Moderate Islamism- Key to Democracy?
Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, argues in a new policy briefing that the U.S. must reassess its policy toward moderate Islamist groups in the Middle East, or potentially see a trend of radicalization emerge. According to Hamid, major Islamist parties– in particular, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan’s Islamic Action Front (IAF), which operate within countries that are key U.S. allies and leading recipients of U.S. aid –find themselves in “a state of crisis” as they face both increased repression from the current regimes and internal party divisions. Under these circumstances, he points out, moderate groups are reconsidering their positions on a number of issues, including participation in and validation of crucial upcoming national elections in both countries. To support these groups and prevent the rise of more radical elements in their place, Hamid says that the Obama administration should take two important steps. First, it should “publicly affirm the right of all opposition actors, including Islamists, to participate in upcoming elections,” and back up this affirmation with “a consistent American policy of opposing not just the arrests of secular activists but Islamist ones as well.” Second, the administration must “empower U.S. embassies to begin substantive engagement with Islamist groups.” In Hamid’s estimation, though “the Obama administration has emphasized its belief in engaging a diverse range of actors,” thus far “it has failed to reach out to many of the largest, most influential groups in the region”– a situation that must be remedied.