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Iraq and the Future of Political Islam

James Piscatori

Sixty-five years ago one of the greatest scholars of modern Islam asked the simple question, “whither Islam?, where was the Islamic world going? It was a time of intense turmoil in both the Western and Muslim worlds – the demise of imperialism and crystallisation of a new state system outside Europe; the creation and testing of the neo- Wilsonian world order in the League of Nations; the emergence of European Fascism. Sir Hamilton Gibb recognised that Muslim societies, unable to avoid such world trends, were also faced with the equally inescapable penetration of nationalism, secularism, and Westernisation. While he prudently warned against making predictions – hazards for all of us interested in Middle Eastern and Islamic politics – he felt sure of two things:
(a) the Islamic world would move between the ideal of solidarity and the realities of division;
(b) the key to the future lay in leadership, or who speaks authoritatively for Islam.
Today Gibb’s prognostications may well have renewed relevance as we face a deepening crisis over Iraq, the unfolding of an expansive and controversial war on terror, and the continuing Palestinian problem. In this lecture I would like to look at the factors that may affect the course of Muslim politics in the present period and near-term future. Although the points I will raise are likely to have broader relevance, I will draw mainly on the case of the Arab world.
Assumptions about Political Islam There is no lack of predictions when it comes to a politicised Islam or Islamism. ‘Islamism’ is best understood as a sense that something has gone wrong with contemporary Muslim societies and that the solution must lie in a range of political action. Often used interchangeably with ‘fundamentalism’, Islamism is better equated with ‘political Islam’. Several commentators have proclaimed its demise and the advent of the post-Islamist era. They argue that the repressive apparatus of the state has proven more durable than the Islamic opposition and that the ideological incoherence of the Islamists has made them unsuitable to modern political competition. The events of September 11th seemed to contradict this prediction, yet, unshaken, they have argued that such spectacular, virtually anarchic acts only prove the bankruptcy of Islamist ideas and suggest that the radicals have abandoned any real hope of seizing power.

Islam and Democracy

ITAC

If one reads the press or listens to commentators on international affairs, it is often said – and even more often implied but not said – that Islam is not compatible with democracy. In the nineties, Samuel Huntington set off an intellectual firestorm when he published The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, in which he presents his forecasts for the world – writ large. In the political realm, he notes that while Turkey and Pakistan might have some small claim to “democratic legitimacy” all other “… Muslim countries were overwhelmingly non-democratic: monarchies, one-party systems, military regimes, personal dictatorships or some combination of these, usually resting on a limited family, clan, or tribal base”. The premise on which his argument is founded is that they are not only ‘not like us’, they are actually opposed to our essential democratic values. He believes, as do others, that while the idea of Western democratization is being resisted in other parts of the world, the confrontation is most notable in those regions where Islam is the dominant faith.
The argument has also been made from the other side as well. An Iranian religious scholar, reflecting on an early twentieth-century constitutional crisis in his country, declared that Islam and democracy are not compatible because people are not equal and a legislative body is unnecessary because of the inclusive nature of Islamic religious law. A similar position was taken more recently by Ali Belhadj, an Algerian high school teacher, preacher and (in this context) leader of the FIS, when he declared “democracy was not an Islamic concept”. Perhaps the most dramatic statement to this effect was that of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of the Sunni insurgents in Iraq who, when faced with the prospect of an election, denounced democracy as “an evil principle”.
But according to some Muslim scholars, democracy remains an important ideal in Islam, with the caveat that it is always subject to the religious law. The emphasis on the paramount place of the shari’a is an element of almost every Islamic comment on governance, moderate or extremist. Only if the ruler, who receives his authority from God, limits his actions to the “supervision of the administration of the shari’a” is he to be obeyed. If he does other than this, he is a non-believer and committed Muslims are to rebel against him. Herein lies the justification for much of the violence that has plagued the Muslim world in such struggles as that prevailing in Algeria during the 90s

Islamic Political Culture, Demokracija, and Human Rights

Daniele. Cijena

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

ljudska prava, 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.

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

Nathan J. Smeđa, 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. Politika, not violence, is what gives mainstream Islamists their infl uence.

