Political Ideology in the Arab World: Accommodation and Transformation

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Political Ideology in the Arab World Accommodation and Transformation Cambridge Middle East Studies

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The seller has not specified a shipping method to Germany. Contact the seller - opens in a new window or tab and request shipping to your location. Shipping cost cannot be calculated. Please enter a valid ZIP Code. The Arab Spring resulted in several transformations in the Arab political and regional spheres and posed challenges to all intellectual and political groups, including the Islamist movements. Twenty-three papers were put forth for debate at the conference by a variety of participants.

It was pointed out that Islamist movements could not fit a single model since political, social and historic factors had their impact on the movement in question and how it dealt with its political realities. By early , the significant changes experienced by some Arab countries marked a turning point in the Arab political and regional spheres. On the raging battlefields in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq, high-profile Islamist movements have been involved in armed confrontations and in defying the counter-revolutionary movements that attempted to reverse the fledgling democratic trend.

Questions were also raised about how to deal with the political transition stage, and with regional and international influences.


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The opening session on the first day of the conference tackled issues linked to the identity of Islamist powers and the circumstances of their formation. Some analysts have defined these circumstances as being created by political repression, along with sectarian divisions and regional and international influences. Another school of thought distinguishes between different instances in the process of Islamist movements: The first instance is when Islamist movements are perceived as subsidiaries to an overall entity.

But in the second instance, these Islamist movements have established local or national entities. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the Islamists dealt with the political transition process in different ways. Some of the movements supported the revolutions Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen , while other movements went down the route of emulation and analogy, despite the variations Mauritania.

The exceptional Moroccan case, where the movements took advantage of the Arab Spring environment, has started a new political trend in Morocco. A prominent feature of the organizational transformations within Islamist movements is the way in which Dawah, educational functions and political work have been separated out, allowing the functional role of politics and that of religion to be clearly defined.

But according to some participants, the separation of politics and religion is not applicable in its absolute terms. Those advocating this viewpoint mentioned the resort to open political work within the other parties. Similarly, the tendency of selecting obscure and unknown leaders has changed to fully-publicised election campaigns with visible media coverage. Though some believe that transformations in the Islamist arena have not settled down yet as the Arab region is still living in turmoil, this does not rule out an intellectual transformation within these movements with regards to their perception of the modern state.

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The revolutions have also motivated the Islamist movements to reassess their organizational structures, which tended towards elitism in the past. The chosen elites were not capable of bringing about the full transformation process, prompting some movements to adopt ideas of their parallel political parties. Islamist movements are facing three challenges. The first one involves managing internal organizational affairs and the transformation into civil parties equipped with competent democratic institutions.

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The second is the awareness challenge: Islamist movements continue to exhibit poor performance in devising a theoretical background for a political scheme guaranteeing good governance. The third session of the conference reviewed developments in the attitudes of Islamist movements and their political orientation in the light of the processes adopted by the movement for change.

One approach studied the impact of the general political environment on the Tunisian Nahdha movement. The movement has been transformed from a core opposition movement to one aiming to become a ruling or a partially-ruling party. The importance of inter-party reconciliation should be emphasised during a democratic transition stage.

For example, the Nahdha movement agreed to take part in the national unity government in order to support the fledgling democratic experience.


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A different school of thought sees the Islamist group as just another facet of the ruling regime that seeks power-sharing opportunities, or at least that the Islamist group is in league with the ruling regime, without making efforts towards political rehabilitation for exercising power. At the level of the intellectual mission and organizational restructuring, this point of view supports the idea that some Islamist groups include pragmatists who have opted to working within local, regional, international, and even sectarian, frameworks.

Some other groups embrace religious Dawah, social or educational calls, while others base their ideology on unseen prophesies. All these calls have relapsed into what appears to be a full redundancy stage. One of the transformations mentioned by the participants involves the use of sectarianism — which is similar to tribalism — as a means to achieving power. In order to review all the aspects of these transformations, the conferees touched on the Western attitude towards the Arab Spring revolutions.

Some noted that the Western attitude that prevailed at the beginning of these revolutions was prone to conceding to new realities that would eventually catapult Islamist movements to power. But this sentiment has changed: it seems that nowadays Western countries are happy to see the practical termination of the Islamist strategy.

The two different viewpoints represent the two trends of thought in the West, though both of them appear to be largely driven by national interests. A non-conformist trend is capable of being understood and is set for dialogue with the West that may achieve reconciliation. Another popular point of view understands most of the Islamist movements as representing a line of thought that contradicts the Western cultural scheme.

The proponents of such thinking have been branded by Islamists as enemies.

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At first, the movement welcomed the Arab revolutions and gained political advantage when the resistance option was strongly supported. At this point, Hamas advised Islamist movements in Arab Spring countries to be rational in dealing with the realities on the ground and to thoroughly analyze and assess the situation. During the second stage, after the counter-revolutionary groups reclaimed power, Hamas faced great challenges. The movement therefore turned to domestic reforms in order to strengthen its capabilities for survival, as well as seeking alternatives for resistance and pursuing inter-Palestinian reconciliation.

The movement further opted to learn the lessons from the Arab Spring by maintaining a non-interference policy and managing explicit political relations aiming at fulfilling national interests.