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Better Elected Islamists Than Dictators

The BriefGet Up To Speed

The popular uprisings of the Arab Spring have left a leadership void that Islamist parties have been quick to fill. A longtime supporter of former strongmen like Egypt'€™s Mubarak and Tunisia'€™s Ben Ali, the U.S. now faces the uncomfortable result of Arab democracy: €”the rise of Islamist parties that are less amenable to the West than their autocratic predecessors. Will the Islamists, who once embraced violence, slowly liberalize as they face the difficulties of state leadership? Or will it mean the growth of anti-Americanism and radicalization in the region?


The Obama administration has jettisoned Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, a compliant dictator who represented our interests, in favor of the chimera of a popular democratic movement that, like the one in Iran in 1979, has proved to be merely a stepping-stone to the rise of the fundamentalists.

Sunday, December 11, 2011
Abraham H. Miller

The toppling of the Arab dictators was inevitable; unfortunately, however, just as inevitable is what is going to follow their overthrow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Moshe Arens

The idea that an Islamist victory will lead to democracy is misguided and dangerous.

Friday, April 20, 2012
Robert R. Reilly

Turkish Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan once said, ‘Democracy is like a train. We shall get out when we arrive at the station we want.’ As we survey the consequences of the Arab Spring, it seems more likely that the 'station' will not be one that we, in the West, will want.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Bruce Thornton

In Egypt elections for president today, the role of Islam in government is a big question. But a freedom-based interpretation of sharia can support democracy in the Arab world. Such a form of sharia in the early stages of the Iran Revolution set a precedent – before it was snuffed out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Mahmood Delkhasteh and Hassan Rezaei

The fact that Islamists' real political success has yet to be tested underscores how important it is to refrain from declaring either triumph or disaster based on any given incremental development in a tortuously complex process that is ultimately about political bargaining.

Thursday, July 19, 2012
Tamara Cofman Wittes

Islam is compatible with democracy and liberalism.

Saturday, June 9, 2012
Haroon Siddiqui

Democratization in the Arab world certainly is fragile and can stumble badly in the months and years ahead. Islamist parties will be in the thick of any such bad news—not because they are Islamist, but because their political success has put them in that position.

Sunday, December 4, 2011
Paul Pillar

Analysis and essential background on the central issues facing the Middle East one year after the uprisings began.

Monday, December 12, 2011
Jonathan Masters and Aimee Rawlins

The Islamists Are Coming examines the broad spectrum of political philosophies that distinguish the Islamist movements, as well as the economic and social pressures that will shape the agendas of those that do come to govern.

Wednesday, December 31, 1969
Multiple Authors

The Arab Spring nations differed dramatically from each other before the region-wide upheaval began, so it logically follows that the revolutions themselves, not to mention their conclusions and aftermaths, should also differ dramatically.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Michael J. Totten

Just as the youth of the Arab Spring have found themselves colliding with their nation’s embedded elites and vastly more experienced political players, who have complicated their path forward to ‘democratic revolution,’ Arab nations have been reminded of something else in the course of this upheaval: they cannot resolve their domestic issues in isolation.

Monday, January 16, 2012
Jon Lee Anderson

Arab nationalism is dead and Islamism is its successor. This is what the Arab Spring has wrought.

Thursday, July 12, 2012
Charles Krauthammer

Islamist parties appear to be truly national. There does not seem to be an overarching “Islamist International” to which they all belong, and they do not even seem to be in limited contact with each other.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Marina Ottaway

A history of the Muslim Brotherhood and its role in Middle East politics today.

Monday, June 25, 2012
Jayshree Bajoria

The many repressions of Egypt’s 30-year president.

Saturday, February 4, 2012
Elizabeth Dickinson

The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) has the public’s trust, for now. It is one thing to sustain a reputation for courageous and principled resistance to a corrupt regime; it is quite another to sustain a reputation for sound government.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Feisal G. Mohamed
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Huffington Post/AP

Given its growing control over key government institutions and its unmatched mobilizing capabilities, the Muslim Brotherhood will likely remain Egypt's most consequential political actor for many years to come. But who are the men who make up this uniquely cohesive and secretive "society," and what impact will they have on the country's domestic and foreign policy?

Saturday, September 1, 2012
Eric Trager

Examines the power struggle between Mohammed Morsi and the Egyptian military.

Thursday, August 9, 2012
Steven Cook

The Muslim Brotherhood remains committed to Islamicizing Egyptian society as a first step towards building an Islamic state. Its newfound political power, its leaders say, merely gives it new tools for expediting this process.

Monday, October 1, 2012
Eric Trager

This report provides a brief overview of the transition under military thus far and information on U.S. foreign aid to Egypt.

Thursday, June 21, 2012
Jeremy M. Sharp

Examines role of Salafi party in Egyptian politics.