Umjereno muslimansko bratstvo

Robert S. Leiken

Steven Brooke

Muslimanska braća su najstarija na svijetu, najveći, i najutjecajnija islamistička organizacija. Ujedno je i najkontroverzniji,
osuđen i konvencionalnim mišljenjem na Zapadu i radikalnim mišljenjem na Bliskom istoku. Američki komentatori nazvali su Muslimansku braću "radikalnim islamistima" i "vitalnom komponentom neprijateljske napadačke snage … duboko neprijateljski raspoloženi prema Sjedinjenim Državama. " Ayman al-Zawahiri iz Al Kaide podsmjehuje im se zbog „lur[ing] tisuće mladića muslimana u redovima za izbore … umjesto u redove džihada. " Džihadisti se gnušaju Muslimanske braće (na arapskom poznat kao al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen) za odbacivanje globalnog džihada i prihvaćanje demokracije. Čini se da ih ovi položaji čine umjerenima, upravo ono što Sjedinjene Države, kratka za saveznike u muslimanskom svijetu, traži.
Ali Ikhwan također napada SAD. vanjska politika, posebno podrška Washingtona Izraelu, i pitanja ostaju o njegovoj stvarnoj predanosti demokratskom procesu. Tijekom prošle godine, susreli smo se s desecima vođa i aktivista bratstva iz Egipta, Francuska, Jordan, Španjolska, Sirija,Tunis, i Ujedinjeno Kraljevstvo.

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.

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.

Claiming the Center: Political Islam in Transition

Ivan 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, Afganistana), 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, purica, Iran, Libanon, Kuwait, Yemen, Jordan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malezija, Indonezija, 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.

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 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, Egipat, and Jordan.

Building bridges not walls

Alex Glennie

Since the terror attacks of 11 rujan 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.

The Muslim Brotherhood of Jordan and Jama’at-i-Islam of Pakistan

Neha Sahgal

The study of Islamist activism is new to social movement theory. Socialmovement scholarship has ignored Islamist movements because of their unique faithbasednature. More recently scholars have recognized that the processes of contentionconceptualized by social movement theory can be applied to Islamist activism to seektheoretical refinements in both areas of study.In this paper, I examine variations in the strategies followed by Islamistmovements in response to government policies. States have followed various policies inmanaging the tide of Islamist opposition to their power. Some states have chosen to userepressive means (Egipat, Jordan before 1989), while others, at different times in theirhistory have used accommodative policies (Jordan after 1989, Pakistan, Malezija). Iexamine the effects of government accommodation on Islamist movement strategies.I argue that accommodation can have varying effects on Islamist movementstrategies depending on the nature of accommodative policies followed. Governmentshave employed two different types of accommodative policies in their tenuousrelationship with Islamist opposition – Islamization and liberalization. Islamizationattempts to co-opt the movements through greater religiosity in state and society.Liberalization allows the movements to conduct their activities at both the state and thesocietal level without necessarily increasing the religiosity of the state1. Islamizationdisempowers Islamists while liberalization empowers them by providing a sphere ofinfluence.

