Ikhwanweb :: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website

Thu93 2020

Last update18:06 PM GMT

Back to Homepage
Font Size : 12 point 14 point 16 point 18 point
:: Issues > MB Understanding
Growing in Crisis
Growing in Crisis
Although the Islamist participants at the roundtable conceded that they had failed to promote democratic reforms in their countries through democratic mechanisms, they still maintained that participation in the political process is the only option and that they remain strategically committed to this. If this is the case, then the alternative of withdrawing from political participation and reverting to violence, which has reportedly been gaining currency on the fringes of these parties
Friday, May 22,2009 18:33
Carnegie Endowment
Earlier this month the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut organised a workshop with Islamist leaders and Arab parliamentary members on what has been learned so far from their participation in peaceful political processes. Participants included representatives from the Justice and Development Party from Morocco, the Algerian Movement for the Society of Peace, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Action Front from Jordan, the Yemeni Reform Rally, the Bahraini Al-Wefaq (Concord) Society, and the Islamic Constitutional Party in Kuwait. Their discussions centred around two topics: first was an assessment of Islamists" experiences in electoral processes and parliamentary life and the repercussions of these experiences on political life in general and on the relationship between their parties, ruling elites and other, non-religious, opposition parties; second was their conception of the relationship between Islamic proselytising and philanthropic activities and Islamist political participation and the types of organisational/structural changes that reflect developments in this relationship over recent years.

Although the Islamist participants at the roundtable conceded that they had failed to promote democratic reforms in their countries through democratic mechanisms, they still maintained that participation in the political process is the only option and that they remain strategically committed to this. If this is the case, then the alternative of withdrawing from political participation and reverting to violence, which has reportedly been gaining currency on the fringes of these parties and movements, does not actually enjoy a solid base of support within them. The Islamist parties and movements have several reasons for remaining committed to participatory politics. In view of the weakness of other opposition groups, their parliamentary blocs are essential for maintaining some kind of check on ruling executive authorities and for airing alternative views to those of the ruling party. Secondly, fielding themselves in local and national elections enables them to extend and solidify their grassroots bases and to generate a broader field for the systematic expression of their constituencies" religious, social, economic and political demands. Thirdly, political engagement offers the invaluable opportunity for developing new party cadres and honing their skills in electoral and parliamentary mechanisms.

Naturally, the relative weight of these motives varies from one country to the next. For example, the regulatory factor is foremost in the minds of the Bahraini Wefaq and Yemeni Reform Rally parties, both of which are the main opposition groups in their countries, as well as of the Kuwaiti Islamic Constitution Party, which has recently succeeded in taking part in some short-lived cabinets. In Algeria and Morocco, by contrast, Islamist parties are more concerned with influencing the direction of public policy whether from the position of a parliamentary opposition bloc or more directly as dominant members of local municipalities. Indeed, Algeria"s Society of Peace movement has been in a relatively strong position in this regard, as the third largest parliamentary bloc (with 51 seats in the National Assembly) and with control over the administration of several local directorates.

In Egypt and Jordan, although the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Action Front both have a parliamentary presence, albeit of different weight (the Egyptian Brotherhood holds 88 out of 454 seats in the People"s Assembly whereas the Islamic Action Front occupies only six out of the 110 seats in the Jordanian parliament), the antagonistic relationship between them and the central authorities compels them to continually take as much advantage as possible of the dynamics of participatory politics in order to sustain organised contact with their grassroots bases and systematically express their demands.

More importantly, however, is while irrevocably committed to political participation, the Islamist parties and movements are acutely conscious of the need to improve their performance in this framework in view of the relatively meagre progress in pushing towards democratic reform.

Morocco"s Justice and Development Party, whose popularity dwindled in the 2007 elections (even though it gained four additional parliamentary seats bringing its bloc up to 46 out of 324 seats) and which, therefore, found itself eliminated again in the Independence Party"s ruling government coalition, is now actively campaigning to extend its base of support to new sectors of society. In particular, it is targeting the urban middle class and the rural poor, both of which had formerly remained outside its reach and more attracted to the left-wing parties, particularly the Socialist Federation which is currently a partner in the ruling coalition. Towards this end, the Moroccan Islamist party is pursuing three strategies. It is giving greater priority to economic and social policies over religious and identity concerns in its platform; its parliamentary bloc is pushing more intensively for comprehensive constitutional reform aimed at gradually reducing the powers of the monarchical executive and promoting a more effective balance of powers; and thirdly, confidence-building with the left through partial alliances and/or power-sharing at the municipal level in some areas.

The Kuwaiti Islamist Constitution movement, the centre faction of the Islamic Action Front in Jordan, and the Yemeni Reform Rally are similarly devoting greater attention to matters of constitutional reform, to which testify the recent discourse and parliamentary performance of the three parties. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Bahraini Wefaq Society (or at least portions of these organisations) are working to reach an understanding with the ruling elites in their countries over the conditions for Islamist participation in politics. In Egypt, such an understanding could pave the way to a diffusion of the current tensions between the government and the Brotherhood, whereas in Bahrain it would promote a more effective parliamentary presence of the moderate Wefaq movement, thereby enhancing stability in Bahrain by providing a counterbalance to other Shia groups that are dissatisfied with current political arrangements there. In contrast to these strategic moves, the Algerian Society of Peace is currently in the grips of mounting tensions between its senior members which, in the past few days, have given rise to internal rifts that threaten to cost the party considerable losses in its political leverage and popularity.

The experiences and views of the participants differed markedly with regards to the second focal area of the workshop, the relationship between proselytising/ philanthropic work and political engagement. Whereas for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Yemeni Reform Rally the two areas of activities are closely intertwined, the other Islamist parties and movements are strongly inclined towards a functional separation between the two. The discrepancy stems not only from ideological choices but also from the particular legal, political and social contexts in which they operate. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood"s continued status as an officially banned organisation hampers any serious consideration on the part of its leadership of the possibilities of effecting a functional differentiation between its political and religious activities. Indeed, if anything, the qualitative surge in its political engagement since the 2005 legislative elections has deepened the interconnection between proselytising, philanthropic and political aspects, to the extent that the largest segment of the Brotherhood parliamentary bloc consists of individuals with a proselytising background and that the legally sanctioned philanthropic bodies connected with the Brotherhood play the most important role in the communications between the organisation, its parliamentary members and its grassroots bases. Moreover, the strength and historical depth of the proselytising/ philanthropic component of the Muslim Brotherhood"s activities in Egypt, compared to their relatively recent (since the 1980s) experience in parliamentary politics further militate against the type of functional separation that Islamist movements in other countries have achieved.

In Morocco, Algeria, Jordan, Bahrain and Kuwait, Islamists have gained the right to establish legitimate political parties and associations, which, in turn, has given them incentive to effect functional differentiations (of varying degrees) between their political and their proselytising/philanthropic activities, enabling those engaged in the former to focus more effectively and flexibly on political issues.

In all events, whether or not they have introduced such a differentiation, Islamist organisations participating in political life, like other strongly ideological movements, continue to face the challenge of striking a balance between what it takes to sustain the credibility of the religious banner as their primary raison d"être and source of popularity and what it takes to engage with other sectors of society that do not necessarily share their ideological outlook. Only then will they be able to break through the 20 per cent barrier that seems to be the general ceiling of their electoral victories. Still, in spite of the Islamists" current crisis with respect to their participation in democratic processes, one must nevertheless acknowledge the most important result of this engagement. Their parties and movements have matured and their strategic and organisational choices have developed in such a way as to strengthen their commitment to peaceful political action and safeguard delicate social stability in the Arab world.

