RSSAlle Einträge Tagged With: "Reformisten"

Islamismus revisited

MAHA Azzam

There is a political and security crisis surrounding what is referred to as Islamism, a crisis whose antecedents long precede 9/11. Over the past 25 years, there have been different emphases on how to explain and combat Islamism. Analysts and policymakers
in the 1980s and 1990s spoke of the root causes of Islamic militancy as being economic malaise and marginalization. More recently there has been a focus on political reform as a means of undermining the appeal of radicalism. Increasingly today, the ideological and religious aspects of Islamism need to be addressed because they have become features of a wider political and security debate. Whether in connection with Al-Qaeda terrorism, political reform in the Muslim world, the nuclear issue in Iran or areas of crisis such as Palestine or Lebanon, it has become commonplace to fi nd that ideology and religion are used by opposing parties as sources of legitimization, inspiration and enmity.
The situation is further complicated today by the growing antagonism towards and fear of Islam in the West because of terrorist attacks which in turn impinge on attitudes towards immigration, religion and culture. The boundaries of the umma or community of the faithful have stretched beyond Muslim states to European cities. The umma potentially exists wherever there are Muslim communities. The shared sense of belonging to a common faith increases in an environment where the sense of integration into the surrounding community is unclear and where discrimination may be apparent. The greater the rejection of the values of society,
whether in the West or even in a Muslim state, the greater the consolidation of the moral force of Islam as a cultural identity and value-system.
Following the bombings in London on 7 Juli 2005 it became more apparent that some young people were asserting religious commitment as a way of expressing ethnicity. The links between Muslims across the globe and their perception that Muslims are vulnerable have led many in very diff erent parts of the world to merge their own local predicaments into the wider Muslim one, having identifi ed culturally, either primarily or partially, with a broadly defi ned Islam.

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.

Demokratisierung und islamische Politik:

YOKOTA Takayuki�

The aim of this article is to explore the often contradictory correlation between democratizationand Islamic politics in Egypt, focusing on a new Islamic political party, the Wasat Party (Ḥizbal-Wasaṭ).Theoretically, democratization and Islamic politics are not incompatible if Islamic politicalorganizations can and do operate within a legal and democratic framework. On the other hand,this requires democratic tolerance by governments for Islamic politics, as long as they continueto act within a legal framework. In the Middle East, however, Islamic political parties are oftensuspected of having undemocratic agendas, and governments have often used this suspicion as ajustification to curb democratization. This is also the case with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood(Jam‘īya al-Ikhwān al-Muslimīn) under the Ḥusnī Mubārak regime. Although the Brotherhood is amainstream Islamic movement in Egypt, operating publicly and enjoying considerable popularity,successive governments have never changed its illegal status for more than half a century. Someof the Brotherhood members decided to form the Wasat Party as its legal political organ in order tobreak this stalemate.There have been some studies on the Wasat Party. Stacher [2002] analyzes the “Platformof the Egyptian Wasat Party” [Ḥizb al-Wasaṭ al-Miṣrī 1998] and explains the basic principlesof the Wasat Party as follows: democracy, sharī‘a (Islamic law), rights of women, and Muslim-Christian relations. Baker [2003] regards the Wasat Party as one of the new Islamist groups thathave appeared in contemporary Egypt, and analyzes its ideology accordingly. Wickham [2004]discusses the moderation of Islamic movements in Egypt and the attempt to form the WasatParty from the perspective of comparative politics. Norton [2005] examines the ideology andactivities of the Wasat Party in connection with the Brotherhood’s political activities. As theseearlier studies are mainly concerned with the Wasat Party during the 1990s and the early 2000s,I will examine the ideology and activities of the Wasat Party till the rise of the democratizationmovement in Egypt in around 2005. I will do so on the basis of the Wasat Party’s documents, suchas the “Platform of the New Wasat Party” [Ḥizb al-Wasaṭ al-Jadīd 2004]1), and my interviews withits members.

