Islamist Political Participation

Carnegie Endowment has a new paper out on Arab Islamist political party participation that is worth reading. Will they be pragmatic, facilitating the democratic process or only debate the tenants of religious ideology? The authors examined movements in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, and Yemen as well as the armed parties in Lebanon and Palestine. Key conclusions include:

* Islamist movements are reacting to their failure to influence policy and criticism from their base by either reverting to hard-line stances or engaging in extensive debates that create uncertainty and weaken support.
* Islamist movements operating without constant threat of repression by the state are more willing to compromise, focus on pragmatic policy issues, and remain committed to democratic processes, while Islamists whose participation is hampered by the state are more focused on ideological issues and marginalize reformers within the movement.
* The presence of Islamist movements with an armed wing affects the balance of power within a state and sometimes hinders the process of moderation, but excluding armed Islamists from the political process is unrealistic given their tremendous popular support.

I love the fact that the report shows that these movements are not homogeneous. Even throughout history Islamism as a movement is discursive. And engagement is a complicated issue. I tend to agree with the idea that engagement over alienation is important. It has been successful with the Sadrists in Iraq too, for instance, and they are heavily armed, certainly upsetting the balance of power in Iraq.

More engagement with Islamist parties creates a more cooperative political process. In a state that oppresses religious political movements the probability of massive reaction is strong, while a state the co opts these movements can help to lesson the more maximalist ideological policies.

There have been many forms of political spirituality throughout history. In fact, all of them found their ends very quickly. Even the Islamic Republic of Iran has subordinated many of its ideological and spiritually orientated policies to the earthly ones in order to be a player in the great struggle for power within the international system, and within its borders. When the state engages early, the subordination begins before revolutions (at its extreme) or heavy state opposition (at its minimum).

Read their full report here.


~ by The Common Man on December 22, 2008.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: