News / Middle East

Analysts: Future of Political Islam Tenuous

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists call out from the defendants cage as they receive sentences ranging from death by hanging for one, life in prison for 13 and 8-15 years for the others after they were convicted of murder, rioting, and violence in a mass trial in Alexandria, Egypt, May 19, 2014.
Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists call out from the defendants cage as they receive sentences ranging from death by hanging for one, life in prison for 13 and 8-15 years for the others after they were convicted of murder, rioting, and violence in a mass trial in Alexandria, Egypt, May 19, 2014.
Mohamed Elshinnawi
With the downfall of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the militant approach of Islamists in Iraq, Syria, Libya, analysts say the future of political Islam in the Arab world is tenuous.

Tarek Abdel Hamid, a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy, said Islamists need to moderate their ideology and define a political model.

“In the past the military regimes in Egypt, Syria and Iraq used security measures to repress Islamists, but now because of their ideological defeat, the population turned against them, so they will have a very negative future.” he said.

As a former member of a militant Islamist group in Egypt, Abdel Hamid said Islamists biggest enemy is their ideology.

“They are not fit to rule because they are still motivated by ideology not focusing on pragmatic solutions for citizens’ demands whether the economy, social justice, gender equality or freedom of religion,” he said.

But Shadi Hamid, an analyst at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, said while the Muslim Brotherhood failed to govern in Egypt, he is convinced that political Islam will have a future.

“There is a widespread support in the deeply conservative societies in the region for Islamists’ objective of more mix of religion and politics, so if there is a popular demand for this, someone has to supply it,” he said.

Hamid said the military coup that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was critical in strengthening the narrative of more extremist Islamists who believe that violence is the only way.

“This is a Salafi moment in the Middle East; it is the first time we have Salafi-Jihadi groups using arms to control large areas in Syria first and now in Iraq,” he said.

But while analysts say what has happened in Egypt will not easily replicate itself in the region, Nathan Brown, a professor of political science at George Washington University, said that it has already affected thinking throughout Islamist circles everywhere.

“It has inspired some governments to move against Islamists and has made some Islamists reevaluate their surroundings,” he said. “Political Islam is hardly dead, but the movements that lead Islamism into the formal political process are likely to be just a little bit more leery of that path almost everywhere—and perhaps totally shut out of it in Egypt.”

He said it is unclear how those dedicated to Islamizing politics will react. Some may turn away from politics, he said, others might turn in more conservative or even radical directions. 

Hamid said obituaries of political Islam are premature.

“You can kill an organization but killing an idea is much more difficult. Even if we saw Islamists at an existential threat, their vision for the society is deeply entrenched in the region,” he said.

Banning the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt - the Arab World’s original Islamist movement - does not mean that a lot of people will give up on the idea of the role of religion in public life, Hamid said.

“In spite of repression of Nasser in Egypt, Hafez Al Assad in Syria and Ben Ali in Tunisia we saw the Muslim Brothers in Egypt and Syria, and [the] Ennahda movement in Tunisia recovered and reemerged once there was a political opening.” he said.

Hamid sees Tunisia as a relative success story for political Islam because Ennahda Islamists understood the strength of secular opposition, respected it and voluntarily stepped down from power.

Experts say that Islamist movements are likely to stay in one form or another, but they need to be responsive to popular demands.

Hamid said that for democracy to flourish in the Middle East, it will have to find a way to avoid excluding Islamist parties from political life.

“The struggle for and within political Islam is important for what it can tell us about how beliefs and ideology are mediated and altered by the political process,” he said.

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: micheal from: nigeria
June 19, 2014 1:51 AM
good talk let those that have ear hear what the spirit said to the political islam


by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
June 19, 2014 1:45 AM
I think Muslim terrorism is existential condition and won't be defeated militarily. The world gave lots of credits to Ennahda Islamist who engaged political dialog with their secular counterpart and conceded political defeat. This success story cannot be applied, at least for the moment, to Boko Haram and Al Shabaab. These group continued to wreak havoc unabated throughout Nigeria, Somalia and neighboring countries.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid