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The Arab Tomorrow

DAVID B. OTTAWAY

October 6, 1981, was meant to be a day of celebration in Egypt. It marked the anniversary of Egypt’s grandest moment of victory in three Arab-Israeli conflicts, when the country’s underdog army thrust across the Suez Canal in the opening days ofthe 1973 Yom Kippur War and sent Israeli troops reeling in retreat. On a cool, cloudless morning, the Cairo stadium was packed with Egyptian families that had come to see the military strut its hardware.On the reviewing stand, President Anwar el-Sadat,the war’s architect, watched with satisfaction as men and machines paraded before him. I was nearby, a newly arrived foreign correspondent.Suddenly, one of the army trucks halted directly in front of the reviewing stand just as six Mirage jets roared overhead in an acrobatic performance, painting the sky with long trails of red, yellow, purple,and green smoke. Sadat stood up, apparently preparing to exchange salutes with yet another contingent of Egyptian troops. He made himself a perfect target for four Islamist assassins who jumped from the truck, stormed the podium, and riddled his body with bullets.As the killers continued for what seemed an eternity to spray the stand with their deadly fire, I considered for an instant whether to hit the ground and risk being trampled to death by panicked spectators or remain afoot and risk taking a stray bullet. Instinct told me to stay on my feet, and my sense of journalistic duty impelled me to go find out whether Sadat was alive or dead.

Islam, Political Islam and America

Arab Insight

Is “Brotherhood” with America Possible?

khalil al-anani

“there is no chance of communicating with any U.S. administration so long as the United States maintains its long-standing view of Islam as a real danger, a view that puts the United States in the same boat as the Zionist enemy. We have no pre-conceived notions concerning the American people or the U.S. society and its civic organizations and think tanks. We have no problem communicating with the American people but no adequate efforts are being made to bring us closer,” said Dr. Issam al-Iryan, chief of the political department of the Muslim Brotherhood in a phone interview.
Al-Iryan’s words sum up the Muslim Brotherhood’s views of the American people and the U.S. government. Other members of the Muslim Brotherhood would agree, as would the late Hassan al-Banna, who founded the group in 1928. Al- Banna viewed the West mostly as a symbol of moral decay. Other Salafis – an Islamic school of thought that relies on ancestors as exemplary models – have taken the same view of the United States, but lack the ideological flexibility espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood. While the Muslim Brotherhood believes in engaging the Americans in civil dialogue, other extremist groups see no point in dialogue and maintain that force is the only way of dealing with the United States.

ISLAM, DEMOCRACY & THE USA:

Cordoba Foundation

Abdullah Faliq

Intro ,


In spite of it being both a perennial and a complex debate, Arches Quarterly reexamines from theological and practical grounds, the important debate about the relationship and compatibility between Islam and Democracy, as echoed in Barack Obama’s agenda of hope and change. Whilst many celebrate Obama’s ascendancy to the Oval Office as a national catharsis for the US, others remain less optimistic of a shift in ideology and approach in the international arena. While much of the tension and distrust between the Muslim world and the USA can be attributed to the approach of promoting democracy, typically favoring dictatorships and puppet regimes that pay lip-service to democratic values and human rights, the aftershock of 9/11 has truly cemented the misgivings further through America’s position on political Islam. It has created a wall of negativity as found by worldpublicopinion.org, according to which 67% of Egyptians believe that globally America is playing a “mainly negative” role.
America’s response has thus been apt. By electing Obama, many around the world are pinning their hopes for developing a less belligerent, but fairer foreign policy towards the Muslim world. Th e test for Obama, as we discuss, is how America and her allies promote democracy. Will it be facilitating or imposing?
Moreover, can it importantly be an honest broker in prolonged zones of confl icts? Enlisting the expertise and insight of prolifi
c scholars, academics, seasoned journalists and politicians, Arches Quarterly brings to light the relationship between Islam and Democracy and the role of America – as well as the changes brought about by Obama, in seeking the common ground. Anas Altikriti, the CEO of Th e Cordoba Foundation provides the opening gambit to this discussion, where he refl ects on the hopes and challenges that rests on Obama’s path. Following Altikriti, the former advisor to President Nixon, Dr Robert Crane off ers a thorough analysis of the Islamic principle of the right to freedom. Anwar Ibrahim, former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, enriches the discussion with the practical realities of implementing democracy in Muslim dominant societies, namely, in Indonesia and Malaysia.
We also have Dr Shireen Hunter, of Georgetown University, USA, who explores Muslim countries lagging in democratisation and modernisation. Th is is complemented by terrorism writer, Dr Nafeez Ahmed’s explanation of the crisis of post-modernity and the
demise of democracy. Dr Daud Abdullah (Director of Middle East Media Monitor), Alan Hart (former ITN and BBC Panorama correspondent; author of Zionism: Th e Real Enemy of the Jews) and Asem Sondos (Editor of Egypt’s Sawt Al Omma weekly) concentrate on Obama and his role vis-à-vis democracy-promotion in the Muslim world, as well as US relations with Israel and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Minister of Foreign Aff airs, Maldives, Ahmed Shaheed speculates on the future of Islam and Democracy; Cllr. Gerry Maclochlainn
a Sinn Féin member who endured four years in prison for Irish Republican activities and a campaigner for the Guildford 4 and Birmingham 6, refl ects on his recent trip to Gaza where he witnessed the impact of the brutality and injustice meted out against Palestinians; Dr Marie Breen-Smyth, Director of the Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Contemporary Political Violence discusses the challenges of critically researching political terror; Dr Khalid al-Mubarak, writer and playwright, discusses prospects of peace in Darfur; and fi nally journalist and human rights activist Ashur Shamis looks critically at the democratisation and politicisation of Muslims today.
We hope all this makes for a comprehensive reading and a source for refl ection on issues that aff ect us all in a new dawn of hope.
Thank you