Thursday, June 28, 2012
Daniel Byman

Survey report which summarizes that despite economic difficulties and political uncertainty, Egyptians remain upbeat about the course of the nation and prospects for progress.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Pew Research Center

The transition from opposition party to party in power is not easy but the Muslim Brotherhood has tools to wield effectively.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Profile of Bashar al-Assad, his life, rise to power and violent, desperate grip to hold on to it.

Friday, June 15, 2012
Roula Khalaf

Until Washington commits to either helping one side or leading an intervention in Syria, nothing else we do will make much difference.

Friday, August 10, 2012
Kenneth Pollack

The Syrian rebels aren't secular Jeffersonians. As far as America is concerned, it doesn't much matter.

Thursday, August 23, 2012
Gary Gambill

Iran sees Syria as frontline of defense vs. the United States so it is backing the Assad regime to the hilt.

Thursday, August 25, 2011
Geneive Abdo

Examines questions about the global response to the Syrian uprising and ramifications for the region and the world.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Jonathan Masters

Poll shows widespread condemnation of Bashar al- Assad among his Arab and Turkish neighbors and calls for him to step away from power.

Thursday, June 21, 2012
Pew Research Center

Profile of candidates for election with Islamic and in some cases jihadist histories and those who may vote for them.

Saturday, June 23, 2012
David Kirkpatrick

Report on Libyan election results show liberal alliance ahead and Islamists far behind.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Esam Mohamed and Maggie Michael

After their victory in Tunisia's election, a look at what Ennahda, sometimes described as 'God's party' stands for.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Aidan Lewis

Some of Tunisia's Islamist-led interim government's opponents like to argue that Islamists once in power do not let go—one man, one vote, one time. But the country's Islamist party, Nahda, has repeatedly declared its commitment to multi-party democracy.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fundamentalist Islamists in Tunisia try to exert influence on the country as it moves unsteadily toward democracy.

Thursday, August 30, 2012
Jeffrey Fleishman

Profile of power struggles and definition of Morocco’s Justice and Development Party (PJD).

Friday, July 13, 2012
Mohammed Masbah
Saturday, December 3, 2011

Morocco's constitutional experiment is an ember of hope in the Arab world today and should be regarded as such in Washington.

Thursday, December 1, 2011
Ahmed Charai

Pearl revolution protestors are sentenced to prison as Amnesty International and others decry a lack of promised reform in Bahrain.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Ian Black

Examines the failed revolution and the U.S. choice to stand back while Saudi Arabia came to the Kingdom's rescue.

Monday, January 9, 2012
Kelly McEvers

The Kingdom is making an honest effort to come clean on its response to the Pearl Uprising.

Monday, April 2, 2012
Kenneth Bandler

Tawakul Karman won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for her tireless activism on Yemen's streets. Now that her country's dictator has stepped down, why is she still protesting?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Bobby Ghosh

The relatively peaceful transfer of power in Yemen from President Ali Abdullah Saleh to Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
David Ignatius
Wednesday, December 31, 1969

Lessons from Turkey's experience with political Islam.

Sunday, April 1, 2012
Ömer Ta?p?nar

Argues that the true victor of the Arab Spring is a resurgent Turkey.

Thursday, January 5, 2012
Jason Pack and Martin van Crevald

The Turkish government has been using different instruments, such as democracy promotion, Islamic solidarity, and economic interdependence to foster stability while playing for greater influence over the emerging regimes. This may work in the short but not long term.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Sebnem Gumuscu

Explores the roots of Turkey's Justice and Development Party, concludes that its Islamist politics are a threat to democracy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012
Stephen Schwartz

Former FBI top agent Ali Soufan, who investigated the 1998 bombings at U.S. embassies in East Africa and the 2000 strike on the USS Cole, comments on violent demonstrations against U.S. diplomatic missions in the Middle East--including an attack that killed J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, on September 11.

Friday, September 14, 2012
Jonathan Masters interviews Ali Soufan

When the protests against an American-made online video mocking the Prophet Muhammad exploded in about 20 countries, the source of the rage was more than just religious sensitivity, political demagogy or resentment of Washington.

Sunday, September 16, 2012
David D. Kirkpatrick

Polling shows a continuing desire for freedom, democracy and Islam among Muslims in the Middle East.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Pew Research Center

Brookings 2011 Arab Opinion poll surveyed 3,000 people in Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates in October 2011, assessing attitudes toward the United States and the Obama administration, prospects for Arab-Israeli peace, the impact of the Arab awakening, the outlook for the Egyptian elections, and opinions on where the region is headed politically.

Saturday, October 1, 2011
Shibley Telhami

Post-election poll in Egypt shows that despite political ideology, Egyptians' priorities are jobs and the economy.

Monday, July 16, 2012
Mohamed Younis