Ägypten: Säkularismus, Shariah, and the Prospects for an Inclusive Democracy

Manar Shorbagy

The relationship between religion and politics is at the top of the politicalagenda in Egypt, und, as I shall argue, it has important implications for thepolitical rights of Egyptian women and minorities. Aber, the issue is not asimple secular/religious divide. It is, lieber, the problem of how to define thenature and characteristics of a civil, democratic state that is neither a theocracynor an Islamically “naked” public space. !e Islamist/secularist dichotomy is afalse one; it has little or no relevance to actual political processes and possibilitiesin Egypt, where a middle ground is both theoretically and practically conceivable.Such a middle ground, however, must be deliberately sought and found byEgyptians, so that a national consensus on the relationship between religion andpolitics can emerge.For a brief time, such a consensus seemed possible. Hopes were highbetween 2005 and early 2007. But those possibilities collapsed in 2007. !ispaper examines the reasons for this collapse. Reasons, I will argue, that lie incorrectable political failures of actors across the board, rather than any inherentimpossibility of creating an inclusive democracy in a Muslim society.Understanding Egypt’s Current Predicament2005 was an unusual political year in Egypt. Many taboos were broken in streetprotests and by the independent press. Domestic political pressure to begindemocratic reform was mounting to unprecedented levels. Moreover, in theirconfrontation with the regime, many political forces shrewdly took advantage ofthe U.S.’s democracy rhetoric without buying into the Bush agenda or allowing92 SECULARISM, WOMEN & THE STATE: THE MEDITERRANEAN WORLD IN THE 21ST CENTURYthemselves to be exploited by the Bush administration.One of 2005’s most promising developments was the publicacknowledgement, for the first time, that a generation of young activists andintellectuals had succeeded, over more than a decade, in acting across ideologicallines. !e Egyptian Movement for Change, also known as Kefaya,1 was onemanifestation of these efforts and an important illustration of the possibilitiesof this new politics.

Der Entwurf des Parteiprogramm der ägyptischen Muslimbruderschaft

Nathan J. Braun
Amr Hamzawy

In the late summer 2007, amid great anticipation from Egypt’s ruling elite and opposition movements, the Muslim Brotherhood distributed the first draft of a party platform to a group of intellectuals and analysts. The platform was not to serve as a document for an existing political party or even one about to be founded: the Brotherhood remains without legal recognition in Egypt and Egypt’s rulers and the laws they have enacted make the prospect of legal recognition for a Brotherhood-founded party seem distant. But the Brotherhood’s leadership clearly wished to signal what sort of party they would found if allowed to do so.

With the circulation of the draft document, the movement opened its doors to discussion and even contentious debate about the main ideas of the platform, the likely course of the Brotherhood’s political role, and the future of its relationship with other political forces in the country.1 In this paper, we seek to answer four questions concerning the Brotherhood’s

party platform:

1. What are the specific controversies and divisions generated by the platform?


2. Why and how has the platform proved so divisive?


3. Given the divisions it caused as well as the inauspicious political environment,

why was a platform drafted at this time?


4. How will these controversies likely be resolved?


We also offer some observations about the Brotherhood’s experience with

drafting a party platform and demonstrate how its goals have only been partly

met. Ultimately, the integration of the Muslim Brotherhood as a normal political

actor will depend not only on the movement’s words but also on the deeds

of a regime that seems increasingly hostile to the Brotherhood’s political role.

