february, 2018

11feballdayPolitical Trends in Middle East After Arab Uprisings Series: Transformation of Political Islam


Event Description

Political Islam – both as an ideology and a social movement – has witnessed massive changes since the onset of the Arab uprisings. Despite all its shortcomings, the Arab uprisings have permanently altered the political dynamics in the Al Sharq region and left a lasting impact on its social and political structures, including political Islam movements (PIMs).

After decades of limited political participation, suppression, marginalization, co-option and containment, PIMs found themselves in an utterly new reality. In some cases, PIMs in the region were able to gain prominence and international acceptance for the first time in their histories. In other cases, positioned as non-state actors, PIMs were involved in protracted civil wars fueled by complicated regional alliances and enmities. In several cases, they fell victim to bloody crackdowns concomitant with anti-political Islam and counter-revolutionary campaigns. Overall, the Arab uprisings have changed the dynamics of inclusion/exclusion of PIMs in the Al Sharq region in a wide variety of ways.

These dramatic events are having far-reaching impacts on PIMs in terms of ideology, structure, and geopolitical posturing. Defections, radicalization, de-politicization, moderation, and organizational re-modeling are just some examples of the new dynamics that have been triggered by the Arab uprisings and brought onto center stage. Thus, the goal of this forthcoming conference is to inquire into and assess the different structural and ideological transformations of PIMs that are taking place in the post-Arab uprisings era and to foresee the possible trajectories that the phenomenon of political Islam and PIMs may pursue in the near future.


All Day (Sunday)




    • Day 1
    • 11 February 2018
    • 09:15 Welcome speech by Galip Dalay, Senior associate fellow at Al Sharq Strategic Research09:15 - 09:30Welcome speech by Galip Dalay, Senior associate fellow at Al Sharq Strategic ResearchSpeakers: Galip Dalay


    • 10:00 1ST SESSION: MAKING SENSE OF THE NEW REALITY10:00 - 11:30The aim of this session is addressing the emergent trends in the Al Sharq region that have re-shaped the organizational structure, ideology, and behavior of PIMs. Through having an organic presence in their countries’ civil societies and to lesser extent political spheres, which expanded in the Arab uprisings’ period, PIMs con-tributed to the creation of the region’s currently emerging features, reflecting a mutually constitutive relationship. Therefore, it is important for the conference to inquire into sub-regional features to foresee the future of PIMs in the Al Sharq re-gion overall. Please note that all of the factors and features below should be dis-cussed as they relate to political Islam and PIMs.
      1) A Collapsing Regional Order: How did political change contribute to the change of the regional order in the Al Sharq region? Will the demise of the re-gional order in the post-Arab uprisings period give birth to a new regional order?
      2) Failing States: Why is the phenomenon of state failure being disseminated in the post-Arab uprisings’ period?
      3) Reviving Authoritarianism: To what extent are transitions to authoritarianism sustainable in the region in the post-Arab Uprisings ‘period?
      4) The Expansion of Sectarianism: Why did sectarianism increase during the Arab uprisings and expand further in the post-Arab uprisings period? What are their drivers? How do these drivers transform the region?
      5) Re-surging Primordial Identities: Why did pre-modern/primordial social struc-tures resurge (e.g. tribalism) in the context and aftermath of the Arab uprisings? Are these resurging structures hybridizing with modern social structures? What are the (geo-) political implications of this hybridization?
      6) Lingering Humanitarian Crises: How are the region’s humanitarian crises changing the conditions of political change?

    • 11:45 2ND SESSION: POLITICAL ISLAM IN THE ARAB UPRISINGS ERA11:45 - 13:15This session will be dedicated to mapping out the main challenges and opportu-nities that have emerged out of the Arab uprisings’ era and the post-Arab upris-ings’ period for PIMs in the realms of politics, economy, and civil action. With-in this broad scope, PIMs’ policy choices have had far-reaching implications on civil-military relations, identity transformations, the nature of pre-existing sec-tarian polarization in the region, and global responses to the rise of PIMs.
      1) Being in Power for the First Time: Evolving from quite static spheres of politi-cal action, how were the experiences of political wings of PIMs/political Islam parties shaped (the Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt, the Ennahda Movement in Tunisia, and the Justice and Development Party in Morocco)? How did they address critical issues (e.g. civil-military relations, security reform, economic re-structuring, and civil rights)? Did they draw on previous experiences in under-taking reform (e.g. Eastern Europe and Latin America)?
      2) Sectarian/Ideological Polarizations: Sectarianism (Sunni–Shia) exacerbated by expanding civil conflicts in the Mashriq sub-region (specifically the Levant and Iraq) prompted PIMs in power in other parts of the Al Sharq region to respond to these evolving geopolitical challenges. How did these responses contribute to the formulation of the discourses of PIMs in power toward their religious identi-ty and others? Did these responses have a knock on impact on the domestic pol-itics of their countries? In this context, how did PIMs in power handle the sen-sitive topic of civil rights concerning religious freedoms?
      3) The Menace of Jihadi Militancy: Emerging and expanding rigorously amid a growing security vacuum in the region, jihadi militant movements represented a tempting alternative to PIMs that were either repressed or secularized and politi-cally integrated. How did PIMs in power (and out) perceive the consequent dis-cursive challenges to preserve their popular support? How did PIMs attempt to tackle this challenge?
      4) Global and Regional Campaigns Against PIMs: How did PIMs respond to campaigns in the West sponsored by rival regional actors aimed at limiting their political participation in their countries? Did PIMs embark on a counter-public relations campaign to present a different image? How did PIMs engage with these regional actors?