Spoilt ballots

Marc Lynch

marc-akef

Moderate Islamist movements across the Arab world have made a decisive turn towards participation in democratic politics over the last 20 years. They have developed an elaborate ideological justification for contesting elections, which they have defended against intense criticism from more radical Islamist competitors. At the same time, they have demonstrated a commitment to internal democracy remarkable by the standards of the region, and have repeatedly proved their willingness to respect the results of elections even when they lose.
But rather than welcome this development, secular authoritarian regimes have responded with growing repression. Again and again, successful electoral participation by Islamists has triggered a backlash, often with the consent – if not the encouragement – of the United States. When Hamas prevailed in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, the response was boycott and political subversion. When the Egyptian government cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood after elections in 2005, few outsiders objected.
As the door to democracy is slammed in their faces, how have the Islamist groups that embraced participation responded? In some ways, they have passed the test with flying colours. They have remained committed to democratic participation even in the face of massive electoral fraud and harsh campaigns of repression. Their leaders have affirmed their democratic ideals, and have often spoken out to reiterate their ideological and strategic commitment to democracy. Indeed, they have often emerged as the leading advocates for public freedoms and democratic reform. And there is as yet little sign of any such organisation turning to violence as an alternative.
But in other ways, the toll of repression is beginning to show. Doubts about the value of democratic participation inside these movements are growing. Splits in the top ranks have roiled movements in Jordan and Egypt, among others. In many of the cases, a Brotherhood leadership which prefers a moderate, accommodationist approach to the regime has struggled to find a way to respond to the escalating pressures of repression and the closing down of the paths towards democratic participation. In Egypt, frustration over extended detentions of the most moderate leaders have tarnished the coin of those calling for political participation, with a rising trend calling for a retreat from politics and a renewed focus upon social activism and religious work. In Jordan, the influence of those seeking to abandon worthless domestic politics and to focus instead on supporting Hamas has grown.
Critics of the Brotherhood have pointed to these recent struggles as evidence that Islamists cannot be trusted with democracy. But this profoundly misreads the current trends. These crises in fact reflect a delayed response to the blocked promise of democratic participation. The Islamist debate today is not about the legitimacy of democracy – it is about how to respond to frustrated efforts to play the democratic game.
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I recently spent a week in Amman, talking to most of the senior leaders of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood as well as a cross-section of the country’s political and journalistic elite. The picture that emerged was one not simply of an Islamist movement in crisis, but also of a blocked and deteriorating political system. The government was in the process of declining to call the Parliament back into session in order to force through its desired legislation as temporary laws of dubious constitutionality. Stories of social conflict among the tribes and of crushing economic problems amid spiralling corruption filled daily conversation.
The Jordanian Brotherhood, established in 1946, is one of the oldest and most deeply rooted branches of the global Islamist organisation. Unlike in many other countries, where the Brotherhood worked in opposition to those in power, in Jordan it played a crucial role for decades in supporting the Hashemite throne against external and domestic challengers. In return, it enjoyed a privileged relationship with the Jordanian state, including control over key ministries, and good relations with King Hussein in spite of his friendly ties with Israel and the United States.
When Jordan lost the West Bank in the 1967 war, it struggled to maintain its role in the occupied territories. In 1988, however, as the Palestinian Intifada raged and threatened to spread to the East Bank, Jordan formally renounced its claims, severing its ties and concentrating on developing the East Bank and “Jordanising” the truncated state, a decision that was not accepted by the Brotherhood, which maintained ties with its West Bank counterparts.
When riots broke out throughout the country the next year, King Hussein responded with a remarkable democratic opening which revitalised the Kingdom’s political life. The Brotherhood participated fully in this process, and emerged in the 1989 elections as the dominant bloc in Parliament. The years that followed are fondly remembered in Jordan as the apex of political life, with an effective Parliament, a “national pact” establishing the ground rules of democracy and a vibrant emerging press.
In 1993, however, the Jordanian regime changed the electoral law in a way that served to limit Muslim Brotherhood success. As it moved rapidly towards a peace treaty with Israel, the state began to clamp down on the Brotherhood and on all other forms of political opposition. Its interventions in the political process grew so extreme that in 1997 the Brotherhood’s political party, the Islamic Action Front, decided to boycott elections. After King Hussein’s death in 1999, the crown passed to his son Abdullah, who showed little interest in democratic reform, and in 2001 decided to suspend Parliament and rule by emergency law. While formal democracy returned in 2003, political reform efforts failed to gain traction. The extent of electoral fraud against the Brotherhood and other critics of the regime during the 2007 vote shocked even jaded observers.
The Jordanian crackdown has not reached the brutal levels of Syria or Tunisia (where the Islamist opposition was massacred or driven abroad). The Brotherhood continues to operate publicly, and the Islamic Action Front holds six seats in Parliament. But the gerrymandered electoral system and massive fraud has hamstrung Islamist political participation, to the degree that many believe that the Brotherhood is being dared to boycott.
