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Salafis Versus Islamists

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"Salafis Versus Islamists"

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rather rambling article from Alastair Crooke in The London Review of Books contains this intriguing insight:

The problem for Hamas is that its constituency – the rank and file – and the wider Islamist movement have now embarked on a period of introspection. What is apparent – and this can be ascertained on any number of Islamist websites – is that the mainstream Islamist strategy of pursuing an electoral path to reform is now being questioned. This will have an impact well beyond Palestine – most obviously in Egypt and Jordan. Three events have triggered this reassessment: the sanctions imposed on the Hamas government; last summer’s US-backed war to destroy Hizbullah in Lebanon; and the repression of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which raises not a peep of protest from Europeans. Continued Western hostility towards all Islamists, however moderate their policies, has also frustrated the grass-roots.

At a conference held in Beirut in April, the senior Hamas official present, Usamah Hamadan, was strongly criticised by Fathi Yakan, the leader of Jamaat Islamiyah in Lebanon, for having embarked on the electoral route in the first place. Yakan pointed to the failure – experienced by all Islamists without exception – of those who have participated in their national parliaments. No MP or deputy, from Islamabad to Cairo, or anywhere in between, has succeeded in bringing any significant change to their society. At the same time, young Egyptians in the Muslim Brotherhood have been debating whether their eighty-year-old movement has lost its way. Commentators have been arguing that for it to sit in parliament – while its leaders are being interned, its economic base is being attacked, and legislation is being passed aimed at excluding movements with a religious basis from elections – undermines its credibility and invites derision. The movement, it’s suggested, is too big, rigid and ungainly, and needs to be rethought – and perhaps broken up.

In other words, while Western governments dream up ways to promote moderate alternatives to Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood, events on the ground may be trending in the opposite direction. Meanwhile, I always find that there’s strikingly little self-awareness about the fact that when you hear talk of political reform in Egypt or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia that it’s always taken as a premise that the US will only tolerate US-approved political parties to take power in those countries and that the debate over democracy is a debate over whether democracy would result in a US-approved outcome or how reform can be structured so as to ensure one.

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