Modernity, Secularism and ‘Islamic’ Conceptions of Democracy: The Case of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt
Prof. Dr. Katerina Dalacoura is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Is democracy a Western concept, inapplicable to other cultures? Are conceptions of democracy across the globe incongruous with one another? Such questions have long been debated but, more often than not, on rather abstract ideational, theological or philosophical levels. This paper complements these important discussions by focusing on concrete proposals by an Islamist political actor on how the term ‘democracy’ is understood. Specifically, the article draws material from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s reaction to the Bush administration’s democracy promotion policies in the Middle East in the post 9/11 period, and its 2007 political party platform, to demonstrate that an ‘Islamic’ conception of democracy is shaped by history and ideology in the modern and secular context of the nation-state.
The Islamist Discourse under Scrutiny in the Aftermath of the Arab Spring: An Analysis of Key Islamist Conceptions of Political Life
Prof. Maria do Céu de Pinho Ferreira Pinto (University of Minho, Portugal)
For many decades, political Islamists have benefited from a privileged position, since they acted as the only option to the existing Arab regimes, building on the rejection of the status quo without elaborating on their alternative. They did not need to come up with specific policy prescriptions and, in fact, could hardly provide a clear scenario for society and the political process should they come to power. But once competing for elections and taking on the responsibility to govern, they will be forced to explain their political rationale. This paper offers a critical exploration of the impact the new political and social conditions are having on Islamist political concepts. The electoral success of Islamist parties will put pressure on them to, at long last, define the relation between theory and practice. We will reflect on the implications of the uprisings on the Islamist movements’ evolution, namely their concepts of democracy, the civil state, the separation of powers, and the Sharia and human rights.
Foreign Policy Dynamics of Regime Change from the Arab Spring: Is there an Islamist Threat?
Dr. Rolin Mainuddin is Associate Professor of political science at North Carolina Central University, USA.
Without ruling out democracy in Muslim societies, Samuel Huntington found “din wa-dawla”—the intermingling of religious and political communities—a major challenge. Hrair Dekmejian and Judith Miller had expressed fear, given the lack of a democratic tradition in the Middle East, that after coming to office through elections Muslim political parties—“Islamists”—will scuttle the democratic process itself to stay in power. Yet, the Justice and Democratic Party (AKP) in Turkey did not end democratic institutions following electoral victory in 2002. While denying the United States the use of its territory for military operations against an Arab Muslim country, and being assertive with Israel on regional issues, the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not changed the basic security structure of Turkey’s membership in NATO. In spite of demonstrating pragmatism so far after winning the 2011 elections, will Mohamed Morsi and his Freedom and Justice Party—affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood—take Egypt on a divergent path? Is there any danger to the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty? What about United States relations with Turkey or the GCC countries? This paper will address the question of a perceived “Islamist” threat to United States national security interest in the MENA region.