Following the 2007 electoral debacle, the Brotherhood entered a period of intense internal unrest. It dissolved its Shura Council as penance for its fateful decision to participate in the election. The core issue was over how best to respond to the regime’s repression: through confrontation, or through a retreat and consolidation of the political strategy? In April 2008, the “hawkish” trend won the internal elections to the Shura Council by a single vote, and the pragmatic and domestically-orientated Salem Falahat was replaced by the fiery, Palestine-centric hawk Himmam Said. Said and the new head of the Islamic Action Front, Zaki Bani Arshid, steered the Islamist movement into more direct conflict with the regime, with little success. The reformist trend, led by the soft-spoken intellectual Ruheil Ghuraybeh, avoided open confrontation but advanced an ambitious programme to transform Jordan into a constitutional monarchy.
As the Brotherhood rank and file lost interest in a stalled domestic political process, they were simultaneously galvanised by the electoral success of Hamas and then by the visceral images of Israel’s war on Gaza. The growing interest in Palestinian issues at the expense of Jordanian politics worried not only the regime but also the traditional leadership of the Brotherhood. The leading Jordanian journalist Mohammed Abu Rumman argues that the issue of relations with Hamas has supplanted the traditional “hawk-dove” struggle within the organisation. While both trends support Hamas – “if you are not with Hamas, you are not with the Muslim Brotherhood”, explained one of the “dovish” leaders – they disagree over the appropriate organisational relationship. The “Hamasi” trend supports close ties and the prioritisation of Palestinian issues, and embraces a common Muslim identity over a narrowly Jordanian one. The “reformist” trend insists that Hamas, as the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, should have responsibility for Palestine while the Jordanian Brotherhood must be a national organisation focused upon domestic Jordanian issues.
This crisis came to a head over the issue of Hamas participation in the administrative structures of the Jordanian Brotherhood. Three leading reformists resigned from the Executive Office, triggering an as-yet-unresolved internal crisis that threatens one of the first serious internal splits in the history of the movement. The media has eagerly egged this conflict on; indeed, a number of Brotherhood leaders told me that what made the current crisis unique was not the issues at stake or the intensity of the disagreement, but the fact that for the first time it had become public.
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The story of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood is many things, but certainly not a story of Islamists retreating from democracy. Similar dynamics can be seen in Egypt, where the Brotherhood’s leadership is similarly divided over how to respond to escalating repression. During multiple trips to Cairo in the last few years, I saw the growing frustration of a generation of reformists who found their every effort to embrace democracy met with force and rejection.
After “independent” Brotherhood candidates scored sweeping victories in the first of three rounds of the 2005 Parliamentary elections, government forces began to intervene to prevent further gains. Despite well-documented fraud and heavy-handed security interference in Brotherhood strongholds, the movement emerged as the largest opposition bloc with 88 seats. As Deputy Supreme Guide Mohammed Habib ruefully told me, their mistake was that they did too well – had they won 50 seats, perhaps they would not have triggered such harsh reprisals.
The subsequent crackdown matched the magnitude of the Brotherhood victory. A series of media campaigns aimed to scare mainstream Egyptians with alleged nefarious Brotherhood schemes (they were supposedly training an underground militia, conspiring with Hizbollah, and more). A wide range of leading Brotherhood figures, including noted moderates such as the financier Khairat el Shater and the intellectual Abd el Monem Abou el Fattouh, were detained indefinitely on trumped up charges.
For a while, the Egyptian Brotherhood held fast in the face of these provocations. They continued to try to participate in elections even as the fraud and overt manipulation mounted. Their Parliamentarians performed well as an opposition. They routinely expressed their ongoing commitment to democracy to every audience which would listen. And they imposed discipline on their own members to prevent the explosion of frustration into violence.
But over time, the pressure began to take its toll. The leadership reined in its freewheeling young bloggers, whose public airing of internal issues was being exploited by the organisation’s opponents. It adopted tougher rhetoric on foreign policy issues such as the Gaza war – attacking the Egyptian government’s enforcement of the blockade of Gaza – in part to rally its demoralised membership. Considerable evidence suggests that the cadres of the organisation were growing disenchanted with politics and preferred to return to the core social and religious mission. And growing voices from inside and outside the movement began to suggest retreating from politics until a more propitious time.
Earlier this month the conflicts inside the Egyptian Brotherhood leapt into the pages of local newspapers, which reported that the movement’s leader, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, had abruptly resigned his post in protest after conservatives refused to appoint the leading reformist Essam el Erian to an open leadership seat. Akef has denied the reports – but the portrait of a movement in turmoil is clear.
The Jordanian, Egyptian and American governments may see all this as something of a success story: the influence of the Islamists has been curbed, both in formal politics and in the social sector, and the restraint exercised by the Brotherhood leadership has meant the states have not faced a backlash. But this is dangerously short-sighted. The campaigns against Islamists weaken the foundations of democracy as a whole, not just the appeal of one movement, and have had a corrosive effect on public freedoms, transparency and accountability. Regardless of the fortunes of the movements themselves, the crackdown on the Islamists contributes to the wider corruption of public life. The growing frustration within moderate Islamist groups with democratic participation cannot help but affect their future ideological trajectory.
Sowing disenchantment with democratic politics in the ranks of the Brotherhood could forfeit one of the signal developments in Islamist political thinking of the last few decades. The failure of the movement’s democratic experiment could empower more radical Islamists, including not only terrorist groups but also doctrinaire salafists less inclined to pragmatic politics. The degradation of its organisational strengths could open up space for al Qa’eda and other radical competitors to move in. The alternative to Ismail Haniya might be Osama bin Laden rather than Abu Mazen, and the exclusion of Essam el-Erian may not produce an Ayman Nour.
Marc Lynch is associate professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. He writes a blog on Arab politics and media for Foreign Policy.

