The Future of Political Islam

June 15, 2016
9:00 am -

More than five years ago, popular uprisings across the Middle East rocked the region’s authoritarian order to its core. Groups espousing some version of political Islam, not Western-style democracy, appeared to be among the biggest beneficiaries of the resulting turmoil. Elections in Tunisia and Egypt greatly empowered Islamist movements affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. They were cheered on by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, whose leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan clearly envisioned himself leading a broader Islamist renaissance.  

But a half decade later, political Islam’s future seems less clear cut, largely overshadowed by the violent jihadism of the Islamic State. The Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt was overthrown in a military coup in 2013. Tunisia’s Ennadha Party has recently announced that it was abandoning Islamist politics. Rather than finding himself at the head of a region-wide Islamist ascendance, Turkey’s Erdogan and the AKP appear more isolated than ever internationally.

What are the implications of these developments for the fate of political Islam? How enduring are the setbacks likely to be? How popular do Islamist movements remain? What lessons should be drawn about U.S. policy toward Islamist parties?

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies hosted a conversation on the current state and future of political Islam in the Middle East. The discussion featured Reuel Marc Gerecht, Senior Fellow at FDD, Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Jenny White, Professor at Boston University and Turkey expert, and was moderated by John Hannah, Senior Counselor at FDD.