Islamist movements and political stability…the intertwined equation

Prepared by: Suleiman Bisharat – Director of Yabous Center for Consultation and Strategic Studies, researcher in Middle Eastern Studies, Arab American University Palestine.

The popular movement in many Arab countries, or what was called the “Arab Spring,” contributed to the relative involvement of many Islamic movements in political systems. Some of them were unable to maintain this presence, and others were removed from it after a series of restrictions related to external international pressure, or the internal motives of interest groups in those countries in order to preserve their political interests.

This experience, and what preceded it more than two decades ago for the emergence of Islamic movements, re-presents with it many of the axes that this article attempts to identify through dismantling the intertwined equation, starting from the discrepancy in the conceptual definition of contemporary Islamic movements, passing through the identification of their characteristics and the reasons for their rise in The Middle East region, up to the extent to which it is related to political stability in the Arab region in light of the presence of many determinants.

First, the conceptual definition

In the second half of the twentieth century, many social protest movements emerged as part of attempts to liberate from colonialism and imperial control, which provided an opportunity for religious movements to integrate with these movements to reach independence and national liberation, and with them what became known as “Islamic movements,” or the first nucleus of the form of Islamic movements. Which now focuses on the concepts of development, combating poverty and establishing service projects that contribute to strengthening its popular and public presence.

According to the stage of formation and its circumstances, Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi believes that the Islamic movement can be defined as organized popular action to return Islam to the leadership of society,” while Muhammad Fathi Othman defines it as “the movement or movements that appeared after the first quarter of the twentieth century, where these movements worked to mobilize the masses.” With more emphasis on the spiritual and intellectual education of individuals by presenting Islam as a comprehensive system of life.”

As for Abdel Moneim Hanafi, he defines it as “a modern term for a group that works continuously to change the secular system into the Islamic religious system and imprint that in Islamic societies.” But they agree on the rule from which they all proceed.

Haider Ibrahim defines it as “organizations affiliated with Islam that are active in the field of Islamic work and seek to achieve a comprehensive renaissance for the peoples, either individually or collectively.” Bashir Abdel-Al believes that these movements derive their intellectual origins from Islamic Sharia and that their goal is to achieve the entire religion in real life, so they adopt a broad and comprehensive discourse that simulates the multiple areas of life. As for Abd al-Ati Muhammad Ahmad, he considers them as “social and political engines in society whose goals, characteristics and strategies are affected by the prevailing economic, social and political conditions, like the rest of the political forces.”

A deep reading of the previous definitions and any other definitions that thinkers and researchers may come up with are based on two main determinants: the first; These movements adopt thought based on the religious dimension, which stems from the legitimate vision of the Islamic religion for all aspects of life. Here, the Islamic movements differentiate among themselves in this aspect through interpretations of interpretation or tools and forms of application of their programs; Some of them come out within a moderate framework, and another is strict. The second determinant is related to the societal dimension. These movements focus on the popular tide by adopting the issues that affect it, whether those related to achieving development concepts or providing a service dimension in the health, education and family solidarity sectors.

In spite of the attempt to link the societal structures of the thought of Islamic movements and popular issues, these definitions did not relate to the third determinant that can be added in the definition of these movements, which is to confront colonial projects in the region, foremost of which is the Palestinian cause, as the presence of colonialism constituted an important space in promoting Or the emergence of these movements after they were limited at the beginning of the struggle to leftist and secular forces. Examples of this are Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Second: The characteristics of Islamic movements

Islamic movements are characterized by a set of characteristics; Some of them are related to their structure, and others are related to practice. In the first part, Islamic movements are distinguished by their intellectual construction, as each Islamic movement adopts an ideological approach that represents its reference and is reflected in its vision and programs, and accordingly adopts its positions, whether societal issues or political participation, and at the same time makes it more distinct from the rest of the Islamic movements, and the intellectual construction takes an ideological character to reflect this on its affiliates in their conduct or application of practices on the ground.

As for the second part, it is represented in the organizational structure of these movements, which is based on the hierarchy of the building in different forms as well. However, what unites them is the complete and iron discipline of this structure as an extension of the religious intellectual dimension that forces the movement’s members to adhere to the structure and not to cross it, which is based on To the principle of hearing and obedience and not deviating from the concept of “guardianship of the jurist”. In addition, the majority of Islamic movements enjoy the secrecy of organizational structure in an effort to protect themselves as a result of being targeted as movements opposed to political systems, or are involved in the project of resisting colonialism.

While the characteristics associated with practice are represented by a set of characteristics, foremost of which is the adoption of the goal of social change; This is the common denominator that characterizes Islamic movements out of their rejection of the existing reality to achieve the basic principle for which they are working, which is the establishment of a system based on the Islamic religious reference to include all aspects of life. The second characteristic in this axis is the characteristic of automatic propagation. It is one of the features that gives Islamic movements access to a broad popular base within societies, and this is facilitated by their connection to the religious dimension on the one hand, and their quest for social change on the other side.

Connected to this characteristic is a second characteristic of continuity; As the Islamic movements are capable of continuity and development as they are linked to the Islamic and religious dimension and culture in addition to the societal dimension, which makes it easier for them to preserve themselves, even if they are weak in attendance during a time period, it is easy to restore the momentum and recall in later periods.

The fourth characteristic in this framework is represented in their adoption of the rejectionist nature of the existing conditions, as the Islamic movements rely on this characteristic as one of their existential justifications in light of the political systems that dominate the political and social reality, which reinforces these movements’ push for change and reject this reality either through involvement and participation in the institutional situation. And change with different tools if available, or through the confrontation gate that you may reach if the regimes use a state of repression.

