Salafis in Parliament: Democratic Attitudes and Party Politics in the Gulf

By Monroe, Steve L. | The Middle East Journal, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Salafis in Parliament: Democratic Attitudes and Party Politics in the Gulf


Monroe, Steve L., The Middle East Journal


This article explores how political participation affects the attitudes of Kuwait's and Bahrain's Salafiparliamentarians towards democracy. In comparing the two states' Salafiparliamentary blocs, this study reveals that neither political inclusion nor ideology uniformly dictates either bloc's democratic sentiments. Instead, political incentives, as shaped by their state's unique political environments, colors and contrasts both blocs' democratic attitudes and policies. Like their liberal rivals, Salafiparliamentarians are susceptible to the rewards and realities of political power.

The potential rise and dominance of Islamist movements underlies all talk of democratic reform in the Arab world. Some fear that Islamist parties will exploit democratic reform and impose their interpretation of Islamic law. Others counter that political participation defangs radical tendencies and encourages democratic norms. The debate is already well scripted.

This article contributes to the "Inclusion-Moderation" discussion by exploring how political inclusion affects the attitudes of Salafiparliamentarians towards democracy. While most research on political Islam centers on the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafism in a non-violent political context is vastly understudied. Analyzing how the Muslim Brotherhood's more orthodox rival reacts to political participation is an unused and arguably greater indicator of the influence of institutional conditions on the democratic behavior of religious movements in the Middle East.

This article assesses the democratizing attributes of political inclusion by comparing the democratic behavior of Bahrain's Salafibloc, Al-Asalah, with Kuwait's Islamic SalafiAlliance (ISA).1 To be clear, this article defines democratic behavior in its most pluralistic sense: support for fair and viable elections, the solidification of parliamentary power, and regime accountability to constitutional law. As representatives of the same literalist, orthodox current of political Islam, one might expect the blocs' attitudes towards democracy to be largely synonymous.

This comparison proves otherwise. Kuwait's ISA has been a far greater proponent of democratic norms than its Bahraini peer. This research argues that neither political inclusion nor religious ideology uniformly determines either bloc's democratic behavior. Instead, political incentives, as shaped by each bloc's unique political environment, demarcate their differing attitudes towards democratic governance.2

Two important distinctions between Bahrain and Kuwait caution this comparison. Kuwait's National Assembly predates Bahrain's by almost 40 years. However, as this research looks exclusively at Salafiparliamentarians' political behavior, the difference in political experience between the two blocs is less pronounced.3 Secondly, unlike in Kuwait, sectarianism overwhelms Bahraini politics. As a minority Sunni movement, Bahrain's Salafis have little reason to back any reform that empowers the island's majority Shi'a. Nevertheless, if political inclusion ferments democratic tendencies, one would still expect political actors to gradually overcome sectarian bigotry in favor of greater plurality in governance.

It should also be noted that both blocs' decision to participate in parliament and denounce violence implies that political participation offers some avenue for moderation. However, while Al-Asalah's and ISA's decision to enter politics puts them on the more "liberal" end of the Salafiideological spectrum, their experiences in parliament are still indicative of how participatory politics can influence Islamist movements.

Finally, it remains unclear how much Bahrain's or even Kuwait's political systems will change in response to the Arab Spring. Nonetheless, analyzing these blocs' historical behavior up to February 2011 can still provide useful insights into how orthodox religious blocs operate in politics. Using data from interviews, local newspapers, and websites, this research qualitatively assesses each Salafibloc according to a modification of Andreas Schedler's criteria for democratic behavior: their policies towards fair and viable elections, the solidification of parliamentary power, and their regimes' defiance of constitutional law. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Salafis in Parliament: Democratic Attitudes and Party Politics in the Gulf
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.