Tuesday October 10, 2017

Islamist Persistence: The rise and reality of political Islam, Part 2

Turkish protesters rallying against death penalties imposed on members of Egypt's Islamist group: The Muslim Brotherhood.

Turkish protesters rallying against death penalties imposed on members of Egypt's Islamist group: The Muslim Brotherhood. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Listen to Full Episode 53:59

It's a provocative argument among Islamic Scholars: was Islam founded on political principles? Is the rise of Islamism, after the Arab Spring, a natural evolution in Muslim-dominated countries? Many would say no. But author Shadi Hamid, an American Muslim and self-described liberal, says the rise of Islamist parties is inevitable. He also argues that mainstream Islamist parties that gain power through democratic, free elections should not be de-legitimized by secular liberals in the West and the Middle East. **This episode originally aired April 12.

Part 1 : An exploration of political Islam, including the idea of Prophet Muhammad as a state builder and why Islamism is a modern phenomenon.

Part 2: Talking to Islamists, Shadi Hamid travelled to three countries in the Middle East—Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt—to better understand the role of political Islam in the modern world.




 

Shadi Hamid

Shadi Hamid, author of Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World, St. Martin's Press (2016).

"From a factual standpoint, the [Muslim]

Brotherhood is not a terrorist organization. It's just not true... there is not a single American expert on the Muslim Brotherhood, who supports designating them a terrorist organization. Even the experts who really, really don't like the Brotherhood have come out against designation.

But also, I think that it would be a problem with some of our allies. So, the Turkish ruling party is an Islamist rooted party. It's inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood school of thought. And they also host the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in exile in Istanbul. So how would that affect that aspect of the relationship with a NATO ally? Or the fact that the democratically elected Prime Minister of Morocco is the leader of the Islamist party there, which is a Muslim Brotherhood inspired party -- it's basically the Muslim Brotherhood analog in Morocco. Ennahda in Tunisia is part of a coalition government, and again it's not a Muslim Brotherhood branch, but it is a Muslim Brotherhood inspired organization. 

So if we're talking about the Muslim Brotherhood as a school of thought, as a kind of broader transnational movement of branches, affiliates and analog organizations, then it has major implications for how we engage with either countries or groups, that's something that we have to factor in."


​Shadi Hamid is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World (St. Martin's Press). He is also a contributing editor for The Atlantic. His previous book Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East (Oxford University Press) was named a Foreign Affairs Best Book of 2014. Hamid served as director of research at the Brookings Doha Center until January 2014. Prior to joining Brookings, he was director of research at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) and a Hewlett Fellow at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. Hamid received his B.S. and M.A. from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, and his Ph.D. in political science from Oxford University.



Further reading:


 

WEB EXTRA | The Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. held a spirited discussion about how Islam shapes public life, law and the state. It explored the central (and at times controversial ideas) in Shadi Hamid's book, Islamic Exceptionalism.

WEB EXTRA | A tour of Turkish President Erdogan's controversial new palace - costs estimated now around $600 million US and four times the size of Versailles.

 


** This episode was produced by Mary Lynk.