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

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes 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.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

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