Islamist Parties and Democracy: Are They Democrats? Does It Matter?

Issue Date July 2008
Volume 19
Issue 3
Page Numbers 19-24
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The journalistic and policy communities have been alive with speculation as to whether Islamist groups involved in politics—including Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Palestine’s Hamas— are true believers in democracy or calculating pragmatists who, in Steven Cook’s words, are “seeking to use democratic procedures in order to advance an antidemocratic agenda.” This article suggests that instead of focusing on the credibility of such groups’ democratic aspirations, we would do better to consider the ways in which democratic institutions in Middle Eastern countries can be fortified and liberal democratic parties freed from the grip of the authoritarian regimes throughout the region.