US Hamas policy blocks Middle East peace

Henry Siegman


Failed bilateral talks over these past 16 years have shown that a Middle East peace accord can never be reached by the parties themselves. Israeli governments believe they can defy international condemnation of their illegal colonial project in the West Bank because they can count on the US to oppose international sanctions. Bilateral talks that are not framed by US-formulated parameters (based on Security Council resolutions, the Oslo accords, the Arab Peace Initiative, the “road map” and other previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements) cannot succeed. Israel’s government believes that the US Congress will not permit an American president to issue such parameters and demand their acceptance. What hope there is for the bilateral talks that resume in Washington DC on September 2 depends entirely on President Obama proving that belief to be wrong, and on whether the “bridging proposals” he has promised, should the talks reach an impasse, are a euphemism for the submission of American parameters. Such a US initiative must offer Israel iron-clad assurances for its security within its pre-1967 borders, but at the same time must make it clear these assurances are not available if Israel insists on denying Palestinians a viable and sovereign state in the West Bank and Gaza. This paper focuses on the other major obstacle to a permanent status agreement: the absence of an effective Palestinian interlocutor. Addressing Hamas’ legitimate grievances – and as noted in a recent CENTCOM report, Hamas has legitimate grievances – could lead to its return to a Palestinian coalition government that would provide Israel with a credible peace partner. If that outreach fails because of Hamas’ rejectionism, the organization’s ability to prevent a reasonable accord negotiated by other Palestinian political parties will have been significantly impeded. If the Obama administration will not lead an international initiative to define the parameters of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and actively promote Palestinian political reconciliation, Europe must do so, and hope America will follow. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet that can guarantee the goal of “two states living side by side in peace and security.”
But President Obama’s present course absolutely precludes it.

ISLAM AND THE RULE OF LAW

Birgit Krawietz
Helmut Reifeld

In our modern Western society, state-organised legal sys-tems normally draw a distinctive line that separates religion and the law. Conversely, there are a number of Islamic re-gional societies where religion and the laws are as closely interlinked and intertwined today as they were before the onset of the modern age. At the same time, the proportion in which religious law (shariah in Arabic) and public law (qanun) are blended varies from one country to the next. What is more, the status of Islam and consequently that of Islamic law differs as well. According to information provided by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), there are currently 57 Islamic states worldwide, defined as countries in which Islam is the religion of (1) the state, (2) the majority of the population, or (3) a large minority. All this affects the development and the form of Islamic law.

