0227 – Faith in Moderation
Nathan Brown, Amr Hamzawy, and Marina Ottaway – Islamist Movements and
the Democratic Process in the Arab World: Exploring the Grey Zones
Islamist movements 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.
Grey zones: Islamic law, violence, pluralism, civil and political rights, women’s rights,
and religious minorities
Democracy and human rights, which Islamists used to eye suspiciously as Western
ideas inapplicable to Arab societies, were accepted in the rhetoric of mainstream
Islamists and, most importantly, in their political strategies.
Far from a source of political challenge, the official Islamic institutions of Arab
countries have been content to leave the political sphere to the government,
extending their influence on the social sphere instead. The rise of moderate,
nonviolent Islamist movements seeking a role in the political and social spheres is
thus a challenge to both governments and Islamic establishment, although there are
some indications that religious establishments and Islamist parties are beginning to
draw closer in some countries.
Post 9/11 political participation permitted by ME authoritarian regimes I
between the old goals of creating Islamic states and enacting uncompromising
version of sharia and the new goal of becoming influencial players in a pluralistic,
democratic system ambiguity on a number of issues
Movements that combine missionary and political activities in one institutional
structure take particularly ambiguous stances for fear of undermining their credibility
with either their religious followers or their political constituents.
Whereas older generation, who suffered repression and exile, tend to be skeptical
about the prospects of political participation, younger activists, resentful of the
continuing top-down authoritarian control exercised by their elders within the
organizations, favor more participatory internal decision making and more