Prospects for Democratization in the Arab World in Light of the Exclusion of Political Islam

May 01

The latest issue of al-Ruwaq al-`Arabi, a journal published by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, is dedicated to the question of the future of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The entire issue (in Arabic) can be downloaded as a pdf from here.

I was asked to write an article about the prospects for democratization in Egypt and the Arab world more broadly in light of the exclusion or marginalization of political Islam from the sphere of legitimate politics.  My contribution can be found at pages 157-71 of the issue.  The basic argument is that democratization in Egypt cannot proceed in the absence of a strong social coalition capable of confronting the corrupt rent-seeking institutions of the state and that it will be impossible to craft such a coalition in the absence of the active participation of Islamists, who I estimate to represent at a minimum 25% of the populace.

I make the additional argument that democracy also requires normative commitments on the part of the citizenry to establish and defend a political order that is representative and that “political Islam” is one, albeit a very important (even if not philosophically necessary) source of political morality that can provide citizens with the proper motivations to construct and defend a democracy. More importantly, in the absence of political Islam, it is not clear what moral resources presently exist in Egypt and the wider Arab world capable of sustaining a broad democratic commitment.  For both of these reasons (the empirical and the normative), the piece argues that the inevitable result of excluding the Muslim Brotherhood, specifically, and political Islam generally, will be the return of the security state.

I wrote this article in the fall of 2013, while the amendments to the 2012 constitution were still under consideration.  Sadly, its predictions did not prove to be mistaken.

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