Moderate Islamist movements across the Arab world have made a decisive turn towards participation in democratic politics over the last 20 years. They have developed an elaborate ideological justification for contesting elections, which they have defended against intense criticism from more radical Islamist competitors. At the same time, they have demonstrated a commitment to internal democracy remarkable by the standards of the region, and have repeatedly proved their willingness to respect the results of elections even when they lose.

But rather than welcome this development, secular authoritarian regimes have responded with growing repression. Again and again, successful electoral participation by Islamists has triggered a backlash, often with the consent – if not the encouragement – of the United States. When Hamas prevailed in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, the response was boycott and political subversion. When the Egyptian government cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood after elections in 2005, few outsiders objected.

As the door to democracy is slammed in their faces, how have the Islamist groups that embraced participation responded? In some ways, they have passed the test with flying colours. They have remained committed to democratic participation even in the face of massive electoral fraud and harsh campaigns of repression. Their leaders have affirmed their democratic ideals, and have often spoken out to reiterate their ideological and strategic commitment to democracy. Indeed, they have often emerged as the leading advocates for public freedoms and democratic reform. And there is as yet little sign of any such organisation turning to violence as an alternative.

But in other ways, the toll of repression is beginning to show. Doubts about the value of democratic participation inside these movements are growing. Splits in the top ranks have roiled movements in Jordan and Egypt, among others. In many of the cases, a Brotherhood leadership which prefers a moderate, accommodationist approach to the regime has struggled to find a way to respond to the escalating pressures of repression and the closing down of the paths towards democratic participation. In Egypt, frustration over extended detentions of the most moderate leaders have tarnished the coin of those calling for political participation, with a rising trend calling for a retreat from politics and a renewed focus upon social activism and religious work. In Jordan, the influence of those seeking to abandon worthless domestic politics and to focus instead on supporting Hamas has grown.

Critics of the Brotherhood have pointed to these recent struggles as evidence that Islamists cannot be trusted with democracy. But this profoundly misreads the current trends. These crises in fact reflect a delayed response to the blocked promise of democratic participation. The Islamist debate today is not about the legitimacy of democracy – it is about how to respond to frustrated efforts to play the democratic game.

********************************

I recently spent a week in Amman, talking to most of the senior leaders of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood as well as a cross-section of the country’s political and journalistic elite. The picture that emerged was one not simply of an Islamist movement in crisis, but also of a blocked and deteriorating political system. The government was in the process of declining to call the Parliament back into session in order to force through its desired legislation as temporary laws of dubious constitutionality. Stories of social conflict among the tribes and of crushing economic problems amid spiralling corruption filled daily conversation.