The Source

This commentary is reprinted with permission from  Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


Posted in MB Understanding , Islamic Movements  
Related Articles
Miliband Calls for Fair Engagement with Islamists
Kuwaiti Elections: Advancement for Women, Retreat for Islamists
Muslim Brotherhood Falters as Egypt Outflanks Islamists
Europe’s engagement with moderate Islamists
Indonesia’s election a triumph of pragmatism over ideology, moderate Muslims over radical Islamists
Call to make Islamist groups part of solution in building institutions
Islamist Parties and Democracy
Islamist Govts Not the Enemy, Say Mideast Experts
El-Katatny In Beirut Discusses Post-Islamist Political Participation
Sultani to Ikhwanweb: Ending Islamists-Regime Clash Through Expanding Margin of Agreement, Dialogue
Egypt Bans Islamist Reporter From Medical Travel
Democracy and the Muslim world: the “post-Islamist” turn
U.S.: Islamist Govts Not the Enemy, Say Mideast Experts
Islamist-Leftist Cooperation in the Arab World
Violent Islamists vs. Non-Violent Islamists
When Islamists Wield Power
Islamist setbacks prompt strategic rethink
MB Bloc, World Islamist MPs Denounce Duweik’s Prison Sentence
Islamists in Politics: The Dynamics of Participation
Democracy ‘normalizes’ Islamists?
Islamists at the Gate, But It’s Okay
The Islamist Dilemma
Resolving America’s Islamist Dilemma:Lessons from South and Southeast Asia
Why Does Islamists’ Dialog With The West Stumble?
Islamist Parties and Democracy: Going Back to the Origins
What Moderate Islamists Expect from Obama?
Islamists’ Rise Could Benefit Women’s Rights
Contemporary Islamists in the Middle East
Arab democracy needs ‘Islamist revision’
’Islamists edge towards democracy’
Islamist Parties and Democracy: Three Kinds of Movements
Reuters: Egypt’s Islamists Sees Election Setback in 2010
Mauritania Islamists: Military Coup Threatens the Country’s Stability
Party Leader Says Islamist Trend is Fact in Mauritania, Other Countries
Islamists gain from Mideast turmoil and democratic deficit
Arab Islamists, their internal democracy
Reform between Islamists, Secularists
The West and the Islamists
POMED Notes: Islamist Parties and Democracy
The Islamist Conundrum
EVENT on "Islamist Parties and Democracy"
Experts Urge U.S. to Talk with Islamist Movements to Encourage Democratic Trends
Experts Urge U.S. to Talk with Islamist Movements to Encourage Democratic Trends
US/INTERNATIONAL: Dialogue with Islamists
Islamists win seats in Kuwait Parliamentary poll
Why Islamists Don’t Win Elections
Political Islam and Democracy - What do Islamists and Islamic Movements want?
EGYPT: Islamists Given Jail, and a Message
Jordanian Islamist warns of an unprecedented reaction if Gaza siege persisted
Ikhwanweb Featured in BBC Report: Egypt Islamists Wait for Power
Islamist Group Pressures Egypt’s Ruling Party
In Egypt, Islamist runs against the odds
Morocco Islamists Harassed by Security Services
Campaigning for all (including Islamists)
Egypt bars 90 percent of Islamist hopefuls from vote
Egypt Islamists in Hiding Ahead of Vote
700 potential opposition candidates arrested ahead of Egypt’s elections: Islamist lawmaker
Egypt Islamists fight obstacles to enter council vote
A Moderate Islamist is Arrested in Egypt - and What it Means for Us
What it means... Yemeni Islamists’ stance on democracy
Islamist target Hirsi Ali seeks French protection
Political Islam and Democracy - What do Islamists and Islamic Movements want?
Refusing talk to facilitate talk – the paradox of Islamist dialogue: An overdue task or an exercise
Islamist Movements and the Political Challenge: An Alternate Perspective
Let’s not forget the moderate Islamists
The Islamist opposition online in Egypt and Jordan
The Islamist opposition online in Egypt and Jordan
Analysis: Not all Islamists are equal
Workshop on Islamists Future in Arab Parliaments
Islamists emerge in stifled Tunisia
Islamist Pragmatists Ripe for Engagement?
Egyptian court drops terrorism charges against Islamists
Elections in Jordan: Poor Showing for Islamists
Moderate Islamists and peaceful democracy
