Islamists are Coming
Roughly seven-in-ten or more in six Middle East countries think belief in God is essential to morality, according to a new Pew Research Center study. More than 90 percent of those surveyed in Egypt in Jordan agree.
On March 9, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization along with several Islamic militias fighting the Syrian regime. Both the Brotherhood and the kingdom espouse conservative Sunni interpretations of Islam. But Riyadh has long opposed the Brotherhood for its condemnation of monarchical rule.
To mark International Women’s Day, the Wilson Center’s Middle Program asked 42 women from the Middle East and around the world to share their views on opportunities and obstacles facing women in 2014.
On February 24, Sheikh Rachid al Ghannouchi outlined how Tunisia avoided a political crisis and drafted a constitution despite tension between Islamists and secularists. “In Tunisia, we are learning how to live together and deal with conflicts between secularists and Islamists,” he said at meeting at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Sectarian tensions have become a major part of political life in the Gulf Arab states, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait. Shiites in each state suffer varying degrees of religious discrimination and political marginalization. Tensions are typically portrayed as a spillover effect of sectarian strife elsewhere in the region or Iran’s deliberate incitement of local Shiite communities. But they are only part of the story.
The Islamist led government in Tunisia stepped down after just over two years in power on January 9. The transition to an interim government of technocrats marks the first peaceful handover of power from a democratically elected Islamist party.
Most people in seven Muslim-majority countries from Egypt to Pakistan prefer that a woman completely cover her hair in public, but not necessarily her face, according to a survey from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.
In stark contrast to the euphoria after elections more than two years ago, Islamist political parties across the Middle East now face escalating challenges to their rule. The main drama is playing out in Egypt between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood. But Islamist parties in Tunisia, Libya are also under pressure from emboldened opposition movements.
Tunisia’s Islamists are the first to step aside voluntarily after being elected. But they are also more divided today than ever before. The challenges of being in government rather than trying to topple it have driven sharp new wedges into old cracks within the Ennahda Party.
Salafis today influence Tunisian politics in multiple ways. While the number of militant Salafis remains modest, their activism influences the way in which Tunisians and outside observers think about the state of affairs in the country. Generally speaking, violence has not been a common political tool in Tunisia. But the steady escalation in Salafi militancy over the past two years undermines this reputation.