Islamic Political Culture, Democracy, and Human Rights

Daniel E. Price

It has been argued that Islam facilitates authoritarianism, contradicts the values of Western societies, and significantly affects important political outcomes in Muslim nations. Consequently, scholars, commentators, and government officials frequently point to ‘‘Islamic fundamentalism’’ as the next ideological threat to liberal democracies. This view, however, is based primarily on the analysis of texts, Islamic political theory, and ad hoc studies of individual countries, which do not consider other factors. It is my contention that the texts and traditions of Islam, like those of other religions, can be used to support a variety of political systems and policies. Country specific and descriptive studies do not help us to find patterns that will help us explain the varying relationships between Islam and politics across the countries of the Muslim world. Hence, a new approach to the study of the
connection between Islam and politics is called for.
I suggest, through rigorous evaluation of the relationship between Islam, democracy, and human rights at the cross-national level, that too much emphasis is being placed on the power of Islam as a political force. I first use comparative case studies, which focus on factors relating to the interplay between Islamic groups and regimes, economic influences, ethnic cleavages, and societal development, to explain the variance in the influence of Islam on politics across eight nations. I argue that much of the power
attributed to Islam as the driving force behind policies and political systems in Muslim nations can be better explained by the previously mentioned factors. I also find, contrary to common belief, that the increasing strength of Islamic political groups has often been associated with modest pluralization of political systems.
I have constructed an index of Islamic political culture, based on the extent to which Islamic law is utilized and whether and, if so, how,Western ideas, institutions, and technologies are implemented, to test the nature of the relationship between Islam and democracy and Islam and human rights. This indicator is used in statistical analysis, which includes a sample of twenty-three predominantly Muslim countries and a control group of twenty-three non-Muslim developing nations. In addition to comparing
Islamic nations to non-Islamic developing nations, statistical analysis allows me to control for the influence of other variables that have been found to affect levels of democracy and the protection of individual rights. The result should be a more realistic and accurate picture of the influence of Islam on politics and policies.

Challenging Authoritarianism, Colonialism, and Disunity: The Islamic Political Reform Movements of al-Afghani and Rida

Ahmed Ali Salem

The decline of the Muslim world preceded European colonization of most

Muslim lands in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and the first
quarter of the twentieth century. In particular, the Ottoman Empire’s
power and world status had been deteriorating since the seventeenth century.
But, more important for Muslim scholars, it had ceased to meet

some basic requirements of its position as the caliphate, the supreme and
sovereign political entity to which all Muslims should be loyal.
Therefore, some of the empire’s Muslim scholars and intellectuals called
for political reform even before the European encroachment upon
Muslim lands. The reforms that they envisaged were not only Islamic, but
also Ottomanic – from within the Ottoman framework.

These reformers perceived the decline of the Muslim world in general,

and of the Ottoman Empire in particular, to be the result of an increasing

disregard for implementing the Shari`ah (Islamic law). However, since the

late eighteenth century, an increasing number of reformers, sometimes supported

by the Ottoman sultans, began to call for reforming the empire along

modern European lines. The empire’s failure to defend its lands and to

respond successfully to the West’s challenges only further fueled this call

for “modernizing” reform, which reached its peak in the Tanzimat movement

in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Other Muslim reformers called for a middle course. On the one hand,

they admitted that the caliphate should be modeled according to the Islamic

sources of guidance, especially the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad’s

teachings (Sunnah), and that the ummah’s (the world Muslim community)

unity is one of Islam’s political pillars. On the other hand, they realized the

need to rejuvenate the empire or replace it with a more viable one. Indeed,

their creative ideas on future models included, but were not limited to, the

following: replacing the Turkish-led Ottoman Empire with an Arab-led

caliphate, building a federal or confederate Muslim caliphate, establishing

a commonwealth of Muslim or oriental nations, and strengthening solidarity

and cooperation among independent Muslim countries without creating

a fixed structure. These and similar ideas were later referred to as the

Muslim league model, which was an umbrella thesis for the various proposals

related to the future caliphate.

Two advocates of such reform were Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and

Muhammad `Abduh, both of whom played key roles in the modern

Islamic political reform movement.1 Their response to the dual challenge

facing the Muslim world in the late nineteenth century – European colonization

and Muslim decline – was balanced. Their ultimate goal was to

revive the ummah by observing the Islamic revelation and benefiting

from Europe’s achievements. However, they disagreed on certain aspects

and methods, as well as the immediate goals and strategies, of reform.

While al-Afghani called and struggled mainly for political reform,

`Abduh, once one of his close disciples, developed his own ideas, which

emphasized education and undermined politics.




Egypt at the Tipping Point ?