    • 14:30 3RD SESSION: THE ONGOING METAMORPHOSIS OF POLITICAL ISLAM14:30 - 16:00In this session, we will discuss the impact of the challenges and opportunities that the Arab uprisings and its aftermath brought with them and where the PIMs’ ideologies and organizational structures were influenced. This session is specifically focused on the following realms of transformation:

      1) Radicalization vs. Moderation: The rise and expansion of jihadism in the Al Sharq region have had, in some cases, struck PIMs, leading to organizational fragmentation and the creation of radical offshoots, while in other cases they have had led PIMs to round off their Islamic edges to protect themselves from political exclusion. What are the mechanisms designed by PIMs to tackle these challenges? Beside the rise of jihadi militancy, what are the intra-organizational/national/regional/global factors that drive PIMs to cohesive-ness/fragmentation and radicalization/preservation/secularization of values?

      2) Politicized vs. De-politicized Islamism: Since the eruption of the Arab upris-ings there have been two conflicting paradigms for the governance of PIMs, which have also carried critical ideological dimensions. The first is the trans-formation of PIMs into political parties. The second is the preservation of a structure that combines political activity and religious preaching. The third is transforming PIMs into non-governmental organizations solely aimed at reli-gious preaching. What are the intra-organizational/national/regional/global factors that push PIMs into one of these three directions?

      3) Pan-Islamism vs. Nationally-confined Islamism: The Arab uprisings have led to the reconfiguration of politics in countries that saw changes as a result. Why did some PIMs resist organizational change while other pursued it? Why did some PIMs disassociate themselves from global political Islam networks while others preserved their connections? What are the intra-organizational/national/regional/global conditions that influence the policy choices of PIMs to pursue either path?

    • 16:15 4TH SESSION: FUTURE SCENARIOS FOR PIMS16:15 - 17:45The aim of this session is to construct different relevant scenarios for the future transformations of PIMs in Al Sharq in terms of ideology, organizational struc-ture, and geopolitical posturing. The scenarios should reveal the hidden dynam-ics that may drive future transformations in the following themes in an inter-connected sense:

      1) Domestic Governance and Geopolitical Posturing: How will PIMs removed from power draw on their legacies in power to improve their future policy agendas? How will PIMs still in power improve their governance strategies and policy choices? How are PIMs out of power/in power expected to address the critical problem of sectarianism on the domestic level, taking in consid-eration its geopolitical dimension? Will jihadi militancy in the region con-tinue to pose a discursive threat to mainstream political Islam and PIMs? How will PIMs respond to this threat discursively? What will be the geopolit-ical responses/drivers of potential discursive transformations in PIMs?

      2) Ideological Polarization and Structural Changes: In addition to the ideolog-ical and discursive challenge posed by growing jihadi militancy, how will PIMs continue to define themselves vis-à-vis inclusionary/exclusionary secu-lar political forces? In the scenario of regime change, how will PIMs perceive the prospects of building coalitions with secular political forces in their countries? Ideologically challenged by jihadi militancy and secular political forces/regimes, how will PIMs in the region address the continuously prob-lematic relationship between political activity and religious preaching? What are the prospects of change within PIMs through policy diffusion, thanks to the transformation of other PIMs? Within this context, can PIMs develop and maintain democratic and flexible organizational models? Similarly, how will PIMs continue to address the challenge of whether they should maintain or cut off their organizational connections to global networks of PIMs?

    • 17:45 FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS17:45 - 18:30Final Recommandations

Speakers for this event

  • Wadah Khanfar

    Wadah Khanfar

    President of The Al Sharq Forum

    Wadah Khanfar is the President of the Al Sharq Forum and former Director General of the Al Jazeera Network. He is a board member of the International Crisis Group and Global Editors Network (GEN). Khanfar has been named as one of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 global thinkers of 2011 as well as one of Fast Company’s ‘Most Creative People in Business’ of the year.

    President of The Al Sharq Forum

  • Galip Dalay

    Galip Dalay

    Senior Associate Fellow at Al Sharq Strategic Research

    Research director at Al Sharq Forum and senior associate fellow on Turkey and Kurdish Affairs at Al Jazeera Center for Studies. He previously worked as a visiting fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin and as a political researcher at SETA Foundation in Ankara. He is a regular contributor to German Marshall Fund of the United States’ on Turkey policy brief series, and a columnist for Middle East Eye.

    Senior Associate Fellow at Al Sharq Stra...

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