Abweichende Brothers

Founded in 1928, die Muslimbruderschaft (MB) has never experienced a leadership crisis as serious as that which erupted two weeks ago. As is now well-known, the problem originated with the refusal on the part of the MB’s Guidance Bureau (the organisation’s highest executive body) to accept Essam El-Erian as a member to replace Mohamed Hilal following the latter’s death four weeks ago. It was a clear act of defiance against Supreme Guide Mohamed Mahdi Akef who wanted to promote El-Erian and who maintained that the MB’s internal regulations gave him that right. In response to the refusal Akef has threatened to resign and designated most of his powers to his first deputy, Mohamed Habib.
Of course, the crisis goes much deeper than the question of El-Erian’s promotion. This is not the first time the supreme guide has encountered resistance. The problem is rooted in the way the MB handles its internal disputes and in its reading of the Egyptian political scene as it touches upon the organisation’s image and activities. Although in the course of the past two decades the MB has managed to deal clearly and firmly with internal opposition, disciplining and marginalising dissenters, it has signally failed to benefit from any intellectual and ideological diversity among its ranks. As a consequence, it has forfeited an important political asset which it desperately needs in its confrontations with adversaries.
The tensions in the upper echelons of the MB hierarchy are too sharp to be swept under the carpet in the usual way. The supreme guide has set himself against the will of the conservative wing of the leadership over the promotion of El-Erian, whom he believes deserves a chance to serve on the Guidance Bureau. But regardless of what actions he takes, including the threat to resign, there are unmistakable signs that he will be unable to reign in the conservatives. Since becoming head of the movement in January 2004 Akef has worked hard to maintain smooth relations between the different ideological trends within the MB. Almost always, however, his efforts have come at the expense of the reformists or pragmatists, whether because of the relative weakness of their influence within the organisation compared to the conservatives or because he feared a rift that would render the organisation vulnerable to the regime’s political and security tactics.
That tensions have reached their current pitch is due to the brewing conflict over the succession to the office Akef now holds. In March Akef announced that he did not intend to nominate himself for a new term, which would begin on 13 January. His decision marked the first time in the group’s history that a supreme guide has voluntarily stepped down at the height of his career. All six of his predecessors died while still in office. Akef’s unprecedented and, apparently, unexpected decision, triggered an initially silent power struggle over who would fill his post. Interestingly, the struggle has not been between conservatives and reformists, but rather between hardliners and pragmatists inside the conservative camp.
The current situation is significant for several reasons. Rarely have internal differences bubbled over into public view. This time, however, the main players have been vying ferociously for media attention.
Then there is Akef’s threat, subsequently denied, that he would resign. That Akef should have been driven to such a step reflects the magnitude of the pressures and anger he has faced during his nearly six-year long tenure. Having served as the keel between diverse trends, Akef’s threat must reflect his sense of failure at checking the conservativeshegemony over all the organisation’s bodies and decision-making mechanisms.
That Akef has delegated many of his powers to his first deputy is also unprecedented, as well as being in violation of the group’s internal regulations. Article 6 of the MB’s charter states that the supreme guide can leave his post under three conditionspoor performance of his duties, resignation or death. Since none of these conditions obtains Akef had no right to delegate his responsibilities to his first deputy.
The crisis has thrown into relief a major problem in the MB’s constitutional structure, the lack of an institutionalised arbitrating authority capable of settling disputes between the supreme guide and the Guidance Bureau. It has also demonstrated that many of the group’s internal taboos regarding reverence for, and uncritical obedience to, its leaders have cracked.
The MB leadership will undoubtedly attempt to resolve the crisis as quickly as possible, so that it does not spread through the movement’s rank and file. For this reason, the MB’s General Shura Council will hold elections for the next supreme guide within the next couple of weeks. Even so, it is doubtful that the new leader will enjoy the same level of prestige as his predecessors and will, as a consequence, be hampered in any attempts to maintain equilibrium inside the group. Neither the MB’s Secretary- General Mahmoud Ezzat, or First Deputy to the Supreme Guide Mohamed Habib, the two leading contenders for the post, have the historical legitimacy of Akef, the last of the MB’s founding generation.
But the election of the next supreme guide is not the only problem with which the MB must contend. No less important, or problematic, is the need to elect a new Guidance Bureau. The current bureau was elected in 1995, since which time some members have been added through promotion, as was the case with Mohamed Mursi who became chairman of the political committee in 2004, and others by means of the partial elections in 2008. Comprehensive elections to the bureau should have been held a year ago, following the election of the new MB Shura Council which is responsible for selecting the members of the Guidance Bureau and the supreme guide.
The MB is entering a very delicate phase in its history. Even if MB leaders manage to smooth over the current crisis, its effects will continue to reverberate beneath the surface and, undoubtedly, erupt once again.

Khalil Al-anani

Esam

Founded in 1928, die Muslimbruderschaft (MB) has never experienced a leadership crisis as serious as that which erupted two weeks ago. As is now well-known, the problem originated with the refusal on the part of the MB’s Guidance Bureau (the organisation’s highest executive body) to accept Essam El-Erian as a member to replace Mohamed Hilal following the latter’s death four weeks ago. It was a clear act of defiance against Supreme Guide Mohamed Mahdi Akef who wanted to promote El-Erian and who maintained that the MB’s internal regulations gave him that right. In response to the refusal Akef has threatened to resign and designated most of his powers to his first deputy, Mohamed Habib.

