Islamist Parties and Democracy: Going Back to the Origins

Issue Date July 2008
Volume 19
Issue 3
Page Numbers 13-18
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Until recently, the very idea of an Islamist political party would have appeared a contradiction in terms. Hassan al-Banna, founder of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and one of the forebears of Islamism, was cautious to refer to his group as movement rather not a party; for him, political parties and even nation-states were Western inventions that could have no place in the global Islamic polity (the umma). But how much does the modern Islamist party represent a departure from traditional Islamism versus a tactical retreat in the face of powerful secularist regimes? Whether Islamists will accept an authority separate from shari‘a and how they will define the minimum qualifications of candidates for public office promise to be decisive issues.