David B. Ottaway
In the early 1980s, I lived in Cairo as bureau chief of The Washington Post covering such historic events as the withdrawal of the last
Israeli forces from Egyptian territory occupied during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and the assassination of President
Anwar Sadat by Islamic fanatics in October 1981.
The latter national drama, which I witnessed personally, had proven to be a wrenching milestone. It forced Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, to turn inwards to deal with an Islamist challenge of unknown proportions and effectively ended Egypt’s leadership role in the Arab world.
Mubarak immediately showed himself to be a highly cautious, unimaginative leader, maddeningly reactive rather than pro-active in dealing with the social and economic problems overwhelming his nation like its explosive population growth (1.2 million more Egyptians a year) and economic decline.
In a four-part Washington Post series written as I was departing in early 1985, I noted the new Egyptian leader was still pretty much
a total enigma to his own people, offering no vision and commanding what seemed a rudderless ship of state. The socialist economy
inherited from the era of President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1952 to 1970) was a mess. The country’s currency, the pound, was operating
on eight different exchange rates; its state-run factories were unproductive, uncompetitive and deep in debt; and the government was heading for bankruptcy partly because subsidies for food, electricity and gasoline were consuming one-third ($7 billion) of its budget. Cairo had sunk into a hopeless morass of gridlocked traffic and teeming humanity—12 million people squeezed into a narrow band of land bordering the Nile River, most living cheek by jowl in ramshackle tenements in the city’s ever-expanding slums.

A Muslim Archipelago

Max L. Gross

This book has been many years in the making, as the author explains in his Preface, though he wrote most of the actual text during his year as senior Research Fellow with the Center for Strategic Intelligence Research. The author was for many years Dean of the School of Intelligence Studies at the Joint Military Intelligence College. Even though it may appear that the book could have been written by any good historian or Southeast Asia regional specialist, this work is illuminated by the author’s more than three decades of service within the national Intelligence Community. His regional expertise often has been applied to special assessments for the Community. With a knowledge of Islam unparalleled among his peers and an unquenchable thirst for determining how the goals of this religion might play out in areas far from the focus of most policymakers’ current attention, the author has made the most of this opportunity to acquaint the Intelligence Community and a broader readership with a strategic appreciation of a region in the throes of reconciling secular and religious forces.
This publication has been approved for unrestricted distribution by the Office of Security Review, Department of Defense.

Democracy in Islamic Political Thought

Azzam S. Tamimi

Democracy has preoccupied Arab political thinkers since the dawn of the modern Arab renaissance about two centuries ago. Since then, the concept of democracy has changed and developed under the influence of a variety of social and political developments.The discussion of democracy in Arab Islamic literature can be traced back to Rifa’a Tahtawi, the father of Egyptian democracy according to Lewis Awad,[3] who shortly after his return to Cairo from Paris published his first book, Takhlis Al-Ibriz Ila Talkhis Bariz, in 1834. The book summarized his observations of the manners and customs of the modern French,[4] and praised the concept of democracy as he saw it in France and as he witnessed its defence and reassertion through the 1830 Revolution against King Charles X.[5] Tahtawi tried to show that the democratic concept he was explaining to his readers was compatible with the law of Islam. He compared political pluralism to forms of ideological and jurisprudential pluralism that existed in the Islamic experience:
Religious freedom is the freedom of belief, of opinion and of sect, provided it does not contradict the fundamentals of religion . . . The same would apply to the freedom of political practice and opinion by leading administrators, who endeavour to interpret and apply rules and provisions in accordance with the laws of their own countries. Kings and ministers are licensed in the realm of politics to pursue various routes that in the end serve one purpose: good administration and justice.[6] One important landmark in this regard was the contribution of Khairuddin At-Tunisi (1810- 99), leader of the 19th-century reform movement in Tunisia, who, in 1867, formulated a general plan for reform in a book entitled Aqwam Al-Masalik Fi Taqwim Al- Mamalik (The Straight Path to Reforming Governments). The main preoccupation of the book was in tackling the question of political reform in the Arab world. While appealing to politicians and scholars of his time to seek all possible means in order to improve the status of the
community and develop its civility, he warned the general Muslim public against shunning the experiences of other nations on the basis of the misconception that all the writings, inventions, experiences or attitudes of non-Muslims should be rejected or disregarded.
Khairuddin further called for an end to absolutist rule, which he blamed for the oppression of nations and the destruction of civilizations.