Of course, the crisis goes much deeper than the question of El-Erian’s promotion. This is not the first time the supreme guide has encountered resistance. The problem is rooted in the way the MB handles its internal disputes and in its reading of the Egyptian political scene as it touches upon the organisation’s image and activities. Although in the course of the past two decades the MB has managed to deal clearly and firmly with internal opposition, disciplining and marginalising dissenters, it has signally failed to benefit from any intellectual and ideological diversity among its ranks. As a consequence, it has forfeited an important political asset which it desperately needs in its confrontations with adversaries.

The tensions in the upper echelons of the MB hierarchy are too sharp to be swept under the carpet in the usual way. The supreme guide has set himself against the will of the conservative wing of the leadership over the promotion of El-Erian, whom he believes deserves a chance to serve on the Guidance Bureau. But regardless of what actions he takes, including the threat to resign, there are unmistakable signs that he will be unable to reign in the conservatives. Since becoming head of the movement in January 2004 Akef has worked hard to maintain smooth relations between the different ideological trends within the MB. Almost always, however, his efforts have come at the expense of the reformists or pragmatists, whether because of the relative weakness of their influence within the organisation compared to the conservatives or because he feared a rift that would render the organisation vulnerable to the regime’s political and security tactics.

That tensions have reached their current pitch is due to the brewing conflict over the succession to the office Akef now holds. In March Akef announced that he did not intend to nominate himself for a new term, which would begin on 13 January. His decision marked the first time in the group’s history that a supreme guide has voluntarily stepped down at the height of his career. All six of his predecessors died while still in office. Akef’s unprecedented and, apparently, unexpected decision, triggered an initially silent power struggle over who would fill his post. Interestingly, the struggle has not been between conservatives and reformists, but rather between hardliners and pragmatists inside the conservative camp.

The current situation is significant for several reasons. Rarely have internal differences bubbled over into public view. This time, however, the main players have been vying ferociously for media attention.

Then there is Akef’s threat, subsequently denied, that he would resign. That Akef should have been driven to such a step reflects the magnitude of the pressures and anger he has faced during his nearly six-year long tenure. Having served as the keel between diverse trends, Akef’s threat must reflect his sense of failure at checking the conservativeshegemony over all the organisation’s bodies and decision-making mechanisms.

That Akef has delegated many of his powers to his first deputy is also unprecedented, as well as being in violation of the group’s internal regulations. Article 6 of the MB’s charter states that the supreme guide can leave his post under three conditionspoor performance of his duties, resignation or death. Since none of these conditions obtains Akef had no right to delegate his responsibilities to his first deputy.

The crisis has thrown into relief a major problem in the MB’s constitutional structure, the lack of an institutionalised arbitrating authority capable of settling disputes between the supreme guide and the Guidance Bureau. It has also demonstrated that many of the group’s internal taboos regarding reverence for, and uncritical obedience to, its leaders have cracked.

The MB leadership will undoubtedly attempt to resolve the crisis as quickly as possible, so that it does not spread through the movement’s rank and file. For this reason, the MB’s General Shura Council will hold elections for the next supreme guide within the next couple of weeks. Even so, it is doubtful that the new leader will enjoy the same level of prestige as his predecessors and will, as a consequence, be hampered in any attempts to maintain equilibrium inside the group. Neither the MB’s Secretary- General Mahmoud Ezzat, or First Deputy to the Supreme Guide Mohamed Habib, the two leading contenders for the post, have the historical legitimacy of Akef, the last of the MB’s founding generation.

But the election of the next supreme guide is not the only problem with which the MB must contend. No less important, or problematic, is the need to elect a new Guidance Bureau. The current bureau was elected in 1995, since which time some members have been added through promotion, as was the case with Mohamed Mursi who became chairman of the political committee in 2004, and others by means of the partial elections in 2008. Comprehensive elections to the bureau should have been held a year ago, following the election of the new MB Shura Council which is responsible for selecting the members of the Guidance Bureau and the supreme guide.

The MB is entering a very delicate phase in its history. Even if MB leaders manage to smooth over the current crisis, its effects will continue to reverberate beneath the surface and, undoubtedly, erupt once again.

Published On Al-ahram Weekly

Qual der Stimmzettel

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.

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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.

From the National

Published on October 30, 2009