Maghrib. While various political trends competed for influence during the months prior to the elections, the Muslim Brotherhood had a clear advantage; its infrastructure in the mosques, the Qur’anicschools and the universities gave it a ready-made political base. The leftistand pro-regime groups, on the other hand, had to create de facto politicalparties—still legally banned—and to build their organizational base almostex nihilo, or to transform a clandestine infrastructure into an overt politicalone. There should have been very little surprise, therefore, when the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist candidates won a windfall of 32 of the 80seats in Parliament.Politicization of Islam is not new in Jordan.1 Since the foundation of the Emirate of Trans jordan by ‘Abdallah, Islam has served as one of the building blocks of regime legitimacy and of nation-building. The genealogy of the Hashemite family as scions of the Prophet’s tribe was an important source of legitimacy for its rule in Syria, Iraq and Jordan, as it had been inthe Hijaz. The ideology of the “Great Arab Revolt” was no less Islamic than it was Arab, and the control of Jerusalem after 1948 was interpretedby the regime as an Islamic responsibility and not only an Arab one.2King ‘Abdallah and his grandson Hussein, took care to present themselvesas believing Muslims, appearing at rituals and prayers, performing the pilgrimage to Mecca and embellishing their speeches with Islamic motifs.3The status of Islam in the Kingdom was also formalized in the Jordanian constitution (1952) by stipulating that Islam is the religion of the kingdom and that the king must be a Muslim and of Muslim parents. Islamic law(Shari‘a) is defined in the constitution as one of the pillars of legislation in the kingdom, while family law is in the exclusive hands of the Shari‘a courts.

From Rebel Movement to Political Party

Alastair Crooke

The view held by many in the West that transformation from an armed resistance movement to political party should be linear, should be preceded by a renunciation of violence, should be facilitated by civil society and brokered by moderate politicians has little reality for the case of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). This is not to suggest that Hamas has not been subject to a political transformation: it has. But that transformation has been achieved in spite of Western efforts and not facilitated by those efforts. While remaining a resistance movement, Hamas has become the government of the Palestinian Authority and has modified its military posture. But this transformation has taken a different course from the one outlined in traditional conflict resolution models. Hamas and other Islamist groups continue to see themselves as resistance movements, but increasingly they see the prospect that their organizations may evolve into political currents that are focused on non-violent resistance.Standard conflict resolution models rely heavily on Western experience in conflict resolution and often ignore the differences of approach in the Islamic history of peace-making. Not surprisingly, the Hamas approach to political negotiation is different in style to that of the West. Also, as an Islamist movement that shares the wider optic of the impact of the West on their societies, Hamas has requirements of authenticity and legitimacy within its own constituency that bear on the importance attached to maintaining an armed capability. These factors, together with the overwhelming effect of long term conflict on a community’s psychology (an aspect that receives little attention in Western models that put preponderant weight on political analysis), suggests that the transformation process for Hamas has been very different from the transformation of arms movements in traditional analysis. In addition, the harsh landscape of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict gives the Hamas experience its special characteristics.Hamas is in the midst of an important transformation, but the political currents within Israel, and within the region, make the outcome of this transformation unpredictable. Much will depend on the course of Western policy (its “Global War on Terror”) and how that policy effects revivalist Islamist groups such as Hamas, groups that are committed to elections, reform and good-governance.

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.

Arab Reform Bulletin

group of researchers


Egypt: Regression in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Party Platform?

Amr hamzawy


The Muslim Brotherhood’s draft party platform sends mixed signals about the movement’s political views

and positions. Although it has already been widely circulated, the document does not yet have final
approval from the movement’s guidance bureau.
The platform’s detailed treatment of political, social, and economic issues marks a significant departure
from previously less developed positions, articulated inter alia in a 2004 reform initiative and the 2005
electoral platform for Brotherhood parliamentary candidates. This shift addresses one of the most
important criticisms of the Brotherhood, namely its championing of vague ideological and religious

slogans and inability to come up with specific policy prescriptions.
The document raises troubling questions, however, regarding the identity of a future Brotherhood

political party as well as the group’s position on several political and social issues. Released in the
context of an ongoing stand-off between the Egyptian regime and the Brotherhood, it reveals significant
ambiguities and perhaps regression in the movement’s thinking.
First, the drafters chose not to address the future relationship between the party and the movement. In

doing so, they have deliberately ignored important ideas recently discussed within the movement,
especially among members of the parliamentary bloc. Inspired by the experiences of Islamist parties in
Morocco, Jordan, and Yemen, these members advocate a functional separation between a party and
the movement, with the former focused mainly on political participation and the latter on religious
activism. In addition to its superficial treatment of the nature of the party and its internal organization, the
platform includes no clear statement on opening party membership to all Egyptians regardless of their
religion, one of the requirements for establishing a political party according to the Egyptian constitution.
Second, the draft Brotherhood platform identifies implementation of sharia as one of the party’s main

goals. Although this is consistent with the group’s interpretation of Article 2 of the Egyptian Constitution
(“Islam is the religion of the state, and Islamic law is the main source of legislation”), it departs from the
pragmatic spirit of various Brotherhood statements and initiatives since 2004 in which less emphasis
was given to the sharia issue. The return to a focus on sharia in the platform has led to positions
fundamentally at odds with the civil nature of the state and full citizenship rights regardless of religious
affiliation.

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.