Islamist Parties and Democracy: Institutions Make the Difference

Issue Date July 2008
Volume 19
Issue 3
Page Numbers 37-42
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Political Islam is often cited as the key challenge to democratization in Muslim nations, but deep currents of authoritarianism may prove more of an obstacle. Traditions of monarchy, military rule, and weak civic institutions block the path of democratic transition throughout the Muslim world. Political Islam does of course present challenges of its own, such as the ambiguity of the Koran on the ideal political order, the vagueness of modern constitutions on the relationship between Islam and the state (particularly as regards the application of shari‘a), and the potential for religious appeals to provoke destructive internecine conflicts. Yet with clear democratic rules and gradual strengthening of state and civil society institutions, Islamist groups will come to realize that they must choose between moderation and marginalization.