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Theorizing Islamism(s): New Methods and Perspectives

Panel III-28, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Friday, November 3 at 8:30 am

Panel Description
  • The inclusion-moderation hypothesis contends that Islamist parties moderate their behaviour once they begin participating in competitive elections. Even though this hypothesis has been applied to many Middle Eastern countries, it has never been empirically tested. This study systematically reassesses the inclusion-moderation hypothesis by analysing over 10,000 speeches made by Turkey’s current president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In order to systematically evaluate the evolution of Erdoğan’s rhetoric, this study utilises computational text analysis and presents a new dataset featuring thousands of speeches the president delivered over his political career. Even though there is some evidence of moderation during Erdogan's early career, the study suggests that Erdogan’s rhetoric has become less inclusive and more repressive over time.
  • One of the most significant, yet under-studied, transformations in contemporary politics is the rise of women in Islamist political parties. Initially, women were marginalized within such parties and the parties campaigned on denying women enfranchisement. However, in most Islamist parties now, women are active as parliamentary representatives, volunteers, and as supporters. But what strategies do Islamist parties use to attract women voters? This research uses Turkey as a case study, focusing on the Islamist Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) strategies to attract support from women in the June 2015, November 2015, June 2018, and (as currently scheduled) May 2023 parliamentary elections. Through interviews with party officials and content analysis of published campaign platforms officials over four parliamentary election cycles, I demonstrate how the party shapes its policies and campaign tactics to deliberately appeal to women voters. Specifically, this research identifies three key ways the party attracts women’s votes. First, the party deploys women as candidates and volunteers specifically to visit with and ask for the votes of women who would not talk with men (including male politicians) they are not related to. Second, the party routinely capitalizes upon issues concerning veiling to attract the votes of women. Thirdly, the party emphasizes support for families (but not individuals or individual women), reaffirming the idea that the party’s policies will support women as wives and mothers, but not in other roles. By focusing on attracting women’s votes through these issues, it means that the party does not have to focus on public policy issues that involve service delivery, such as providing domestic violence shelters, increasing state-supported childcare centers, or enforcing protections for women in the workplace.
  • Political Science and Security Studies literatures overwhelmingly adopt state-centric analytical approaches that make binary distinctions between opposition parties and non-state armed groups (NSAGs) concerning what constitutes a threat to the state. Whether underpinned by the concepts of Hobbes, Weber, or Tilly, the centrality of the state means that it alone can possess the ability to kill as it guarantees the security of its polity, maintains its monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and protects itself from those who might commit violence against it. If an NSAG holds any political aspirations they have to demonstrate to the state that they no longer harbor any revolutionary desires, with the state demanding they renounce the use of violence, accept the existing political, social, and economic status quo, and agree to work through elections and parliamentary procedures before gaining access to political power. However, for some NSAGs, like Palestine’s Hamas, the stipulation concerning their use of violence is seemingly placed into abeyance. Hamas created a political party that successfully engages in institutional/electoral politics, while Hamas’s armed wing concurrently uses violence to challenge Israel’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force. As studies of these so-called hybrid movements explicate, they characterise themselves as resistance/national liberationist movements who make decisions to employ violent and non-violent resistance strategies, often simultaneously, depending on the prevailing circumstances and how they believe they can best achieve organisational objectives. However, with the hybrid-movement literature blinkered by its Hobbesian/Weberian conceptual confines, the exact nature of the relationship between a movement’s political and armed wings, particularly concerning the role that the use and non-use of violence plays in a movement’s organisational narrative, remains largely unexplored and thus indeterminate. This paper aims to address this lacuna by using the four wars Hamas has fought with Israel since 2006 as case studies. Thus, the paper provides a nuanced understanding of this relationship and the corresponding role that violence plays in Hamas’s strategic narrative post-2005 by revealing the existence of a far more synergistic connection between the two wings than is acknowledged in the literature. The paper argues that the principal objective of this synergism is not to topple Israel’s occupation regime in the Palestinian territories, nor to destabilise or overthrow the Palestinian political system, but to ensure that Hamas remains a viable political actor and maintains its political voice in the broader Palestinian resistance debate.
  • In early 2011, a revolution swept across Egypt that would see the end of the decades-long Mubarak regime. The country soon carried out the first free elections in its history, which brought to power Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. As a political party, the Muslim Brotherhood has historically been at odds with the Egyptian state, and capitalized on its grassroots and charitable operations to reach wide sections of the Egyptian population. As such, it is no wonder that following the repressive political environment of Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood was able to draw upon existing networks which gave them a comparative advantage that translated into electoral success. However, a counter-revolution took place a year into Morsi’s presidency, bringing the military to the helm of Egypt’s command in 2013. Under Abdelfattah El-Sisi, a particularly brutal crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood commenced, leading many affiliated with the organization to flee the country to escape arrest. Many fled to Turkey, living a life in exile. With this year marking ten years since the coup, my research addresses how living in exile in Turkey, another Muslim-majority country with a democratic system, impacted the beliefs, goals, and political strategies of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood since 2013, with a particular focus on the cleavages occurring in the organization along generational lines. While much of the literature is focused on the party’s organizations within Egypt, less is known about the dynamics of the group after being violently broken up to such an extent by the Egyptian state. This necessitated the study of the Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey as a case of political organization in exile, rather than simply an internally repressed group. Through extensive interviews with men and women in Turkey, divided along age groups that are either 18-30 and 30+, my research addresses how the organization has been shaped by its time in Turkey, as well as the growing shift between the older leadership and its younger members, who represent the future of the organization.