For the past few years, much of the scholarly literature on Islamist movements has danced around the “participation/ moderation” idea: that participation in democratic politics tends to moderate the ideology and positions of Islamists. I choose my term deliberately. When I say “danced around” I do not mean that scholars have endorsed its automatic applicability; far from it. Most have eschewed the vague term “moderation,” but even those who have used it have tried to give it specificity. And they have noted that the “participation” in question has generally been in non-democratic systems, so that a generalization culled from scholarship on political party behavior in democratic electoral systems (one that has plenty of qualifications and exceptions attached) is unlikely to be transferable to elections in which the existing regime will not allow itself to lose.Read the rest of Political Islam becomes less political.
Nathan J. Brown
Nathan J. Brown is professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. A former Carnegie Scholar, Fulbright scholar, Woodrow Wilson fellow, and current Guggenheim Fellow, he is author most recently of When Victory is Not an Option: Islamist Movements in Arab Politics (Cornell University Press, 2012).