Third: The reasons for its establishment

Many circumstances, factors and changes play a role in the emergence or absence of political and social movements. This applies to Islamic movements whose emergence can be understood within a set of causes and factors, foremost of which is the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate; The loss of the reference that the Ottoman Empire formed for Muslims in the world resulted in the emergence and emergence of many Islamic movements in an attempt to fill the void on the one hand, and meet the needs and developments of social and political reality on the other. In response to Ataturk’s declaration of establishing a modern secular state that would abolish the Islamic state, some intellectuals and jurists rushed to establish the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt under the leadership of Hassan al-Banna.

While the Palestinian issue constituted an important and fundamental dimension among the reasons that motivate the emergence of contemporary Islamic movements, this emerged through two things; The first is the failure of the Arab regimes in their ability to liberate Palestine and restore Jerusalem, and later accept the Israeli entity by signing peace agreements and treaties, as happened at Camp David and the subsequent agreements. As for the second dimension, it is represented in the defeat suffered by the Arab armies after the 67 war. These two dimensions served as a catalyst for the emergence of Islamic movements that stem from the religious and ideological dimension in the face of the occupation and liberation of the Palestinian territories.

The Iranian revolution had a stimulating role for Islamic movements, although this was not directly a result of the difference in the religious approach between the Shiite and Sunni approaches, but the Iranian revolution is considered inspiring for its success in strengthening the social movements that emerged as a result of the reality experienced by the Arab peoples.

As for the other factor, it is represented in the victory of the Afghan Mujahideen movement over the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and the Afghan jihad had a prominent role in strengthening the ideology of the jihadist movement of Islamic movements and stimulating them through intellectual expansion, as well as experiment on the ground, and granting the participating elements from the Arab countries to form a nucleus for many Of the Islamic currents and movements, some of which have taken on a jihadist military character.

Fourth: the political ascent

The period after the year 2000 witnessed a case of the political rise of Islamic movements in a number of Arab countries, at the forefront of which was the two Muslim Brotherhood movements in Egypt, which won 17 seats in the Egyptian Parliament in the parliamentary session (2000-2005) compared to only one seat in the parliamentary session ( 1995-2000), while the results of the second Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 constituted a qualitative leap for the Islamic movements after Hamas won 76 seats out of 132 seats that is the total number of members of the Legislative Council.

The state of the political rise of contemporary Islamic movements can be understood through a set of internal and external factors and others stemming from the regional environment. Where the internal factors are related to the ability of Islamic movements to present a successful model for political participation through the competition of opposition parties, as is the case in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Palestine, in light of the decline of opposition forces with other intellectual extensions and the decline of secular and leftist forces.

As for the external factors that prepared and helped the political rise of the Islamic movements, foremost of which was the events of September 11, 2001, which formed a point of challenge between the attempt to describe the Islamic movements in the nature of terrorism and between proving the existence of these movements in the face of attempts to eradicate under the effort to spread the values ​​of democracy in the Arab world, a term that The United States tried to present it as a justification for its interventions in the region, and this experience had its reflection in strengthening the presence of Islamic movements as a matter of rejecting external interference on the one hand, and on the other, the fact that many Islamic currents made intellectual revisions to them that reinforced their adoption of moderate discourse.

While the factors stemming from the regional environment constituted the third factor for the political rise of Islamic movements, which is represented in the failure of the options and theses adopted by the official Arab regimes in confronting the Zionist project in the region, in addition to the American and Western rejection of the results of the legislative elections and the rise of Hamas to rule in Palestine and the imposition of the siege on The Gaza Strip, this contradiction between the principles advocated by regional and international countries differ in their application towards the attacks against the Palestinians and the non-acceptance of the results of the democratic elections. Add to that the Israeli war on Lebanon, which strengthened the presence of the Lebanese Hezbollah as a resistance party and also opened the door to it To engage in political action to gain a parliamentary majority.

Fifth: The political stability equation

Once discussing political stability in the Arab region, the equation for the political participation of Islamic movements and the ability to achieve stability always jumps. This always requires dismantling the intertwined equation between the possibility of accepting Islamic movements to smoothly engage in political work in light of elite ruling structures, and parties and currents that used to remain at the top of the political hierarchy. On the other hand, the Islamic movements do not hide their intention to reach power under many headings, including fighting corruption, removing dictatorship and forces with external links.

This equation makes the intertwining of the political situation dominating the relationship between Islamic movements and political systems, and thus maintaining a state of caution from each party in it by granting the other party full legitimacy to complete its political vision, which makes the equation of political stability in the Arab situation incomplete, and confirms this A set of experiences, as happened with the experience of Hamas in Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and what is happening now with the Ennahda movement in Tunisia.

In conclusion, it can be said that the experience of contemporary Islamic movements in political action is still incomplete. As there is still a problem that is represented by the Islamic movements themselves, which need to review their vision towards the concepts of political action and break many of the barriers and fears of their presence in the political system. As for the second party, it is the ruling elites and political systems that believe that in their dictatorship they can remain in control of the joints of life, while not realizing that this control can fuel the moment of revolution or a sudden exit and overthrow it, as is the case in the experience of the Arab Spring revolutions. Therefore, this equation can be replaced by reaching a conviction of the strength of the presence of Islamic forces and movements and their harmony with the political elites and the political system, so that they complement each other in the face of any external interference or challenges.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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