Political Islam and the US
Can the Muslim Brotherhood and the United States become friends?
In the wake of the Arab Spring, the US must deal with Islamist groups like Ennahdha and the Muslim Brotherhood. What challenges and opportunities are presented by formal diplomatic relations?
Joyce Karam, The Majalla, Nov 2, 2011
The rise of Islamist movements in the aftermath of the Arab Spring is representing both a challenge and an opportunity to the West as it looks to successful democratic transitions and maintaining its security and strategic interest in the broader Middle East.
The victory of Ennahdha moderate Islamic party in Tunisia, the solid support (35 percent) enjoyed by the Muslim brotherhood in neighboring Egypt, and the participation of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood in the new Syria National Council established in Istanbul last month, as well as the embrace of the head of Libya’s National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdul Jalil of “the Islamic Sharia as the main source of law,” are several indications of the growing importance of political Islamist movements in the Arab world. The roots of these movements in Arab societies—going back to 1928 in the case of Egypt—in addition to their organizational capacity which trumps other liberal and leftist groups, is giving them an edge in filling the void left by the departing dictators in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya.
The shifting political status quo makes the new Islamist movements key players in the democratic transitions ahead. Undoubtedly, the shifting political status quo makes the new Islamist movements key players in the democratic transitions ahead, and a force that representatives of western governments must reckon with as they each try to maintain their influence in the region. However, the Islamists’ foreign policy agendas, oriented by rejecting imperialism and opposing Israel, pose a challenge for the West.
Speaking to The Majalla about the rise of Islamic parties, Nathan Brown, author and expert on Arab politics and Islamist movements, suggests the key question is “whether they can be integrated as regular political actors without dominating the system.” The Iranian model embodies that risk, as Iran transformed into a military theocracy after its revolution that overthrew the authoritarian Shah in 1979.
For the West, Brown sees some bumps in the road as Europe and the US try to remain engaged and protect their vital security and strategic interests. He cites the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as one example, as well as counterterrorism and the US regional security presence. Since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has made clear its intent to “rethink” the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel if it takes power.
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On Tunisia's election results - Al-Ahram
Western Responsibility to Protect the Arab Spring - Huffington Post