Islamist Politics in the Middle East: Movements and Change

Islamist Politics in the Middle East: Movements and Change

Islamist Politics in the Middle East: Movements and Change

Islamist Politics in the Middle East: Movements and Change

Synopsis

For over three decades, Islamist politics, or political Islam, has been one of the most dynamic and contentious political forces in the Middle East. Although there is broad consensus on the importance of political Islam, there is far less agreement on its character, the reasons for Islamist's success, the role of Islamist movements in domestic and international affairs, or what these movements portend for the future.

This volume addresses a number of central questions in the study of Islamist politics in the Middle East through detailed case studies of some of the region's most important Islamist movements. Chapters by leading scholars in the field examine the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hizbullah, Morocco's Justice and Benevolence, the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, the Sunni Insurgency in Iraq and Islamist politics in Turkey and Iran. The topics addressed within this volume include social networks and social welfare provision, Islamist groups as opposition actors, Islamist electoral participation, the intersection of Islam and national liberation struggles, the role of religion in Islamist politics, and Islam and state politics in Iran, among other topics.

All of the contributing authors are specialists with deep knowledge of the subject matter who are committed to empirically based research. These scholars take Islamists seriously as modern, sophisticated, and strategic political players. Together, their work captures much of the diversity of Islamist politics in the region and will contribute to the scholarship on a topic that continues to be important for the Middle East and the world.

Excerpt

Islamist politics, or political Islam, has been one of the most dynamic political forces in the Middle East for over three decades. Whether in the form of electoral politics in the region or in the form of cataclysmic events such as the 1979 Iranian revolution and the September 11, 2001 attacks, political Islam has directly shaped both local and global politics in far-reaching ways. Consequently, it has had a tremendous impact on regional as well as international affairs.

Yet, if there is broad consensus on the importance of political Islam, there is far less agreement on its character, the role of Islamist movements in domestic and international affairs, the reasons for Islamist success, or what these movements portend for the future. These subjects are highly contentious and often politicized. Moreover, because of the media and policy focus on violent groups such as Al-Qaeda and its offshoots, the most popular, dynamic, and influential Islamist movements frequently receive less attention. But it is these groups – Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan’s Islamic Action Front, and Morocco’s Justice and Benevolence, for example – that have had the most profound impact on the Middle East. And it is these groups that will likely have the greatest impact on the region’s future.

This volume presents original research on a number of Islamist movements and politics in Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran, in addition to theoretical treatments of the subject. The chapters reflect the diversity of Islamist politics and address a number of themes. However, the volume does not aspire to provide a comprehensive account of Islamist politics in the Middle East. Indeed, the broad scope and heterogeneity of the phenomenon makes such an endeavor impossible. The volume’s goals are considerably more limited. First, the introduction presents a brief and necessarily incomplete glimpse of how Islamist politics has commonly been viewed in the West since 1979, when it first emerged as a major subject of media, policy, and scholarly interest. It then briefly addresses some of the conceptual challenges and difficulties involved in defining Islamist politics before previewing the various chapters collected in this volume.

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