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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.

Liberal Democracy and Political Islam: the Search for Common Ground.

Mostapha Benhenda

This paper seeks to establish a dialogue between democratic and Islamic political theories.1 The interplay between them is puzzling: for example, in order to explain the relationship existing between democracy and their conception of the ideal Islamic political
regime, the Pakistani scholar Abu ‘Ala Maududi coined the neologism “theodemocracy” whereas the French scholar Louis Massignon suggested the oxymoron “secular theocracy”. These expressions suggest that some aspects of democracy are evaluated positively and others are judged negatively. Per exemple, Muslim scholars and activists often endorse the principle of accountability of rulers, which is a defining feature of democracy. On the contrary, they often reject the principle of separation between religion and the state, which is often considered to be part of democracy (at least, of democracy as known in the United States today). Given this mixed assessment of democratic principles, it seems interesting to determine the conception of democracy underlying Islamic political models. In other words, we should try to find out what is democratic in “theodemocracy”. To that end, among the impressive diversity and plurality of Islamic traditions of normative political thought, we essentially focus on the broad current of thought going back to Abu ‘Ala Maududi and the Egyptian intellectual Sayyed Qutb.8 This particular trend of thought is interesting because in the Muslim world, it lies at the basis of some of the most challenging oppositions to the diffusion of the values originating from the West. Based on religious values, this trend elaborated a political model alternative to liberal democracy. Broadly speaking, the conception of democracy included in this Islamic political model is procedural. With some differences, this conception is inspired by democratic theories advocated by some constitutionalists and political scientists.10 It is thin and minimalist, up to a certain point. Per exemple, it does not rely on any notion of popular sovereignty and it does not require any separation between religion and politics. The first aim of this paper is to elaborate this minimalist conception. We make a detailed restatement of it in order to isolate this conception from its moral (liberal) foundations, which are controversial from the particular Islamic viewpoint considered here. Indeed, the democratic process is usually derived from a principle of personal autonomy, which is not endorsed by these Islamic theories.11 Here, we show that such principle is not necessary to justify a democratic process.

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.

Islamic Political Culture, democràcia, and Human Rights

Daniel I. preu

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, malgrat això, 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.

STRATEGIES FOR ENGAGING POLITICAL ISLAM

SHADI HAMID

AMANDA ECOM

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

The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

William Thomasson

Is Islam a religion of violence? Is the widely applied stereotype that all Muslims are violently opposed to “infidel” Western cultures accurate? Today’s world is confronted with two opposing faces of Islam; one being a peaceful, adaptive, modernized Islam, and the other strictly fundamentalist and against all things un-Islamic or that may corrupt Islamic culture. Both specimens, though seemingly opposed, mingle and inter-relate, and are the roots of the confusion over modern Islam’s true identity. Islam’s vastness makes it difficult to analyze, but one can focus on a particular Islamic region and learn much about Islam as a whole. Indeed, one may do this with Egypt, particularly the relationship between the Fundamentalist society known as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian government and population. The two opposing faces of Islam are presented in Egypt in a manageable portion, offering a smaller model of the general multi-national struggle of today’s Islam. In an effort to exemplify the role of Islamic Fundamentalists, and their relationship with Islamic society as a whole in the current debate over what Islam is, this essay will offer a history of the Society of Muslim Brothers, a description of how the organization originated, functioned, and was organized, and a summary of the Brother’s activities and influences on Egyptian culture. Certainly, by doing so, one may gain a deeper understanding of how Islamic Fundamentalists interpret Islam


Moderate and Radical Islam

ÀNGEL RABASA

One of the components of this study is relevant to a question that I was asked to address,which is how radical Islam differs from moderate or mainstream Islam. Frankly, one ofthe problems that we have found in the discourse about Islam is that the terms “radical”or “moderate” are often used in a subjective and imprecise way, without going through aprocess of critically examining what these terms mean. In some cases, the term radical ormilitant is defined in terms of support for terrorism or other forms of violence. Webelieve that this is too narrow a focus, that there is, in fact, a much larger universe offundamentalist or Salafi groups who may not themselves practice violence, but thatpropagate an ideology that creates the conditions for violence and that is subversive ofthe values of democratic societies.