Islamic Political Culture, Democracy, and Human Rights

Daniel E. Price

It has been argued that Islam facilitates authoritarianism, contradicts the

values of Western societies, and significantly affects important political outcomes

in Muslim nations. Consequently, scholars, commentators, and government

officials frequently point to ‘‘Islamic fundamentalism’’ as the next

ideological threat to liberal democracies. This view, however, is based primarily

on the analysis of texts, Islamic political theory, and ad hoc studies

of individual countries, which do not consider other factors. It is my contention

that the texts and traditions of Islam, like those of other religions,

can be used to support a variety of political systems and policies. Country

specific and descriptive studies do not help us to find patterns that will help

us explain the varying relationships between Islam and politics across the

countries of the Muslim world. Hence, a new approach to the study of the

connection between Islam and politics is called for.
I suggest, through rigorous evaluation of the relationship between Islam,

democracy, and human rights at the cross-national level, that too much

emphasis is being placed on the power of Islam as a political force. I first

use comparative case studies, which focus on factors relating to the interplay

between Islamic groups and regimes, economic influences, ethnic cleavages,

and societal development, to explain the variance in the influence of

Islam on politics across eight nations.

Islamic Political Culture, Democracy, and Human Rights

Daniel E. Price

It has been argued that Islam facilitates authoritarianism, contradicts the

values of Western societies, and significantly affects important political outcomes
in Muslim nations. Consequently, scholars, commentators, and government
officials frequently point to ‘‘Islamic fundamentalism’’ as the next
ideological threat to liberal democracies. This view, however, is based primarily
on the analysis of texts, Islamic political theory, and ad hoc studies
of individual countries, which do not consider other factors. It is my contention
that the texts and traditions of Islam, like those of other religions,
can be used to support a variety of political systems and policies. Country
specific and descriptive studies do not help us to find patterns that will help
us explain the varying relationships between Islam and politics across the
countries of the Muslim world. Hence, a new approach to the study of the
connection between Islam and politics is called for.
I suggest, through rigorous evaluation of the relationship between Islam,
democracy, and human rights at the cross-national level, that too much
emphasis is being placed on the power of Islam as a political force. I first
use comparative case studies, which focus on factors relating to the interplay
between Islamic groups and regimes, economic influences, ethnic cleavages,

and societal development, to explain the variance in the influence of

Islam on politics across eight nations.

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

human rights, 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, and

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.

Political Islam in the Middle East

Are Knudsen

This report provides an introduction to selected aspects of the phenomenon commonly

referred to as “political Islam”. The report gives special emphasis to the Middle East, in

particular the Levantine countries, and outlines two aspects of the Islamist movement that may

be considered polar opposites: democracy and political violence. In the third section the report

reviews some of the main theories used to explain the Islamic resurgence in the Middle East

(Figure 1). In brief, the report shows that Islam need not be incompatible with democracy and

that there is a tendency to neglect the fact that many Middle Eastern countries have been

engaged in a brutal suppression of Islamist movements, causing them, some argue, to take up

arms against the state, and more rarely, foreign countries. The use of political violence is

widespread in the Middle East, but is neither illogical nor irrational. In many cases even

Islamist groups known for their use of violence have been transformed into peaceful political

parties successfully contesting municipal and national elections. Nonetheless, the Islamist

revival in the Middle East remains in part unexplained despite a number of theories seeking to

account for its growth and popular appeal. In general, most theories hold that Islamism is a

reaction to relative deprivation, especially social inequality and political oppression. Alternative

theories seek the answer to the Islamist revival within the confines of religion itself and the

powerful, evocative potential of religious symbolism.

The conclusion argues in favour of moving beyond the “gloom and doom” approach that

portrays Islamism as an illegitimate political expression and a potential threat to the West (“Old

Islamism”), and of a more nuanced understanding of the current democratisation of the Islamist

movement that is now taking place throughout the Middle East (“New Islamism”). This

importance of understanding the ideological roots of the “New Islamism” is foregrounded

along with the need for thorough first-hand knowledge of Islamist movements and their

adherents. As social movements, its is argued that more emphasis needs to be placed on

understanding the ways in which they have been capable of harnessing the aspirations not only

of the poorer sections of society but also of the middle class.

STRATEGIES FOR ENGAGING POLITICAL ISLAM

SHADI HAMID

AMANDA KADLEC

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. U.S. 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. In addition, 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. 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.