Thursday, November 03, 2011

Islam as the Solution in the Age of Islamism II.75: Moderation

In today's New York Times, Marwan Muasher, a very prominent Jordanian politician and political analyst of the Arab world, has reiterated a point that he and others have made in the past: that it is better to involve Islamists in politics than not to. The argument is that once they are tried with the fire of having to govern, and have to compete against other groups, they will have to moderate their views and policies (he cites examples from Jordan, where Islamists have been given more political room to maneuver in parliament for a number of years).

I do not deny this point at all. The problem, of course, is that assuming a one-dimensional spacial model with liberalism to the left (of course, not Economic left, just a graphical representation) and Islamism to the right, we expect those who win elections among the Islamists to be those who are naturally closer or who choose to move closer to the center. The counterpoint, of course, is that if we do not assume polarization, which would be a bad outcome, and Dr. Muasher is arguing that it will not materialize, then the liberals who will get elected are also those naturally near the center or moving closer by design.

Therefore, in an increasingly Islamist society, with voters moving to the right, therefore moving the center to the right, and even under the most optimistic scenario of centrist policies as Islamists become more moderate, it is still true that centrist policies will have to appeal to the increasingly Islamist population. Of course, I haven't yet outlined what Islamist economic policies (centrist ones, that have a chance of success) would look like, but I thought that I should mention that under the good scenario, even as Islamists moderate, the center is still going to be more centrist than it was, say, in the 1940s, before the party system was banned in Egypt after the 1952 coup/revolution.


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