OF ISLAMISTS AND BALLOT BOXES

Vickie Langohr

As Islamist movements have gained strength across the Muslim world, their commitmentto democratic means of achieving and exercising power has been repeatedlyanalyzed. The question of whether resort to violence to achieve its goals is inherentin the Islamist project (that what some Islamists understand as a divine mandate toimplement sharia ultimately sanctions the use of force against dissenters) or contingent(that the violent exclusion of Islamists from the political arena has driven themto arms, best expressed by Franc¸ois Burgat’s contention that any Western politicalparty could be turned into the Armed Islamic Group in weeks if it were subjected tothe same repression Islamists had endured1) looms large in this debate. Where Islamistmovements have not had the opportunity to participate in elections for political office,analysts willing to give these movements the benefit of the democratic doubt arguethat their peaceful participation in the student body and syndicate elections that theyhave been allowed to contest proves their intention to respect the results of nationallevelelections.2 They also point to these groups’ repeated public commitment to playby the rules of the electoral game.3 The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptand Jordan and members of the Islah Party in Yemen have successfully competed innot one but a series of parliamentary elections and evinced a tendency to wage theirbattles through parliament and the courts rather than by force suggests to many thatthe question of whether Islamists can ever be democrats has already been settled inthe affirmative.Analysts who are more skeptical of the possibility of a democratic Islamism generallyadvance one of two arguments. The first is procedural: that although some Islamistshave seemingly opted to effect change through the ballot box, they have chosenthis method only because they do not yet have the power to use more forceful ones.In a manner of speaking, this line of thinking accuses Islamists competing in parliamentarypolitics of engaging in political taqiyya, of parroting the rhetoric that democratswant to hear until they obtain sufficient power to abort the democratic politicalprocess and institute a policy of “one-man, one-vote, one-time.”

Brothers in Arms?

Joshua Stacher
Within and between western governments, a heated policy debate is raging over the question of whether or not to engage with the world’s oldest and most influential political Islamist group: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. In 2006, publication of a series of leaked memos in the New Statesman magazine revealed that political analysts within the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommended an enhancement of informal contacts with members of the Brotherhood.
The authors of these documents argued that the UK government should be seeking to influence this group, given the extent of its grassroots support in Egypt. The British analysts further suggested that engagement could provide a valuable opportunity for challenging the Brotherhood’s perceptions of the West, including the UK, and for detailed questioning of their prescriptions for solving the challenges facing Egypt and the wider region.
The Bush administration in the United States has been far less open to the idea of direct engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood, arguing that it would be inappropriate to enter into formal ties with a group that is not legally recognised by the Egyptian government. However, there are indications that the US position may be starting to shift. In 2007, it emerged that the State Department had approved a policy that would enable US diplomats to meet and coordinate with elected Brotherhood leaders in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and other Arab states.

Within and between western governments, a heated policy debate is raging over the question of whether or not to engage with the world’s oldest and most influential political Islamist group: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. In 2006, publication of a series of leaked memos in the New Statesman magazine revealed that political analysts within the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommended an enhancement of informal contacts with members of the Brotherhood.

The authors of these documents argued that the UK government should be seeking to influence this group, given the extent of its grassroots support in Egypt. The British analysts further suggested that engagement could provide a valuable opportunity for challenging the Brotherhood’s perceptions of the West, including the UK, and for detailed questioning of their prescriptions for solving the challenges facing Egypt and the wider region.

The Bush administration in the United States has been far less open to the idea of direct engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood, arguing that it would be inappropriate to enter into formal ties with a group that is not legally recognised by the Egyptian government. However, there are indications that the US position may be starting to shift. In 2007, it emerged that the State Department had approved a policy that would enable US diplomats to meet and coordinate with elected Brotherhood leaders in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and other Arab states.