Democratization and the Islamist Challenge in the Arab World

Democratization and the Islamist Challenge in the Arab World

Democratization and the Islamist Challenge in the Arab World

Democratization and the Islamist Challenge in the Arab World

Synopsis

The rise of Islamic movements in the Arab world over the last decade coincided with a move toward democratization throughout the region, yet after hopeful early signs, progress toward democratization has stalled or even been reversed in all but a few countries. This book explores the linkages between the move to democratize & the Islamist challenge, focusing on the struggle among ruling elites, secularists, & the Islamists to define collective identity & the proper role of Islam in politics.

Excerpt

Serious democratization measures have occurred in the Arab world since the mid-1980s, particularly in Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, and Yemen. The rise of Islamic movements ("fundamentalism" or "political Islam") has coincided with this push toward democracy. Islamists have participated in and benefitted from the democratization process, especially in countries that allowed free elections (e.g., Jordan and Algeria). Why has democratization reached an impasse in the Arab world? What is the intersection of democratization with the rise of the Islamists? What are the prospects for democracy in the current contexts of the Arab world?

This work explores these questions in terms of identity struggle as manifested in the conflict between ruling elites, secularists, and their Islamist challengers. In contexts where the conflict over collective identity has subsided and some sort of tentative compromise, if not total agreement, about the role of Islam in the public domain has been achieved, the process of democratization has advanced. Countries whose governments have allowed Islamists limited participation, and in which Islamists have agreed to work within the system, are closer to democratization than countries whose governments have refused to recognize them at all and in which Islamists are correspondingly more radical. The decision to accommodate diversity procedurally is achieved best if it comes first from political leaders and proceeds gradually. Second, where the sides are sharply polarized over collective identity to the point of attempting change by violent means, the outcome is generally not democratic rule but another form of authoritarianism, whether in Islamist or secularist form. Third, democratization has not advanced in places where major local or international interests are most threatened by the rise of new forces, namely Islamists.

Part One lays out the methodology and provides historical background, tracing the Arab world's struggle with collective identity and how it has influenced democratization. Part Two begins by surveying the democratization measures that have taken place since 1980 and charting the rise of the Islamist challenge. Here I describe the nature of the Islamist challenge, analyze the factors behind its rise, discuss the Islamists' agendas, and examine Islamist concepts of and actual experiences with . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.