The Jordanian Brotherhood, established in 1946, is one of the oldest and most deeply rooted branches of the global Islamist organisation. Unlike in many other countries, where the Brotherhood worked in opposition to those in power, in Jordan it played a crucial role for decades in supporting the Hashemite throne against external and domestic challengers. In return, it enjoyed a privileged relationship with the Jordanian state, including control over key ministries, and good relations with King Hussein in spite of his friendly ties with Israel and the United States.

When Jordan lost the West Bank in the 1967 war, it struggled to maintain its role in the occupied territories. In 1988, however, as the Palestinian Intifada raged and threatened to spread to the East Bank, Jordan formally renounced its claims, severing its ties and concentrating on developing the East Bank and “Jordanising” the truncated state, a decision that was not accepted by the Brotherhood, which maintained ties with its West Bank counterparts.

When riots broke out throughout the country the next year, King Hussein responded with a remarkable democratic opening which revitalised the Kingdom’s political life. The Brotherhood participated fully in this process, and emerged in the 1989 elections as the dominant bloc in Parliament. The years that followed are fondly remembered in Jordan as the apex of political life, with an effective Parliament, a “national pact” establishing the ground rules of democracy and a vibrant emerging press.

In 1993, however, the Jordanian regime changed the electoral law in a way that served to limit Muslim Brotherhood success. As it moved rapidly towards a peace treaty with Israel, the state began to clamp down on the Brotherhood and on all other forms of political opposition. Its interventions in the political process grew so extreme that in 1997 the Brotherhood’s political party, the Islamic Action Front, decided to boycott elections. After King Hussein’s death in 1999, the crown passed to his son Abdullah, who showed little interest in democratic reform, and in 2001 decided to suspend Parliament and rule by emergency law. While formal democracy returned in 2003, political reform efforts failed to gain traction. The extent of electoral fraud against the Brotherhood and other critics of the regime during the 2007 vote shocked even jaded observers.

The Jordanian crackdown has not reached the brutal levels of Syria or Tunisia (where the Islamist opposition was massacred or driven abroad). The Brotherhood continues to operate publicly, and the Islamic Action Front holds six seats in Parliament. But the gerrymandered electoral system and massive fraud has hamstrung Islamist political participation, to the degree that many believe that the Brotherhood is being dared to boycott.

Following the 2007 electoral debacle, the Brotherhood entered a period of intense internal unrest. It dissolved its Shura Council as penance for its fateful decision to participate in the election. The core issue was over how best to respond to the regime’s repression: through confrontation, or through a retreat and consolidation of the political strategy? In April 2008, the “hawkish” trend won the internal elections to the Shura Council by a single vote, and the pragmatic and domestically-orientated Salem Falahat was replaced by the fiery, Palestine-centric hawk Himmam Said. Said and the new head of the Islamic Action Front, Zaki Bani Arshid, steered the Islamist movement into more direct conflict with the regime, with little success. The reformist trend, led by the soft-spoken intellectual Ruheil Ghuraybeh, avoided open confrontation but advanced an ambitious programme to transform Jordan into a constitutional monarchy.

As the Brotherhood rank and file lost interest in a stalled domestic political process, they were simultaneously galvanised by the electoral success of Hamas and then by the visceral images of Israel’s war on Gaza. The growing interest in Palestinian issues at the expense of Jordanian politics worried not only the regime but also the traditional leadership of the Brotherhood. The leading Jordanian journalist Mohammed Abu Rumman argues that the issue of relations with Hamas has supplanted the traditional “hawk-dove” struggle within the organisation. While both trends support Hamas – “if you are not with Hamas, you are not with the Muslim Brotherhood”, explained one of the “dovish” leaders – they disagree over the appropriate organisational relationship. The “Hamasi” trend supports close ties and the prioritisation of Palestinian issues, and embraces a common Muslim identity over a narrowly Jordanian one. The “reformist” trend insists that Hamas, as the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, should have responsibility for Palestine while the Jordanian Brotherhood must be a national organisation focused upon domestic Jordanian issues.

