Political Islam and Democracy

Article excerpt

CSID conferences focuses on what do Muslim political activists, lslamists, and Islamic movements want?

On 14 May, the Center for the Study oflslam and Democracy brought together a group of distinguished experts to discuss "Political Islam and Democracy: What Do Islamists and Islamic Movements Want?" They raised issues pertaining to the compatibility oflslam and democracy in both conceptual and specific terms.

Radwan Ziadeh (senior fellow, United States Institute of Peace), Bahey eldin Hassan (Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies), Ibrahim El-Houdaiby (IkhwanWeb, Egypt), and Najib Ghadbian (University of Arkansas) discussed the Muslim Brotherhood. In the 1950s, the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria sought to work with Damascus on the premise that the constitution establishes Islam as the country's principal religion. In response, many were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and even killed. Since then, it has kept a very low profile. In Egypt, despite Cairo's attempts to crush it, the Muslim Brotherhood eventually became the popular voice of Egyptian Muslims, who want to see amendments to the governing bodies, particularly in adopting more Islamic attributes.

Abderazzak Makri (Movement for the Society of Peace, Algeria), Mohamed Yatim (deputy secretary general, Party ofjustice and Development, Morocco), Carl Gershman (president, National Endowment for Democracy), and Joshua Muravchik (author of "Exporting Democracy: Fulfilling America's Destiny" [1992]) discussed "Shari'ah, Democracy, and Religious Freedom in Islam." The Moroccan and Algerian leaders agreed that the Muslim world's main problems are a severe lack of democracy and the rise of radicalization and extremism due to the hard-line secular and anti-Islamic governments' attempts to prevent the modernization of traditional Islamic thought.

The panel "Negotiating Democracy: The North African Context" featured Anwar N. Haddam (president and cofounder, Movement for Liberty and Social Justice, Algeria), Laurel Rapp (The OneVoice Movement), and Yusuf Fernandez (European Islamic Media Network). Haddam pointed out that the Algerian military had foreign support for its violent nullification of the nation's first free and fair elections, held in Dec. 1991. Morocco has had some successes, such as greater female political participation (but under a quota system). Islamic parties continue to enjoy great popular support within the parameters of an absolute monarchy. …