EGYPT: Islamist Draft Manifesto Stirs Controversy
In Focus: The Autumn of Arab Islamists
Islamist threat is exaggerated
Why are Western officials hesitant to talk to moderate Islamists ?
The Political Implications of the Hamas Electoral Victory from the Islamist Perspective
Jordan’s Islamists Seek Offices Their Allies Scorn
What today’s Islamists Want
Looking for Moderate Islamists
Debunking the myth of Islamist intransigence
Islamist questioning and Colonialism: towards an understanding of the Islamist oeuvre
Turkish Paradox: Progressive Islamists versus Reactionary Secularists
Egypt: Security, Political, and Islamist Challenges
The Islamist spring, is it over?
Secular Tunisia may face a new, younger Islamist challenge
From Jordan to Morocco; Are the Arab Islamist Movements in Decline?
Early Islamist responses to Western challenge
POMED-SAIS Event on Islamist Political Participation in Turkey and Morocco
EVENT: Islamist Political Participation and Democratic Development
Perceptions of identity: Islamist identity and neoconservatism
Do not undermine moderate Islamists: The case of Muslim Brotherhood leader, Khayrat El-Shater
Success of Turkey’s AK Party must not dilute worries over Arab Islamists
Moroccan Elections: A new rise for Islamists?
A Response to Western Views of Islamist Movements
Amnesty says Jailed Egypt Islamist leader in poor health
Turkey, Palestine, Morocco: No Welcome to Islamists
Islamist democracy
A shift in the thinking of Egyptian Islamists
Islamists under fire draft first political programme
Are Islamists Heading to Power?
Islamists accuse Egypt police of kidnap, torture
Can Morocco’s Islamists check al-Qaida?
Egypt Islamist trial resumes behind closed doors
Deconstructing Islamist Participation
Amnesty wants observers at Egypt Islamists’ trial
Dismay for US as elections benefit Islamists
Islamists take on Mubarak’s party in Egypt vote
More Arabs trust Islamists
(Reuters),Egypt police arrest 200 Islamists
Egypt cracks down on Islamists in elections
Egypt’s Islamists arrested but gain seats
Egypt Copts sound alarm over Islamist advance
Egypt’s Islamists claim more seats
Islamist gains in Egypt give Washington pause
Egyptian Islamists continue gains
Analysis: Islamists’ strength puts Egypt rulers on back foot
Islamists on course to win biggest ever share of parliament
Egypt Islamists arrested ahead of parliament vote
Egypt’s ties with Israel bolster Islamist campaign
Despite duress, Islamists gain in Egypt polls
Egypt shrugs off Islamist votes but won’t lift ban
Arabs should not exclude Islamist parties - Albright
egypt: Islamists ‘on track for major gains’
Egyptian police hold 1,610 Islamists - Brotherhood
Egypt Islamists keep analysts guessing over ambitions
Egyptian Islamists blame America for poll abuses
Egypt Islamists say 30 candidates face run-off vote
The Rise of the Islamists and their Legitimacies
Egypt Islamists fail to win seats, (BBC)
Islamist Opposition Parties Gaining in Egyptian Elections
Islamists build Egyptian parliamentary bloc
Egypt police ’detain’ Islamists
Nobel laureate hails Islamist success in Egypt
Can the Islamists win?
Ambassador: Egypt not going Islamist
On the U.S./Islamists Dialogue, The Americans must thoroughly know who they’re talking to…
Islamists Lawyer Muntasir Al-Zayyat discusses the Egyptian elections
Islamists Ride Wave of Freedom
Mubarak sends message to Egypt’s Islamists
Vote could strengthen standing of Islamists
Zunibat: the Egyptian Brotherhood’s Wining Stimulates Islamist
Should America Support Islamists?
Thanks to democracy, 2005 was a huge year for radical Islamist groups in Egypt
Push for Middle East democracy benefiting Islamists
Akef: Palestinians Voted for Islamists
Rising Islamist tide in Middle East politics
Egypt’s Nobel winner asks Islamists to approve book
Islamists withdraw from Egypt parliament in protest
In Egypt, preferring Islamists to liberals
The Causes of the Irresistible Progression of Islamist Parties in the Arab-Muslim World
The Ballot Box Can Moderate Islamists
UK to build ties with banned Islamist group
Democracy, The New Battlefield Between "Islamists" And Regimes
The Key To Arab Reform: Moderate Islamists
Egyptian authorities detain Islamists, close down paper
"Islamist" Movements And The Democratic Process In The Arab World
Muslim Brotherhood, An Archetype of Militant Islamist Groups?
This is Why The Islamists Are Winning
Egyptian Islamists hamstrung by Mubarak’s dominance
The US is Gauging Islamist Organizations’ Commitment to the Democratic Process
Islamist Movements and the Democratic Process
Islamists have little effect on lawmaking in Egypt
Taming Islamists by Integrating Them into the Political System
Islamists receive mixed signals from government
Better Mainstream Islamists Than Al-Qaeda
Experts: Split among radical Islamists widens
Islamists Receive Mixed Signals From Gov’t
Morocco sees the rise of ’acceptable’ Islamist party
Egyptian PM suggests way to sideline Islamists
Time for an Islamist-Liberal Alliance
Morocco Cracks Down on Islamist Opposition Group JSA
Democratization and Islamists - Auto-Reform
Reform Policies of the Turkish AK Party, Setting an Example for Arab Islamists?
The Brotherhood, How far will Egypt’s Islamists go?
King blasts Jordan Islamists over Zarqawi
A letter from a former Islamist detainee
Landslide Victory For Islamists In Kuwaiti Elections
Habib: Arab and Muslim Nations Rally Around Moderate Islamists
Kuwaiti Elections: Islamists Rise And Start of Real Democracy
The Islamists & Their Alternative Vision of Modernization and Globalization
Radical Islamists and Western Governments
Islamists And Political Activists Condemn Qana Massacre
Faux ’moderate’ Islamists
Prominent Islamist leaders Issue Statement Supporting Resistance
Islamist sunni-shia convergence: Lebanese Ikhwan announces it will join Hezbollah in reconstruction
Bush’s Belief in a Worldwide Islamist Conspiracy is Foolish and Dangerous
Egypt cracks down on Islamist movement
A new American Report: Islamists overrun Elections in Morocco
Can we have Arab Democracy without the Islamists?
Election In Bahrain: One Ticket For Two Islamist Candidates
Islamism’s failure, Islamists’ future
Can Islamists Compromise With Israel?
Islamist Movements in the Arab World and the 2006 Lebanon War
Top Islamist: Don’t Prejudge Siniora’s Gov’t
U.S. Tactics Fuel for Islamists
Alongside Its Islamist Ideology, Hamas Presents Pragmatic Positions
Despotic Sentences against Six Islamists
Fotoh: West Must Not Pressure Regimes To Curb Islamists
Engagement or Quarantine: How to Deal with the Islamist Advance
Islamist Political Parties in Kuwait and Morocco
Persecuted Islamists Pledge Peace
Islamists between Regime and Electorate’
The Convenient Islamist Threat
The Rise of Islamists in the Middle East
View from Dubai: Why the West must engage Islamists
Anti-globalists reach out to Islamists
Islamist diversity is al-Qaeda’s enemy
How North African Nations Are Dealing With Islamist Resurgence
’Brotherhood’ Blogs In Egypt Offer View Of Young Islamists
Islamists Achieve Landslide Victories In Elections of Jordanian Doctors’ Syndicate
Turkey tests Islamist appetite for democracy
Islamist MPs In the Dock
The Military, the Cops, and the Islamists
Jordan Islamists met with US democracy experts
Georgetown Symposium on Islamist Politics
Jordan’s Islamists& Nationalists Garner Most Dental Syndicate Seats
Islamists: To Deal, or Not To Deal?
The Islamists’ Party in Egypt…No Hope
Morocco’s Islamists Are Slowly Winning
Turkey: Islamists pay a price for victory
The United States talks to Islamists. So what?
Should the West dialogue with Islamists?
More Expert Voices on Political Islamists and the Dangers of Current Policy
Controversy Among Reformists in the Arab World Over Dialogue With Islamist Groups
Movie Clears Islamists of Persecuting Copts
Katatny: Dialogue Between Islamists And The West a Necessity
Dialogue manifisto Between Islamists And The West
What Islamists Need to Be Clear About: The Case of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood
Islamists and the Ballot Box
Islamists urge Egyptians to vote out Mubarak
Egyptian Islamists hit streets
Jordan’s MB Warns Against Curbing Freedoms, Pressures on Islamists
Jordan: Islamists Win Bar Association Elections