The online media outlet The Huffington Post conducted an interview with Brookings Institute Fellow Shadi Hamid as part of a weekly series in which The WorldPost asks an expert to shed light on a topic driving headlines around the world.
Dr. Hamid has consistently made the argument that Arab governments have not given Islamist opposition parties a real opportunity to conduct themselves within a broad political process and acquire a legitimate role in governance. Hamid concludes that…
there’s a fear Islamists will change the nature of the state once they have enough power and use it to promote a different conception of what it means to be a good citizen — that religion will become infused in daily politics in a way that hasn’t been before. Islamists are interested in Islamizing society to one degree or another, and that Islamization will continue to provoke fears down the road.
That fear of Islamists renegotiating the domestic and foreign policy of Middle Eastern and North African nation-states Great Britain and France carved up and administered at the close of WWI has driven Western governments into supporting the repressive policies of established groups clutching onto state power in an effort to protect their personal interests. The behavior of Islamists when they do secure political power has not been comforting to European and American policymakers who are finding it difficult to understand the ideological chasm between competing groups in the Middle East; secular and socialist, liberal and capitalist, Islamist and democratic, Wahhabi and totalitarian, etc. Moreover, it has not been very comforting to citizens themselves, who then have to live under their governance.