This crisis came to a head over the issue of Hamas participation in the administrative structures of the Jordanian Brotherhood. Three leading reformists resigned from the Executive Office, triggering an as-yet-unresolved internal crisis that threatens one of the first serious internal splits in the history of the movement. The media has eagerly egged this conflict on; indeed, a number of Brotherhood leaders told me that what made the current crisis unique was not the issues at stake or the intensity of the disagreement, but the fact that for the first time it had become public.

********************************

The story of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood is many things, but certainly not a story of Islamists retreating from democracy. Similar dynamics can be seen in Egypt, where the Brotherhood’s leadership is similarly divided over how to respond to escalating repression. During multiple trips to Cairo in the last few years, I saw the growing frustration of a generation of reformists who found their every effort to embrace democracy met with force and rejection.

After “independent” Brotherhood candidates scored sweeping victories in the first of three rounds of the 2005 Parliamentary elections, government forces began to intervene to prevent further gains. Despite well-documented fraud and heavy-handed security interference in Brotherhood strongholds, the movement emerged as the largest opposition bloc with 88 seats. As Deputy Supreme Guide Mohammed Habib ruefully told me, their mistake was that they did too well – had they won 50 seats, perhaps they would not have triggered such harsh reprisals.

The subsequent crackdown matched the magnitude of the Brotherhood victory. A series of media campaigns aimed to scare mainstream Egyptians with alleged nefarious Brotherhood schemes (they were supposedly training an underground militia, conspiring with Hizbollah, and more). A wide range of leading Brotherhood figures, including noted moderates such as the financier Khairat el Shater and the intellectual Abd el Monem Abou el Fattouh, were detained indefinitely on trumped up charges.

For a while, the Egyptian Brotherhood held fast in the face of these provocations. They continued to try to participate in elections even as the fraud and overt manipulation mounted. Their Parliamentarians performed well as an opposition. They routinely expressed their ongoing commitment to democracy to every audience which would listen. And they imposed discipline on their own members to prevent the explosion of frustration into violence.

But over time, the pressure began to take its toll. The leadership reined in its freewheeling young bloggers, whose public airing of internal issues was being exploited by the organisation’s opponents. It adopted tougher rhetoric on foreign policy issues such as the Gaza war – attacking the Egyptian government’s enforcement of the blockade of Gaza – in part to rally its demoralised membership. Considerable evidence suggests that the cadres of the organisation were growing disenchanted with politics and preferred to return to the core social and religious mission. And growing voices from inside and outside the movement began to suggest retreating from politics until a more propitious time.

Earlier this month the conflicts inside the Egyptian Brotherhood leapt into the pages of local newspapers, which reported that the movement’s leader, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, had abruptly resigned his post in protest after conservatives refused to appoint the leading reformist Essam el Erian to an open leadership seat. Akef has denied the reports – but the portrait of a movement in turmoil is clear.

The Jordanian, Egyptian and American governments may see all this as something of a success story: the influence of the Islamists has been curbed, both in formal politics and in the social sector, and the restraint exercised by the Brotherhood leadership has meant the states have not faced a backlash. But this is dangerously short-sighted. The campaigns against Islamists weaken the foundations of democracy as a whole, not just the appeal of one movement, and have had a corrosive effect on public freedoms, transparency and accountability. Regardless of the fortunes of the movements themselves, the crackdown on the Islamists contributes to the wider corruption of public life. The growing frustration within moderate Islamist groups with democratic participation cannot help but affect their future ideological trajectory.

Sowing disenchantment with democratic politics in the ranks of the Brotherhood could forfeit one of the signal developments in Islamist political thinking of the last few decades. The failure of the movement’s democratic experiment could empower more radical Islamists, including not only terrorist groups but also doctrinaire salafists less inclined to pragmatic politics. The degradation of its organisational strengths could open up space for al Qa’eda and other radical competitors to move in. The alternative to Ismail Haniya might be Osama bin Laden rather than Abu Mazen, and the exclusion of Essam el-Erian may not produce an Ayman Nour.

Marc Lynch is associate professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. He writes a blog on Arab politics and media for Foreign Policy.

From the National

Published on October 30, 2009

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

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

Andrew Helms

Ikhwanweb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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