Writing in what is quickly becoming one of the prime sources of English-language cultural and political commentary on recent events throughout the Middle East—Jadaliyya—Asef Bayat analyzes the relationship between Islamism and the revolution in Egypt. Bayat argues against the voices characterizing the revolution as Islamic in nature, finding their arguments as well as their historical comparisons with the Iranian revolution of 1979 ill-founded. There is little evidence of a strong Islamist influence on the uprising, nor can the Muslim Brotherhood be expected to emerge as dominant. Not only that, Bayat sees signs of “a deeper transformation”:
Indeed, there are indications that the entire region is experiencing a shift in religious politics. In Tunisia following the revolt which overthrew the regime of Zine El Abidine Ben-Ali, the largest Islamic group isal-Nahda, represented by the ex-leftist Rashed al-Ghannouchi. But al-Nahda is not an Islamist party—that is, its aim is not to seize power and to establish an Islamic state; rather, it wishes to nurture pious Muslims within a democratic polity. Rashed al-Ghannouchi has categorically rejected the Islamic khalifa (caliphate) in favour of parliamentary democracy, and his al-Nahda is committed to social justice, multiparty democracy, and religious pluralism.
The model of “Islamic governance” that Tunisia’s al-Nahda, the “young” Egyptian Muslim Brothers, and Iran’s reformist and other groups project is the AKP in Turkey, which has governed that country since November 2002. This Islamic party has—amid much and continuing political controversy—implemented important reforms that have had an overall democratising effect.
Read Bayat’s full essay here.
Meanwhile, Marc Lynch has already tweeted reservations about Bayat’s analysis.