Political Islam – both as an ideology and a social movement – has witnessed massive changes since the onset of the Arab uprisings. The Arab uprisings have permanently altered the major political dynamics in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and left a lasting impact on state structures, non-governmental organizations, and political and social movements, including political Islam movements (PIMs). After decades of limited political participation, suppression, marginalization, co-option, and containment strategies pursued by ruling political regimes in the region, PIMs found themselves in an utterly new reality brought by Arab Spring uprisings. In some cases, PIMs in the region were able to gain prominence and international acceptance for the first time in their histories with commencement of democratization. In other cases, positioned as non-state actors, PIMs were entangled in protracted civil wars fueled by complicated, and often shifting, regional alliances. However, PIMs’ integration into the domestic political spheres, alongside an array of other longly excluded political forces, were not sustained as the Arab uprisings were, in most countries, rolled back by the largely untouched networks loyal to previous regimes in state institutions. In most countries PIMs had a stake in the political power settings, these movements experienced extensive repression, which targeted a string of ideologically diverse political and social movements that led the uprisings. Overall, Arab Spring uprisings have changed the dynamics of inclusion/exclusion of PIMs in the MENA region.
These dramatic events are today having far-reaching impacts on PIMs in terms of ideology, structure, and geopolitical posturing. Fragmentation, radicalization, de-politicization, moderation, and organizational re-modeling are evolving features triggered by the Arab Spring uprisings and were brought onto center stage of PIMs. Thus, the goal of this workshop Al Sharq Forum held was to bring together academics, political Islam senior leaders, and state policymakers from the region, to inquire into and assess the different political, structural, and ideological transformations of PIMs that are taking place in the post-Arab uprisings’ era, and to shed light on future possible trajectories that the phenomenon of Islamism and PIMs may experience in the near future. Thus, this report is based on the discussions held in the event between the participants.