The rise of the Islamic Political ideology in the Muslim majority countries can be dated back to 19th century. It was first emerged as a political ideology in modern terms with the aim of state and with the rhetoric of anti-colonialism. Early 20th century can be regarded as the Golden Age of Political Islam in Middle East and Muslim World in general. The groups such as Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jamaat-i Islam-i in Pakistan are pioneers of Islamist movements. Islamist movements in the Middle East are very old actors in society but very new actors in the politics. However, they have both a lack of experience and political theory to implement their motto; “Islam is the solution.”
The main idea when the uprisings started in 2011 most analysts commented that these uprisings will result in Islamic Republic. In addition to that general belief was over the fact that if this scenario comes true, say the Islamic Movements came to power, the Egyptian relations with U.S. and Israel would be in danger. Than the question rise; why both Muslim Brotherhood supported Freedom and Justice Party formed an alliance called Democratic Alliance for Egypt that gain 47.2 per cent of votes, Islamic Bloc which was consisting of three parties. Al Nour party (the political wing of Al Dawa Al Salafiyya), Authenticity Party and Building and Development Party (the political wing of al-Gama’a the group that organized assassination of Anwar Sadat) received 27.8 per cent of votes in elections in 2011. The answer to this question lies on their suppression by Egyptian state and social movements rather than political and military ways and their charity works to youth, women and unemployed.
What is also need to be questioned is the transition of the groups, because we had witnessed change in the political ideology of the groups. The situation of An Nahda party in Tunisia is rather more stable we can say. The organization was established in 1981 and influenced by Egyptian Muslim brotherhood. They were supporting a way of modern Islamism rather than radicalism. The group leader Rashid Al Ghannushi completed his education in Sorbonne, was imprisoned to life sentence in 1987 but later exiled to Europe and until the fall of Ben Ali he lived in London. Although there are doubts about the position of, compared to Egyptian Islamists, the party is promoting moderate Islamic ideology rather than radicalism. For instance Ghannushi give an interview to Radio 4 where he openly stated that “We don’t want a religious state. We want a civic state where the source of legitimacy is the people, the society.” He also commonly states the importance of the case of current Turkish government Justice and Development party. This also opens a new debate over the fact about the applicability of Turkish model in Middle East which is the topics of this congress. But in short, this can also be seen in the names of political parties; especially a comparison can be made between “Justice and Development Party” in Turkey and “Freedom and Justice Party” in Egypt.
Another point that needs to be discussed is the perception and comparisons that was made during the protests in Arab Spring. The comparison between Egypt or Tunisian revolutions in 2011 and Iran 1979 is not plausible. Iranian revolution was led by a prominent Islamic leader Ayatollah Khomeini where nearly all opposition groups gathered around him. However the protests that we saw in Egypt and Tunisia were completely different where, firstly, there was not a single leader that gathered people around him similar to Khomeini in Iran. In addition to that the demands of the protestors were not including the Islamic system but it was rather uniting on one single goal, the overthrow of dictators of their country. We can also compare the slogans of the two protests. In Iran people were chanting a very famous slogan “Istiqlal Azadi, Cumhuri İslami” (Independence, freedom and Islamic Republic). During the Arab uprisings on the other hand, such slogans were popular among dissidents; “Ash Shab Yurid Isqat An-Nizam” (The people want to bring down the regime) and “A’ish, Hurriya, Karama Insaniya,” (Bread, freedom, human dignity). In addition to this we also saw scenes of unity, in all these protests, where Muslim groups performed their prayer with the protection of non-Muslim groups.
In conclusion; both academics and students of Middle Eastern studies need to avoid classification of Middle East as “exception” in the world politics, especially after the Arab revolutions. In addition to that if the goal is to understand the nature of these revolutions that had taken place in the Arab world, one has to look at other dynamics as well, not just Islamic Movements.